Helle Thorning-Schmidt is considered one of three finalists for the job. Photo: Keld Navntoft/Scanpix
The governments of Sweden, Norway, Finland and Iceland will support former Danish PM Helle Thorning-Schmidt as the next UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Swedish PM Stefan Löfven said on Sunday.
“We are in agreement in the Nordics to vote for Helle Thorning-Schmidt as commissioner,” Löfven told Swedish news agency TT.
The Danish government announced last month that it had put Thorning-Schmidt forth as a candidate for the job, with PM Lars Løkke Rasmussen calling his former political foe “a possible, strong representative for the UNHCR with great political leadership experience and a strong international profile.”
Jyllands-Posten has reported that there are a total of 13 candidates for the job but that the majority of them will not be seriously considered. According to the newspaper, the former Danish PM is one of three finalists along with German diplomat Achim Steiner and Italian diplomat Filippo Grandi.
If Thorning-Schmidt gets the post, she will end up heading an agency that has been a very vocal critic of the policies she implemented while Denmark’s prime minister.
As PM, Thorning-Schmidt introduced new, one-year temporary residence permits for refugees and made it harder for them to bring their families to Denmark.
The UN Refugee Agency slammed the family reunification restrictions by saying they were “on the edge of international law” and later filed an official statement to the Danish parliament calling on the restrictions to be dropped.
Likewise, the person currently holding Thorning-Schmidt’s coveted post, former Portuguese PM Antonio Guterres, indirectly criticized Denmark for its unwillingness to participate in a European quota system when he visited Stockholm in February.
In the June general election that saw Rasmussen take her place in the PM's office, Thorning-Schmidt repeatedly touted her asylum restrictions.
After her formal application for the UNHCR job, Thorning-Schmidt defended her administration’s asylum policies.
“I stand fully behind the decisions I made as prime minister and one should remember under all circumstances that Denmark is a strong partner with the UNHCR and has been that since it began way back in the 1950s,” she said.