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Anders Fogh Rasmussen


Incumbent
Assumed office 
1 August 2009
Preceded by Jaap de Hoop Scheffer

In office
27 November 2001 – 5 April 2009
Monarch Margrethe II
Deputy Lene Espersen
Preceded by Poul Nyrup Rasmussen
Succeeded by Lars Løkke Rasmussen

In office
18 March 1998 – 17 May 2009
Preceded by Uffe Ellemann-Jensen
Succeeded by Lars Løkke Rasmussen

In office
10 September 1987 – 19 November 1992
Preceded by Isi Foighel
Succeeded by Peter Brixtofte

Born 26 January 1953 (1953-01-26) (age 56)
Ginnerup, Denmark
Political party Venstre
Spouse(s) Anne-Mette Rasmussen (1978–present)
Residence Brussels, Belgium (Official)
Copenhagen, Denmark (Private)
Alma mater University of Aarhus
Religion Danish National Church

Anders Fogh Rasmussen (Danish pronunciation: [⁽ˈ⁾ɑnɐs ˈfɔʊ̯ˀ ˈʀɑsmusn̩]  ( listen)) (born 26 January 1953) is a Danish politician, and the current Secretary General of NATO[1]. Rasmussen served as Prime Minister of Denmark from November 27, 2001 to April 5, 2009.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen was the leader of the Liberal Party (Venstre), and headed a right-wing coalition with the Conservative People's Party which took office in 2001, and won its second and third terms in February 2005 and in November 2007. Rasmussen's government relied on the Danish People's Party for support, in keeping with the Danish tradition for minority government. His government introduced tougher limits on non-ECA immigration and froze tax rates before he took office (the "tax freeze", or skattestoppet in Danish). He has authored several books about taxation and government structure.

Under Rasmussen, certain taxes were lowered, but the Conservative coalition partners repeatedly argued for more tax cuts and a flat tax rate at no higher than 50%. Fogh implemented an administrative reform reducing the number of municipalities (kommuner) and replacing the thirteen counties (amter) with five regions. Rasmussen referred to this as "the biggest reform in thirty years".

He is of no relation to either his predecessor, Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, or to his successor, Lars Løkke Rasmussen; their shared last name is a very common name in Denmark.

Contents

Life

Anders Fogh Rasmussen was born in 1953 in Ginnerup, Jutland, to farmer Knud Rasmussen and Martha Rasmussen (née Fogh). His last name is Rasmussen, while Fogh, his mother's maiden name, is his middle name and not considered part of his last name. He is correctly referred to as Rasmussen (not Fogh Rasmussen), unless his full name (including his given name) is used. In Danish media and society, he has consistently and with almost no exception been referred to as Fogh Rasmussen, when not referred to by his full name.

He matriculated in languages and social studies from Viborg Cathedral School, in 1969–1972. A graduate in Economics (1978) of the University of Aarhus, he has been active in politics most of his life. He has authored several books about taxation and government structure. He and his wife Anne-Mette (born 1958) married in 1978 and have three children: Henrik (born 1979), Maria (born 1981) and Christina (born 1984).

He has held numerous positions in government and opposition throughout his career, first winning a seat in the Folketing (Danish parliament) in 1978. From 1987 to 1990 he was Minister for Taxation and from 1990 Minister for Economy and Taxation in the Conservative-led Poul Schlüter government. In 1992 Rasmussen resigned from his ministerial posts after a court of inquiry had decided that he had deliberately provided the Folketing with inaccurate and incomplete information. Rasmussen disagreed with the findings of the commission, but faced with the threat of a non-confidence motion, he decided to leave his posts voluntarily.

Rasmussen held the rotating presidency of the European Union from July to December 2002 during which period he proved his dedication to a pro-EU agenda and the guiding principles of the Ellemann-Jensen doctrine. He even pursued it to its logical conclusion by publicly denouncing the Danish collaboration policy during its second World War occupation, being the first Danish prime minister ever to do this. While his predecessors may not have been in favour of it, they had all implicitly maintained that it was 'a good thing', because it had saved Danish lives.

