Turkey tells Denmark to Fogh off

The virtual consensus among NATO leaders on installing current Danish prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen as the organisation’s next secretary general has reportedly been scuppered by Turkey. This majority Muslim country and increasingly reactionary state has objected to the proposed appointment over Rasmussen’s handling of the Mohammed cartoons affair. That, and the Kurdish television channel, ROJ, which is based in Denmark and Belgium.

I hope that the majority within NATO can persuade Turkey to drop its objection to the appointment of a liberal politician with a voice like Daffy the Duck, and who is popularly known as “Fogh off”. If not, stronger measures may be required.

Rasmussen may not be a particularly brilliant or charismatic prime minister, but over the past seven and a half years he has skilfully led a liberal-conservative coalition government at a time when the left has been in complete disarray. He has also managed to keep at arms length the racist Dansk Folkeparti, on whose votes the government occasionally depends. I didn’t vote for Rasmussen’s Venstre party when I lived in Denmark, but I have to give the man due credit.

Rasmussen’s handling of the cartoon crisis was perfectly right and proper. First, he told the irate imams to sod off, as the editorial policies of Denmark’s free press are none of the government’s business. At the same time, however, the prime minister acknowledged the potential for damage to community relations, and sought to put out the fire through dialogue. As for allowing the Kurds to carry out their struggle for national self-determination from Danish soil, Rasmussen is merely upholding the liberal tradition from whence he sprung. It’s not as if the Danish government is supporting a declared terrorist group.