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Danish Crown Prince Couple’s controversial Saudi Arabia tour

Crown Prince Frederik and Princess Mary of Denmark will start a controversial tour of Saudi Arabia today (Sunday) where they will participate in a Danish business promotional campaign in Saudi Arabia’s capital, Riyad. They will then travel to Qatar’s capital, Doha on March 2nd for two days..

Joining them on this overseas visit will be many prominent Danish politicians including Kristian Jensen, the Foreign Minister, Sophie Løhde, the Health Minister, and the Minister of Business and Growth. This business deligation is comprised of 44 Danish companies and several interest groups including: Confederation of Danish Industry, the Danish Agriculture and Food Council, Health Care Denmark and State of Green.

The Crown Prince Couple will participate in a number of business activities whose primary focus is to strengthen trade for Danish business concerns in several areas such as sustainability, health, food products, education and design. Also during this tour, they will visit the Saudi royal family as well as Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani.

This tour has been met with much criticism by human rights groups including Amnesty International and opposition politicians. Saudia Arabia is widely known for abusing the human rights of its citizens.

Mette Gjerskov of the opposition Social Democrats said of the country: “Saudi Arabia is one of the most fundamental regimes in the world, where women are not allowed to drive and where death sentences are given for being homosexual.”

Gjerskov argued that a dialogue focusing on trade matters wasn’t as important as a more critical one. However, it wasn’t up to The Crown Prince Couple to make it because their views are apolitical.

Trine Christensen, Amnesty International Denmark’s acting general secretary, told Ritzau, a news agency last month. “The timing could not be worse. Saudi Arabia celebrated the New Year by beheading 47 people, after a year that saw a huge increase in the number of capital punishments and also reduced freedom of speech. Sending a delegation of the reported calibre at this time sends a very symbolic signal that what is going on is acceptable,”

Foreign Minister, christian Jensen countered by saying the Royal couple’s visit wasn’t for political reasons and they wouldn’t be taking up any political role.

“I am participating as foreign minister in order to have a critical dialogue with the Saudi government.”

He continued: “We often visit countries that we disagree with politically, where we criticise their human rights situation, but where we want to continue a business-related dialogue. This is an export promotion with the Crown Prince couple at the forefront, but not an official state visit.”