During the EU presidency he was involved in a curious episode with then Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi. In a joint press conference on 4 October 2002 Silvio Berlusconi said: "Rasmussen is the most handsome prime minister in Europe. I think I will introduce him to my wife because he is even more handsome than Cacciari". Massimo Cacciari is an Italian philosopher and centrist politician opposing Berlusconi, and some gossip tabloids had alleged an affair between him and Berlusconi's second wife Veronica Lario. [3] Rasmussen was puzzled by this remark and Berlusconi quickly told him he'd explain later.

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Cycling, kayaking and running

As an amateur cyclist, Rasmussen completed part of the notorious Alpe d'Huez stage of the 2008 Tour de France the day after the professional race took place.[2] His attendance at Le Tour was at the invitation of lauded Danish former cyclist Bjarne Riis. Rasmussen is also an avid runner. On numerous occasions he invited followers and Facebook supporters to run along with him.[3]

Political career

Early political career

Rasmussen became a member of the Danish parliament (Folketing) in 1978. From 1987 to 1990 he was Minister for Taxation and from 1990 Minister for Economy and Taxation in the Conservative-led Poul Schlüter government.

Resignation as Minister of Taxation

In 1992 Rasmussen resigned from his ministerial posts after a report from a commission of inquiry had decided that he had provided the Folketing with inaccurate and incomplete information regarding his decision to postpone payment of several bills from Regnecentralen and Kommunedata from one accounting year to the next. Rasmussen disagreed with the findings of the commission, but faced with the threat of a motion of no confidence, he decided to leave his posts voluntarily.

2001 Election

His Liberal (Venstre) Party won power in the November 2001 election, defeating the Social Democratic government of Poul Nyrup Rasmussen and enabling him to form his first Cabinet. That election marked a dramatic change in Danish politics. It was the first time since 1920 that the Social Democratic Party lost its position as the largest party in the Folketing (parliament), mainly due to a loss of working class votes to Dansk Folkeparti (The Danish People's Party). Since then, Venstre has governed in a parliamentary coalition with the Conservative People's Party to form a minority government with the parliamentary support of Dansk Folkeparti. Together these three parties survived both the 2005 election and the 2007 election.

Political ideology

In general, Rasmussen is in favour of centralisation, privatization, and limiting the size of government.

Rasmussen wrote the book Fra socialstat til minimalstat (literally: From social state to minimal state) in 1993, in which he advocated an extensive reform of the Danish welfare system along classic liberal lines. In particular, he favors lower taxes and less government interference in corporate and individual matters etc. In 1993 he was awarded the Adam Smith award by the libertarian society Libertas, partly due to him having written Fra socialstat til minimalstat. However, the book is an extraordinary piece of work, after becoming Prime Minister, Rasmussen has distanced himself from his earlier writings and has announced the death of neoliberalism during the national elections of 2005. Commonly regarded as being inspired by the previous success of Tony Blair, Rasmussen now seems more in favour of the theories of Anthony Giddens and his third way. There was talk in Libertas of revoking Fogh Rasmussen's award as a result of this, though this never happened.

His government has also enacted tough measures designed to limit the number of immigrants coming to Denmark, specifically as asylumseekers or through arranged marriages. However, the Fogh Rasmussen governments have depended on the support of Dansk Folkeparti, and it is impossible to draw a clear dividing line between the ideology of Fogh Rasmussen and the politics of his government resulting from compromises with Dansk Folkeparti.

War in Iraq

Under Rasmussen, Denmark has supported American foreign policies.

