Lene Espersen’s absence from a critical Arctic meeting to go on holiday with her family is being called a serious neglect of duty by politicians
After only a month in her new position as foreign minister, Lene Espersen has by nearly all accounts committed a major blunder when she bailed out of an important meeting over the Arctic.
In particular, passing up the chance to get to know and form a close working relationship with US secretary of state Hillary Clinton has been criticised by the media and politicians as not only a missed opportunity, but something the US can view as an outright snub.
Prime minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen sent justice minster Lars Barfoed in Espersen’s place. But Espersen had booked her family vacation for this week and so the critical meeting took a back seat.
The foreign minister’s decision has raised the ire of many politicians – including those in government ally the Danish People’s Party, whose foreign affairs spokesman called it an ‘incomprehensible prioritisation’.
Former foreign ministers Uffe Ellemann-Jensen (Liberals), Niels Helveg Petersen (Social Liberals) og Mogens Lykketoft (Social Democrats) have all come out with strong criticism against Espersen for not attending the meeting.
But this week is not the first that the foreign minister has skipped an important event to instead go on holiday.
In 2006 while she was justice minister, Espersen chose to travel to Spain at the height of the Mohammed cartoon affair. In 2009 she rubbed her boss, then prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, decidedly the wrong way by going to Portugal with her family the week he was stepping down from his post.
Rasmussen got the last word, however, ordering her to fly back to Denmark on a charter that reportedly cost the state 180,000 kroner.
The Social Democrats have now requested a formal response from the prime minister’s office about why Espersen was not forced to attend the Arctic meeting.
‘Does the prime minister agree with the foreign minister’s down-prioritising of the Arctic meeting with the US, Canada and Russia’s top foreign policy diplomats, where vital Danish interests were part of the discussions?’ asked Jeppe Kofod, the party’s foreign affairs spokesman, in the official request.
The Copenhagem Post