- By Robbie GramerRobbie Gramer is a staff writer at Foreign Policy. He writes for The Cable, FP’s real-time take on all things, well, foreign policy. Before he joined FP in 2016, he used to think in a tank, managing the NATO portfolio at the Atlantic Council for three years. He’s a graduate of American University’s School of International Service, where he studied international relations and European affairs. He has lived in both Washington and Brussels, though he grew up in Idaho and Oregon, so he’s a West Coaster at heart. When he’s not busy reporting, he’s probably busy starting three new books before he has finished the last one or planning a trip to a national park he hasn’t visited yet.
It’s a digital world out there. And Denmark’s decided to get with the times. On Friday, Denmark unveiled plans to put in place a digital ambassador to liaise with some of the world’s top tech companies, including Apple, Google, and Microsoft. It’s the first position of its kind anywhere in the world.
Big companies “affect Denmark just as much as entire countries,” Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen said in an interview with Danish newspaper Politiken. “These companies have become a type of new nations and we need to confront that,” he added.
He isn’t wrong. The world’s top companies are gaining more dollars, reach, and international influence than many countries. (Though Denmark is not the first to admit businessmen can be akin to ambassadors — Foreign Policy gave its Diplomat of the Year award to Google’s Eric Schmidt in 2016).
The new ambassadorship, which hasn’t been filled yet, will open a new Danish diplomatic line to the United States beyond Washington (which may be useful in itself, given the prospects of strained U.S.-European relations under President Donald Trump).
It’s also a way to lobby digital businesses to invest in Denmark. In this, Denmark’s already had some success; both Facebook and Apple announced plans to build massive data centers in Denmark, creating some nice new jobs and cash for the country.
But Denmark won’t be closing up shop on its traditional embassies any time soon, Samuelsen said. “We will of course maintain our old way of thinking in which we foster our relationships with other countries. But we simply need to have closer ties to some of the companies that affect us,” he said. After all, it’s still a Westphalian world out there; Google and Apple can buy a lot of things, but not national sovereignty. Yet.
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