As Prime Minister, Rasmussen strongly supported the 2003 Iraq War. As in most European countries he faced considerable opposition, both in the parliament and in the general population. Subsequent opinion polls suggested the Danish population's opinion was split on the issue. One vocal protester managed to get into the Danish parliament during the period before the war, where he poured red paint on the prime minister while yelling "Du har blod på dine hænder" (literally: "You have blood on your hands"). Denmark was one of only five countries to take part in the actual invasion operations (the others being the USA, UK, Poland and Australia) though the contingent mainly consisted of two minor warships and staff and radio units, that were never involved in actual combat. In the months after the initial phase of the war, Danish troops participated in the multi-national force stationed in Iraq. Approximately 550 Danish troops were stationed in Iraq from 2004 and into 2007, first at "Camp Dannevang" and later at "Camp Einherjer", both near Basra. When the contingent of troops left around August 2007, it was not replaced and Denmark has shifted its focus to non-military support around Baghdad. The official reason being provided is that the Iraqi government should now be able to handle the security in the Basra area. Critics of Fogh Rasmussen argue that the withdrawal was motivated by a decreasing domestic support for the war.

In 2004 Rasmussen's government came under attack based on questions of how much intelligence it had with regard to Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. The government held hearings, and was forced to publish classified reports it had consulted about the likelihood of banned weapons existing in Iraq. While the Blair and Bush administrations have been the subject of criticism for extended periods because of their reliance on questionable intelligence, Rasmussen has managed to stay clear of this potential government crisis. This is probably largely because the motion passed by parliament (Folketinget) authorising the deployment of Danish troops states as the reason for the deployment Iraq's continued refusal to cooperate with UN inspectors in violation of the UN Security Council's resolution. The Danish deployment of troops was thus not formally based on a claim that Iraq had WMD's.

In a comment to the media Anders Fogh Rasmussen stated as one of the reasons to support a military intervention, “Irak har masseødelæggelsesvåben. Det er ikke noget vi tror. Vi ved det. Irak har selv indrømmet, at det har haft sennepsgas, nervegas, miltbrand, men Saddam vil ikke afregne. Han vil ikke fortælle os, hvor og hvordan de våben er blevet destrueret. Det ved vi fra FN's inspektører, så der er ingen tvivl i mit sind.” “Iraq has WMDs. It is not something we think, it is something we know. Iraq has itself admitted that it has had mustard gas, nerve gas, anthrax, but Saddam won't disclose. He won't tell us where and how these weapons have been destroyed. We know this from the UN inspectors, so there is no doubt in my mind.”

The Danish Defence Intelligence Service (FE) had produced a classified report stating that it had no absolute proof of WMDs in Iraq. Rasmussen had access to this report and used it in other parts of his decision making. Since the presence of WMDs in Iraq has now been refuted, Rasmussen has focused almost exclusively on the tyrannical nature of Saddam Hussein's regime. A former FE analyst, Major Frank Grevil, was sentenced to four months in prison for leaking the information to the press. Grevil argues that Rasmussen has either lied about or misunderstood the content of the secret reports in his presentations to the parliament. During Rasmussen's administrations, Denmark has also deployed troops to Afghanistan, Bosnia and Kosovo. All three missions have only met minor political opposition.

Gay marriage

Civil unions between gay couples have been legal in Denmark since 1989. Rasmussen believes that they should be able to be married in religious ceremonies, which is not currently allowed in the Evangelical Lutheran State Church of Denmark, but he has said it should be up to religious communities to decide whether to perform ceremonies for gay couples. The question of gay marriage is not often publicly mentioned in Danish politics and there is little opposition to homosexuals being allowed to form civil unions.

Tax reform

After the elections in 2001, Venstre, enacted a total "tax stop," meaning a freeze on any tax increases. Venstre had successfully campaigned by claiming that taxes had been growing constantly during the previous eight years under the Social Democrats. While the overall tax burden was more or less unchanged from 1993 until 2001, however, there was a shift in the taxation of income, both corporate and personal over to a higher level on personal consumption (especially through the "ecological taxes" (da. grønne afgifter)), which gave the average citizen the impression of rising taxes.

