Embassy realignment should follow commercial potential, trade minister argues

Foreign Ministry working group looking at Denmark’s representation should focus closely on where the money is

Denmark should realign its diplomatic representation abroad so that the foreign service can first and foremost promote the country’s commercial interests, according to the trade and European affairs minister, Nick Hækkerup (Socialdemokraterne).

Hækkerup admitted that changes might result in the closing of some embassies, but added that the realignment was a way to give what he called “priority to Denmark”. His ultimate goal is to make sure that the country is represented in countries with trade and economic opportunities. 

“What matters is that we are present where there are new markets and opportunities to sell Danish products,” Hækkerup told DR Nyheder. “This means that we would close in some countries.”

Location, location, location

Hækkerup declined to state which embassies were on the hitlist, deferring instead to a Foreign Ministry workgroup set up to develop a blueprint for how and where Denmark would be represented in the world.

“When the world changes and new places become open to Danish products, it is in our best interest to be there,” he said. “When we sell our goods around the world, we create jobs at home.”

Denmark currently maintains embassies in 74 countries. In addition, its interests are represented by consulates and trade and representative offices in a number of other countries. These diplomatic offices also provide services and assistance to Danish citizens and potential immigrants.

Diplomatic drought feared

Leaders from both ends of the political spectrum have expressed their opposition to Hækkerup’s vision.

“If we want to increase trade, you aren’t just represented in those places where you are already doing business, you need to extend into new places and find new markets,” Søren Espersen, the foreign affairs spokesperson for the right-wing Dansk Folkeparti, told DR Nyheder.

Espersen found support from his counterpart on the far-left.

“We should be represented in more countries, rather than fewer, if we are to make our mark in the global marketplace,” said Christian Juhl, the Enhedslisten foreign affairs spokesperson.

Hækkerup denied that closing embassies would create problems.

“It is first and foremost most important to be represented in the right places,” he said.