Via Julien Frisch I was made aware of a discussion of the famous quip by Henry Kissinger: “Who do I call if I want to speak to Europe?”. It turns out that Mr. K really didn’t want to call Europe because, after all, why bother with one Europe if you can divide and rule – and let’s face it: When do the French, the Germans and the Brits ever agree on anything related to foreign policy?
But the debunking of that story led me to consider another problem. In his blog post, Gideon Rachman writes this (or rather wrote, the post is several months old):
According to the late Peter Rodman, who knew him well, the saying is apocryphal, and in fact Kissinger’s concern was the precise opposite – he was fed up with having to deal with a Dane whom he regarded as incompetent and ineffective, who was trying to represent the whole of the EU as President of the Council.
But who could the incompetent and ineffective Dane be? Well, first of all, Kissinger was US National Security Advisor from January 1969 to November 1975 and US Secretary of State from September 1973 to January 1977 and Denmark joined the European Community, as it was then, in January 1973. Between 1973 and 1977, Denmark held the Presidency of the Council of Ministers in the second half of 1973, so in all likelihood we must be looking at one of the members of Anker Jørgensens first government which was in office from October 1972 to December 1973.
Here things begin to get complicated. K.B. Andersen was Foreign Minister, Ivar Nørgaard Minister for European Affairs and Anker Jørgensen (well, duh) Prime Minister. Now, you could call K.B. Andersen a lot of things but “incompetent and ineffective” would not be the first things to come to my mind. I suspect that the foreign affairs portfolio was split so that Nørgaard was chairing the meetings in the EC Council of Ministers but I don’t ever recall his name being mentioned in relation to high politics.
This could leave Anker Jørgensen as the unfortunate candidate. Although he (head of government) and Kissinger (foreign minister) probably weren’t on an equal footing in terms of diplomatic protocol, Jørgensen would have been chairing the (inofficial) EC Summit which I actually dimly recall being held in Copenhagen in late 1973 and to be perfectly honest, international politics and diplomacy was not exactly Jørgensen’s best discipline. (Economic policy was one of his other main weak points). Earlier in 1973 he had managed a big-time goof in a domestic speech where he happened to touch on the question of the causes of the Yom Kippur War. As a result the Arab OPEC countries were not happy and Denmark one of the countries singled out in the oil embargo.
Oh, and as you can see, the Kissinger remark in all likelihood was linked with the fall-out of the Yom Kippur War and the first Oil Crisis.
Update: Guan Yang pointed me to another possiblity – the former Danish Prime Minister Jens Otto Krag who was EC representative in Washington during 1974-1975 and who, frankly, did not make the best impression in that position. But maybe “incapacitated” would have been a more correct description of Krag during his time in Washington than “incompetent”. (Also, Krag was never president of the Council or anything like that).
But maybe there is a simpler explanation to the story: Kissinger would be looking for some random EC member country he could insult without any risk of provoking a large scale impassé. Any small country would do nicely and who, after all, would take Denmark seriously in international relations anyway?