5th Dec 2023

Prague urges EU compensation for Denmark in cartoon war

  • Prague wants the EU to show solidarity with Denmark after muslim communities boycotted Danish trade (Photo: European Commission)

Czech foreign minister Cyril Svoboda is gathering support for special EU funds to compensate Denmark for trade and other economic damage caused by the muslim backlash against the Mohammed cartoons.

Mr Svoboda argues the EU should signal its strong loyalty to Copenhagen, as well as to the freedom of expression principle cherished in Europe.

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The clash with the Islamic countries was sparked by illustrations of the prophet published in September in Danish daily Jyllands-Posten.

The cartoons were later republished by other European media, but Denmark has suffered the greatest losses with its embassies burnt down in some Islamic countries and Danish exports boycotted by muslim communities.

"One of the concrete forms of our support could be a financial compensation from the EU for a negative impact on exports and trade of Danish products," Mr Svoboda told Mlada fronta dnes, a leading Czech daily.

He is planning to lobby for the plan at the nearest meeting of the EU foreign ministers, scheduled for 27 February, which should also adopt some form of response to the recent dispute.

Mr Svoboda argues that the EU's reaction so far was quite vague, and while he understands the cartoons must have been viewed as provocative, the reaction by muslim groups in several countries was unacceptable and Europe should make this clear.

Barroso backs Denmark

European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso also expressed his solidarity with Denmark on Monday (13 February), in his speech to MEPs at a Strasbourg plenary.

He said the country has been treated unfairly in the conflict, while stressing that freedom of speech is absolutely non-negotiable in Europe.

The president also gave an interview to offending newspaper Jyllands-Posten in which he defended free speech as "a founding value of our European open society."

"We are in favour of a dialogue, but that does not mean that we will give up on the values that are non-negotiable," he said.

Meanwhile, Australian cartoonist Michael Leunig has published the first holocaust cartoon on an Iranian website asking the question "what is the limit of western freedom of expression?"

The statements come as EU foreign affairs chief Javier Solana began a goodwill tour of the Middle East on Monday, meeting Islamic leader Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu in Turkey.

Mr Ihsanoglu urged the European Parliament to adopt a code against islamophobia and compared the situation of European muslims to that of the jews before World War II.

German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and French president Jacques Chirac are set to visit Jordan and Turkey in the coming weeks.

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