In Copenhagen, “Borgen” – the nickname given to the seat of the Danish parliament – is buzzing with rumours. For several weeks, the hypothesis of an appointment of the Prime Minister, Mette Frederiksen, to replace the Norwegian Jens Stoltenberg as Secretary General of NATO, has been regularly mentioned, without much conviction. Her visit to Washington on Monday, June 5, was a game-changer, opening lively discussions in Denmark on the future of the Social Democratic Party and the government coalition she leads, in the event of her departure.
However, nothing is settled. Besides Mme Frederiksen, aged 45, other potential candidates are mentioned to succeed Mr. Stoltenberg, in office since 2014, and whose replacement should be named at the NATO summit, organized in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, July 11 and 12. Among them are the British Defense Minister, Ben Wallace, the Estonian Prime Minister, Kaja Kallas, her Lithuanian counterpart, Ingrida Simonyte, as well as the Dutchman Mark Rutte.
Mette Frederiksen ticks several boxes: she is a serving head of government and a woman – since its creation in 1949, NATO has been led by men only. She also seems to have the support of the current Secretary General who described her on 30 May as “one of Europe’s most capable prime ministers”with whom he maintains contact “the narrowest”. His nationality could be a liability, as Jens Stoltenberg’s predecessor was none other than former Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen.
Discussion with the director of the CIA
Even if they remain cautious, many experts in Denmark nevertheless seem convinced that his visit to Washington on June 5 gave him a head start. Not only M.me Frederiksen spoke for over an hour with Joe Biden, but in a video posted to his Instagram account, the US president praises Denmark, “one of our greatest allies and most trusted friends [et] the closest “. Mme Frederiksen, for his part, underlined the importance of the United States’ commitment within the transatlantic alliance. “when war is back on our continent, Europe”.
The Danish Prime Minister also had a long conversation with CIA Director William Burns – which constitutes “a historical precedent”, according to Danish media. She was also received in Congress, as part of a reception given by the Association for Friendship with Denmark, chaired by the Democrat Steny Hoyer, in the presence, in particular, of Nancy Pelosi, but also of the Republican Michael McCaul, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
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