HELSINKI – Uffe Ellemann-Jensen, who was Denmark’s foreign minister for more than 10 years from the early 1980s and was considered one of the Nordic region's key politicians in the end phase of the Cold War, has died. He was 80.
The conservative-liberal Venstre party, which Ellemann-Jensen led from 1984-1998, said in a brief statement on Sunday that he died overnight “after a long illness.” The cause of death wasn't immediately given.
Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said in a statement that Ellemann-Jensen, Denmark’s foreign minister from 1982 until 1993, was “a sharp politician”, a great personality and “a man with great courage.”
“He skilfully represented our country during the Cold War,” Frederiksen said, stressing that Ellemann-Jensen insisted Denmark should remain committed to NATO’s common policies, and he called for maintaining close trans-Atlantic ties between Europe and the United States.
“Now that war is back on the European continent, his voice for a strong, secure and democratic Europe seems clearer than ever," she added.
Ellemann-Jensen, born in 1941, was very close to becoming Denmark’s prime minister in 1998 after his party lost the general election and a role as the leader of government formation talks with less than 100 votes. The bitter defeat prompted him to abandon the leadership of his party and leave Danish politics.
On the international arena in the late 1980s, as the Cold War was drawing to a close, he profiled as a strong European advocate for the independence of the Baltic states and then Soviet republics of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
He also succeeded in convincing a majority in the Danish parliament to actively support the U.S.-led coalition during the Gulf War in 1991.
His active foreign policy measures and push to promote the interests of Denmark, a nation of 5.8 million people, led to his policies being called the Ellemann–Jensen doctrine which reflected the idea of promoting small countries’ ability to gain influence in the world order.
In 1995, Ellemann-Jensen was a candidate for the post of NATO secretary-general. He got the support of the U.S. government, but France blocked his candidacy, preferring the Spanish candidate, Javier Solana, reportedly causing the biggest disappointment and defeat in the Danish politician's career.
Ellemann-Jensen is survived by his wife, Alice Vestergaard, their four children and 10 grandchildren.
This story has been corrected to show that his last name is Ellemann-Jensen, not Elleman-Jensen.