In Denmark there is an expression called “et stykke rugbrødsarbejde” – translated directly into english “a piece of rye breads work”.
This might not make sense for many foreigners, but for danes this means a solid and simple piece of work.
And this is exactly what the danish presidency will be. A couple of weeks ago I talked with the danish minister of European affairs, Nikolai Wammen, and he called the danish presidency of the EU for a “rye bread presidency”.
The danish rye bread is popular type of bread in Denmark. It’s known for being very solid and very cheap compared to the nutrition you get out of it.
And the danish presidency for the EU council is cheap. Actually it is, if not, the cheapest presidency of all time, then close to. The budget is €35 million – in comparison the just completed polish presidency had a budget of €115 million, while France spent record €171 million, when they had the presidency in 2008.
It’s a time of crisis and the signal of a cheap presidency without expensive gifts to the diplomats and politicians visiting Denmark in the coming six months – is a good signal.
Since the Lisbon treaty the presidency has also changes character. The most important decisions and meetings are made in Brussels. In the country holding the presidency it’s only the informal meetings between the ministers of each field. And when they meet in Denmark, they will be served water from the tap instead of bottled water, as the danish presidency has informed.
With Herman Van Rompuy in charge of the EU summits and Catherine Ashton in charge of the foreign relations meetings – these meetings will also be out of the hands for the rotating presidency.
But the absence of bottled water and expensive presents for the guests can’t make the difference from Poland’s €115 million to the danish budget at €35 million. Another area were the danes have made savings is, when it comes to the meetings in Denmark. The food will not be as expensive as other presidencies, and the meetings will only be held two places in Denmark – Copenhagen and Horsens. Other presidencies have held meetings in several places around the country, which naturally also adds up the budget.
But besides these factors the huge savings must also include fewer employees in the danish foreign ministry to handle the EU presidency.
Let’s just have a short look at last big international political event held in Denmark. When Denmark had the COP15 climate conference in Copenhagen they had put a lot of money and efforts into it – they didn’t really succeed, and afterwards they met a lot of criticism of their diplomatic skills.
This time the money is low, and Denmark trust in the ministers individual diplomatic skills. If something fails through the danish presidency – they will have a hard time arguing another big international event to be held i this little nordic country.
So far we hope for a tasty piece of rye bread – let’s hope it’s uneatable and dry in six months. Here you can find a recipe.