RIYADH: With the deadly coronavirus outbreak dominating world news, the celebration of Saudi Arabia’s 45-year diplomatic relationship with Denmark has slipped under the radar.
However, the Danish ambassador to the Kingdom, Ole Moesby, told Arab News that despite the immediate focus on combating the spread of the virus his government was still committed to strengthening the long-standing bonds between the two countries.
The envoy said Denmark currently had 1,450 confirmed cases of the COVID-19 disease, which had resulted in 13 deaths. The Danish government, he added, had made unprecedented precautionary moves to tackle the health crisis in line with the global battle over the pandemic.
Moesby noted that Denmark’s Queen Margrethe II had made a TV address to the nation on March 17 encouraging Danes to adhere to restrictions implemented by the government while stressing the importance of supporting each other as human beings and as a nation to help the country overcome the situation.
The Danish royal normally only speaks on national television on New Year’s Eve, but she broke with tradition in a bid to comfort her people and raise awareness at a difficult time.
Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen has announced drastic measures such as social distancing and a ban on gatherings of more than 10 people, the ambassador added.
45 years of strong relations
“Feb. 1 marked the 45th anniversary of relations between Saudi Arabia and Denmark. I think we’ve had an excellent relationship and I actually feel that we are moving extremely well in that direction,” Moesby said.
The envoy pointed out that one of his chief aims, alongside his Saudi counterpart, was to further cement the bonds between Denmark and the Kingdom. “I feel that is what I do. So, we are on the same side and trying to develop and enlarge and maintain the excellent relations.
“I think if we go back in history there has, of course, been ups and downs where we have had differences. But most of the time, I actually feel that we have had a very strong and promising relationship, and there is every reason to think that it is going to continue.
“I don’t think it’s going to change; the basic fact that we’ve had very good relations for these 45 years.”
He expected bilateral relations to grow “as we see a clear increase in the match between the Danish strongholds and the Saudi Arabian demand.”
Common goals of both countries
Moesby noted that the Danish government had placed a strong focus on green initiatives relating to climate and the environment. The Danish Council on Climate Change had implemented a strategy to reduce Denmark’s CO2 emissions by 70 percent by 2030 and to be carbon neutral by 2050, the envoy said.
“In Denmark, we are among the global leaders in renewable energy, organic food, environmental protection, climate-friendly solutions, cybersecurity, and gender equality.”
Strengthened cooperation between Denmark and the Kingdom could be achieved through their shared common goals of a greener future, and he added that Saudi Arabia’s ambitious Vision 2030 reform plan as well as the UN’s and Danish government’s sustainable development goals were all aligned with more to come in the future.
“We hope that Denmark can continue to contribute within the different sectors, to support reaching the goals of Vision 2030 and to cooperate with Saudi Arabia in political aspects including the development of human rights, where Denmark and Saudi Arabia already are in close dialogue.”
Organic food in Saudi Arabia and Denmark
To help meet a global rise in demand for organic food, Saudi Arabia had already launched a number of initiatives and partnership supply agreements with companies, including “increasing the import of Danish organic products to Saudi Arabia, sustainable farming equipment, and organizing organic food events.
“LuLu supermarket visited Denmark, Arla, a Danish-Scandinavian company, has been exporting Lurpak to Saudi Arabia since the 1950s, and established their local dairy production in 1984, that is Puck cheese,” Moesby said.
Arla has around 1,000 employees at its facilities in Saudi Arabia. “That is great for the economy in Denmark as well as Saudi Arabia,” he added.
In summer last year, the president of the Saudi Food and Drug Authority, Dr. Hisham Al-Jadhey, visited Denmark to meet representatives of food and health companies. They shared information and best practices to strengthen bilateral relations in their field, and the envoy said: “There is a lot of interest in Denmark amongst the drug and food authorities and companies due to the Saudi Food and Drug Authority setting the level of thinking in terms of organic food.
“The dialogue was fabulous. I consider myself a good friend of Hisham.”
Saudi Arabia is Denmark’s 24th-largest export market which is chiefly made up of medicines, and food products of mainly dairy and eggs. The Kingdom exports machinery, mechanical appliances, electrical and transport equipment, petroleum, and vegetables to Denmark.
On the future, Moesby added: “I think everybody is looking now toward Saudi Arabia to play the role as leader of the G20; to deal with many of the challenges that the world is facing now.”