This "tax stop" was criticized by the parties on the left wing of Danish politics, allegedly for being "antisocial" and "only for the rich." Since the tax stop also froze the tax of real property (da. ejendomsværdiskat, 1%), it was beneficial to homeowners in the densely populated regions that have experienced an extraordinary increase in the prices of real estate. The tax of real estate is actually limited at a nominal level — not at a relative level. While the rate was one percent when the tax stop was enacted, the actual tax is much less today when the last few years' large increase in property value (+20%/p.a. in large cities) is taken into account. The Danish Economic Council has criticized this as unfairly benefiting current homeowners.

Even though the total tax burden was marginally higher in 2005 than it was in 2001, the tax stop was very popular among voters. Thus, in January 2005, the Social Democrats announced that they accepted the principle of a tax stop until at least one right-wing party was willing to participate in a tax reform.

The tax stop has, however, been ineffective, judging by Venstre's own intentions. The goal of the tax stop was to halt the growth of public expenditures (and halt the growth of taxes), but even with their cuts in public spending (which were considered aggressive by the political left wing), public spending continued to rise by approximately one percentage point above inflation each year.

From 2004 and onwards, minor tax cuts came into effect, on two accounts:

  1. People with jobs got a 3% tax reduction on the 5.5% "bottom tax" (da. bundskat).
  2. An "employment deduction" (da. beskæftigelsesfradrag) was introduced. This initiative is supposed to encourage people to get off welfare and take jobs instead.
  3. The bottom limit of the "middle tax" (da. mellemskat) of 6%, is raised by 12.000 DKK every year, over the next four years. This was supposed to limit the income stresses of middle incomes and families with children.

In 2009 a major tax reform was implemented. The overall marginal tax rate was reduced by 7.5%. In the end, the top tax rate (topskatten) was not changed, but the income level at which it began was raised. This had the effect of removing 350,000 Danes from the top tax bracket. The medium tax rate was eliminated, and the lowest was reduced by 1.5%. Various other tax reforms were enacted such as an increase in the old age pension, incentives for renovation, and various initiatives designed to improve energy efficiency.[4] Finance Minister, Lars Lokke Rasmussen, called it the biggest reduction reduction in the marginal tax rate since the introduction of income tax in 1903.[5] The tax reforms have been criticized by the left wing parties for favoring the rich, even though they were in many ways similar to tax reforms proposed by these very parties, while on the other hand economists often criticized the reforms for being too focused on preserving economic equality (for which Denmark is renowned) rather than boosting the economy in general.

Some of the more ambitious elements of the reforms (such as a lowereing of the "top tax" rate) had to be changed or greatly reduced in order to receive the necessary support from the more tax friendly Danish People's Party.

Municipal reform

One of the main initiatives of Rasmussen's government was the introduction of a municipal reform, the aim of which was the geographic and administrative consolidation of smaller municipalities, and the abolishment of counties. Major areas of public services, such as the national health service was in turn consolidated into five regional bodies, while the number of municipalities was reduced from 271 to 98.

2005 election

On January 18, 2005 Rasmussen called an election for February 8, 2005. He delayed the call by a couple of weeks because of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake which killed several Danes. His government had been criticized by a few Danes for what they thought was a slow response to that crisis, although a clear majority applauded the government's way of dealing with the disaster.

Although his party's support was reduced from the 2001 election, resulting in the loss of four seats, Venstre was able to maintain its coalition after the election through gains by other parties, and on February 18 Rasmussen formed the Cabinet of Anders Fogh Rasmussen II.

Rasmussen received the most "personal votes" ever of any politician in the Folketing (Denmark's Parliament) with 61,792.

