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  • Writer's pictureBastian Friborg

Danish diplomacy and the Corona-crisis

Updated: Jan 9

Ever since we knew about the severity of the Coronavirus, COVID-19, and the Danish Prime Minister, Mette Frederiksen, decided to lock down the country, the Danish diplomacy has been on overtime trying to get Danish citizens around the world back to Denmark.

Danish diplomats on work

Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs

The usually somewhat quiet and distanced Ministry of Foreign Affairs in its closed fortress-like building complex in the middle of Copenhagen has been very visible and active on social media and TV the last month or so. Where the normal would be a tweet here and there about a high-level meeting in this or that country, recently, the stream of updates from around the globe has been daily on both Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, as well as several press conferences per week. All to keep the Danish public informed and safe.

One example is the five-six updates that came from Peru on how the special envoy there worked with other European Embassies to arrange transport for Danish citizens. The public also got a view into how the special envoy met and overcame several obstacles in a country that was in lockdown with close to no travel allowed between different parts of the country. The social media updates showed tired and hard-working diplomats in both offices trying to locate Danish citizens and in the field negotiating with local authorities. They also showed pictures of happy Danes on their way home in buses and later in special planes from Austria and then through Frankfurt to Copenhagen and the waiting relatives.

Back home, the director of the Counselor Services has been on national TV several times a week to give updates on the work with locating and transporting Danish citizens around the world. The former unknown head of the Counselor Services is now a well-known face in Denmark.

Danish diplomacy has shown its worth and why it continues to make sense to have a global network of Embassies and diplomats to assist and get Danish citizens around the world home and through crises like the current pandemic. It has shown that it is worth the money — perhaps even laid the groundwork for more funding on the next spending bill. That is all well and good. However, I have to wonder if the Danish diplomatic corps could have been even more effective.

Foreign diplomats in Denmark

The Danish diplomats around the world have been in close contact with local authorities and decision makers to secure permissions for Danish citizens to travel through the country and for special planes to arrive and take off from the airports. That is great. However, in Copenhagen, there are around 70 foreign Embassies, each with an ambassador — who often have a network back in their home country that is stronger than the network of the Danish diplomats. I wonder if the search and rescue of Danish citizens would have gone even faster if the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs had worked with the different Embassies in Copenhagen as well as with local authorities on the ground. Perhaps some doors would have opened faster if the request came from the countries own ambassadors.

To be sure, this is speculation for now as the Danish diplomacy does not have a tradition of using the local foreign diplomats in Denmark to help solve issues around the world. The 70-odd Embassies in and around Copenhagen is a vast resource of knowledge and a robust global network that could be utilized to help Danish citizens in situations like this. Afterward, it could help Danish companies to establish trade relations with the respective countries to build up both our and their economy on the other side of the Corona-crisis.

Danish diplomacy has done admirable work the last month or so. Never would I take anything away from that, just encourage the diplomats in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to use the network of foreign diplomats in Copenhagen more actively both in crisis-situations like the current and in their everyday work in working for the Danish brand around the world.

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