(ARTICLE PUBLISHED SEPTEMBER 14TH IN POLITIKEN, DENMARK BASED ON INFORMATION SENT BY TACD AND KEI FROM WIKILEAKS)
The Danish Embassy in Warsaw put together with other countries’ diplomats pressure on the Polish government in 2006 to get the embattled EU country to abandon attempts to lower the prices of imported pharmaceuticals. This is revealed in confidential U.S. diplomat documents published by WikiLeaks. Lobbying efforts aimed to ensure, among others the danish pharmaceutical giant Novo
Nordisk earnings on sales of insulin in Poland. According to Politiken’s information it was
the former ambassador Michael Metz Morch, who himself tried to lobby the Polish health politicians to get them to drop the price reduction that would save the country hundreds of millions.
“The matter has been remarkable in that we have had major EU member states to support us in our lobbying efforts: British, French, German and Danish embassy officials have objected to the Polish government and protested the price reduction,” says a message from the then U.S. ambassador to Poland, Victor Ashe, to the U.S. State department. But the ambassador believes that there is a need for further urgent action “to shake the Polish government out of its complacent attitude,” writes Victor Ashe. The memo also mentions a number of additional “high-level interventions” and ends by pointing out that “although progress has been successful, we need more high-level pressure to beat our points clear to the Polish government.”
According to SF’s MEP Margrete Auken, the Danish foreign service played a problematic role: “It is highly reprehensible that the Danish government in this way acts as a lobbyist for the pharmaceutical industry,” she says and announces that she will raise the matter through SF’s political party group.
This assessment is backed up by James Love, director of the American organization Knowledge Ecology International, which maps the global pharmaceutical industry lobbying. “It is clear that the companies lobby for higher prices, but it is also the Danish government’s role? Denmark has a high standard of living, Poland a lot lower. I do not think it is appropriate that the Danish authorities provide this kind of pressure, “he said.
Both the Foreign Ministry and the Danish Embassy in Warsaw rejects out of principle to comment on the case because it has emerged through documents leaked by WikiLeaks. According to centrally placed sources, this case not unique. “It happens all the time. Last year there was a case in Greece where the authorities would lower drug prices. Back then the Foreign Ministry also assisted in opening some doors, “said a source in a Danish pharmaceutical company.
The Danish ambassador in Warsaw, Thomas Østrup Miller will not comment on the case, but confirms that the ambassadors themselves often are involved in lobbying for Danish companies. The Foreign Ministry confirms that it is standard practice to assist Danish companies with problems in the export
markets. The Ministry increasingly sees the area as a revenue opportunity and last year it earned from 8 to 9 mio. danish kroner (1,2 mio euro) on the sale of public affairs services to businesses. According to Soren Kelstrup, the Danish head of the Ministry’s trade office, the companies should not be able to buy their influence. “It should be in line with Danish politics,” he said. He will not comment on the case, but does not deny that Foreign Ministry would assist in similar cases.
“If it was in accordance with Danish politics, we would make the Danish views known, so there was an informed basis for the Polish authorities to take a position on, “he said.
In Novo Nordisk, communications director Mike Rulis confirms that Novo Nordisk bought assistance from the Danish embassy, ??hoping to avoid price cuts, which by the way failed in the end. “For us, this case is business as usual, we consider it natural to use the embassies that way. We’ve done it many times, and we’ll do it again, “he said.
Do you see ethical problems in using the Danish Foreign Service to influence a political process in another country on behalf of a private company?
“Absolutely not. There was talk about a political process that concerned the Danish business interests, and it is the embassy’s job to pursue Danish interests. That is amongst other things what they are there for. And everything was carried out in a completely transparent manner.”