26th Apr 2019

Danish politicians disappointed by EU in cartoon row

Danish politicians are disappointed with the lack of EU support in the country's current crisis over cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed.

With embassies and flags on fire, a Middle East boycott of Danish goods and Danish citizens on the run, there is growing disappointment with the EU for its lack of support for the country at the centre of the conflict.

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At a meeting in the Danish parliament's foreign affairs committee today (7 February) Danish opposition parties and experts are expected to criticise openly the EU's "wait-and-see" attitude, reports Danish business daily Borsen.

"This is a wider European problem and not just a Danish problem. I think it is strange the EU has been so absent in this discussion," said Holger K. Nielsen from the Socialist People's Party (SF).

"They all sit on their hands and hope it will just go away. But it would be useful if the EU clearly and in a united way entered the fray," said Lars Erslev Andersen, one of the country's top Middle East experts.

Pia Kjarsgard, the leader of the anti-immigration and anti-EU Danish Peoples Party said Denmark ought to expect support, especially when Danish trade was at risk and embassies are being burnt.

EU ambassadors met in Brussels on Monday (6 February) to discuss the diplomatic crisis.

According to an official at the meeting, it was agreed to "define and maintain" dialogue with the muslim world, while demanding that host authorities fulfil their obligation to protect EU diplomatic missions on their soil.

A representative for the Danish mission to Brussels said that despite the lack of concrete measures taken at the meeting, it was of "great comfort" to Denmark that the matter was taken up at EU level.

Austrian foreign minister Ursula Plassnik issued a statement on behalf of the Austrian EU presidency, reminding the countries affected by tensions of their obligations under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations to protect the diplomatic missions of EU member states.

"What is important is the security of our citizens and of our installations at the local level. We have therefore called on all responsible authorities to take the necessary steps to ensure that this security can also be guaranteed in practice," Ms Plassnik declared.

Despite calls by world leaders for calm, violent protests in the cartoon row have begun to claim lives.

In the Afghan capital Kabul, a mob attacked the Danish embassy with stones and smashed windows in a raid that left three men dead and two injured as police fired into the furious crowds, say news agency reports.

Outside EU offices in Gaza, Palestinian demonstrators threw stones and chanted "Down with Denmark. Down with Norway. With our blood we will redeem our prophet," while Palestinian riot police fought to prevent them from entering the building.

In Iran, a crowd of some 200 men pelted the Austrian embassy in the capital Tehran with firebombs and stones, shouting "Europe, Europe, shame on you."

The Danish-Muslim spat caused by daily Jyllands-Posten's publication in September of caricatures of the prophet Mohammed has spilt over to several other EU member states as their newspapers also published the cartoons.

Media in Ukraine, Bulgaria, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Hungary, New Zealand, Poland, the United States, Japan, Norway, Malaysia and Australia among others have published the controversial drawings.

After an attack on a German cultural centre in Gaza during the weekend, German chancellor Angela Merkel called for an end to the violence.

"It is important for us to make clear that the use of violence is not acceptable," Ms Merkel said.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Monday said the protests were "completely unacceptable."

"It is always sensible for freedom of expression to be exercised with respect for religious belief. But nothing can justify the violence aimed at European embassies or at the country of Denmark," he said.

"We and our EU partners stand in full solidarity with them in resisting this violence and believe the Danish government has done everything it reasonably can to handle a very difficult situation."

Meanwhile the conflict is hitting Danish firms hard as their products are removed from supermarket shelves. Danish-Swedish dairy company Arla Foods estimates losing €1.5 million of sales a day in the Middle East.

And oil rich Iran said on Monday it would cut off all trade ties with Denmark.

On top of this, the Danish foreign ministry has issued warnings for Danes against tarvelling in 15 muslim countries, leading to thousands of Danish families cancelling upcoming holidays.

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