Rasmussen in Brazil with Lula da Silva, April 25, 2007

2007 election

At 11:30pm on November 13, 2007, the day of the election, Anders Fogh Rasmussen claimed victory on the basis of almost complete results.[6] By the morning of November 14, 2007, after results came through from the Faroe Islands and Greenland, Fogh Rasmussen's centre-right coalition of the Liberals, the Conservative People's Party and the Danish People's Party had obtained the 90 seats required for him to continue as Prime Minister, making him the longest-ruling Liberal Prime Minister of Denmark.[7]

NATO Secretary General

See also: NATO–Russia relations

Shortly following his second reelection in 2007, rumours began to spread in the Danish media that Rasmussen was a candidate for several high-profiled international jobs. At first rumour had it that he was informally one of the top candidates for the new position of President of the EU, which could be created when the Lisbon Treaty would come in to effect.[8] Following the Irish rejection of the treaty in June 2008, it became obvious that this position would not be created in the near future, and so the talk in the Danish media began to revolve around Rasmussen's candidacy to the position of Secretary General of NATO. In winter and spring of 2009, fueled by Rasmussen's frequent travelling, these rumours intensified.[9] Rasmussen denied being a candidate for any international position up until a few days before the official announcement of his selection was made.[10]

Anders Fogh Rasmussen became the 12th NATO Secretary General on 1 August 2009, succeeding Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, who held the post from 2004 until 2009.[1] The announcement was made on 4 April 2009 at the 2009 Strasbourg–Kehl summit in Strasbourg. During the final selection process only one country, Turkey, remained opposed to Rasmussen's candidacy, partly because of his handling of the cartoon episode in 2005, when the publication in some Danish newspapers of cartoons of Muhammad caused violent protests.[11][12] Another major point of Turkey's opposition was Denmark's tolerance of Roj TV,[11][12] which is claimed by the Turkish government to be a mouthpiece for the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Eventually, Turkey withdrew its opposition to Rasmussen's appointment when it received assurances from U.S. president Barack Obama that Turkish officials would be appointed to three high posts in NATO.

After taking up his duty as NATO Secretary General on 1 August 2009, Rasmussens first mission was a visit to Afghanistan, where he met with President Karzai and senior Afghan ministers, including Minister for Foreign Affairs Spanta, Minister for Defence General Wardak, and Minister of Interior Atmar to discuss the then impending presidential and provincial council elections in the country [13].

Muhammad cartoons and Danish goods boycott

A major period of conflict in Rasmussen's political career concerned a set of cartoons printed in Jyllands-Posten, a major Danish newspaper. In September 2005 the newspaper printed a full page with 12 cartoons depicting various interpretations of Muhammad, including one in which Muhammad appeared with a bomb in his turban. Some of the schools of the Islamic religion do not allow depiction of the figure of Mohammed. Many Muslims found the cartoons offensive. Rasmussen has described the controversy as Denmark's worst international crisis since World War II. He was quoting as saying that he "was deeply distressed that the cartoons were seen by many Muslims as an attempt by Denmark to mark and insult or behave disrespectfully towards Islam or Mohammed."[14]

Bibliography

  • Opgør med skattesystemet — der straffer de aktive og belønner de passive, Liberal, 1979; ISBN 87-7519-045-1
  • Fra socialstat til minimalstat: en liberal strategi, Samleren, 1993; ISBN 87-568-1204-3

Filmography

  • Fogh bag facaden, 58 min., Danish documentary, by Christoffer Guldbrandsen, 2003, [4]
  • Den hemmelige krig, 58 min., Danish documentary, by Christoffer Guldbrandsen, 2006, [5]
  • AFR, 83 min., Danish mockumentary, by Morten Hartz Kaplers, 2007, AFR (film)
  • CIA's danske forbindelse, by Mette Aaby, 2008, [6]

See also

References

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Isi Foighel
Tax Minister of Denmark
1987–1992
Succeeded by
Peter Brixtofte
Preceded by
Niels Helveg Petersen
Minister of Economic Affairs of Denmark
1990–1992
Succeeded by
Thor Pedersen
Preceded by
Poul Nyrup Rasmussen
Prime Minister of Denmark
2001–2009
Succeeded by
Lars Løkke Rasmussen
Party political offices
Preceded by
Uffe Ellemann-Jensen
Leader of Venstre
1998–2009
Succeeded by
Lars Løkke Rasmussen
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Jaap de Hoop Scheffer
Secretary General of NATO
2009–present
Incumbent

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