The Jakarta Post
Denmark has seen the huge potential of forging relations with Indonesia in areas ranging from business to collaboration in tackling terrorism. Prior to his trip to Indonesia, accompanying Queen Margrethe II and Prince Consort Henrik, Foreign Minister Kristian Jensen talked to visiting Indonesian journalists, including The Jakarta Post's Yohanna Ririhena, in his office at the Foreign Ministry in Copenhagen. He gave some insight into the bilateral relations, including the Danish way of tackling radicalism among young people. Here are excerpts from the interview:
Question: Bilateral relations between our countries have not developed as we expected, what do you think the best way to overcome this?
Answer: It is true that the relationship has not been successful. And one reason is that Denmark has focused a lot on China and South Korea. The visit makes Danish companies realize the large potential for doing business together with Indonesia, using Indonesian companies as subcontractors and also looking into the large market of [Indonesia's] middle class, and to see the purchasing power of Indonesia. Cooperation between Indonesia and Denmark has changed in the last couple of years, from cooperation based on development assistance to cooperation based on business.
How significantly does your relationship with Indonesia benefit your ties with other Muslim countries?
We have strong relations with many countries but it is important to underline that relations with countries [are built] regardless of religion. We are looking forward to closer relations with Indonesia, not only as a Muslim country and a large economy, but because you are one of the largest democracies in the world. Strengthening relations between Denmark and Indonesia means we will make a good bridge, good cooperation.
We face some of the same issues with radicalism, how do you handle this problem?
It is very good that the Muslim community in Denmark stand up and speak against terrorism. I don't see a link between Islam and terrorism. But there are terrorists that use a false interpretation of Islam as a background for doing terrorism. I feel that is very important in fighting radicalism that moderate voices speak out against extremism.
We have a problem with foreign fighters going from Denmark to Syria. Counting on a per capita basis in Europe, Denmark has the second highest number of foreign fighters going to Syria.
We have had about a thousand young Danes go to Syria. But we have lowered that number due to early and combined efforts with Islamic groups, social workers, school teachers and families. It means that those who are going to be radicalized can be stopped if families are aware of the phenomenon of young people becoming more radicalized.
Do you have more details on how to make it successful?
It starts by police being able to monitor shifts in behavior. If young men join groups that are already radicalized, the police will work together with social workers and teachers to contact their families. The strongest grip on young men to stop them from become radicalized is the arms of the mother. It is the strongest grip than any grip society can provide. Telling the family about the risks of their children being radicalized. Make it much more difficult to go. With families working together with society we can lower the number of young people from going to Syria by half.
Do you see the risk of terrorists being among the flow of refugees seeking asylum in Europe?
We are aware of that problem. Danish authorities are looking into it, we are quite confident that they are capable in dealing with this issue in a good way. We must not let the fear of a single terrorist stand in the way of helping people that are in need.
We have a high number of refugees. Last year we were the fifth-largest recipient of asylum seekers and the second-largest recipient of Syrian refugees in the EU. We have a long-standing history of helping refugees and we continue to do so.
This year, we received more than 7,000 asylum seekers in Denmark. We will continue to do so. We will accept an extra 1,000 refugees to help the EU deal with this problem.
Our aim is to continue to help refugees and make sure that those coming to Denmark do it on an enlightened basis, not on the hearsay about the condition in Denmark; that Denmark allows everyone who comes.
How do Danish people respond to the refugee crisis?
Danish people are divided. There are those who say that when people are in need, we must help. On the other hand, there are those who say that so many are coming, while we are the small country. They insist that there should be a limit on how many we can receive.
The world is not perfect, the world is brutal. Therefore, when refugees come to Europe, Denmark takes the responsibility seriously. We stand up and accept helping people in need.
Denmark also provides assistance to the neighbors of Syria. We decided to use Â¤100 million to help refugee camps and also fight the root causes of migration: poverty, despair and internal unrest.