Danish Economic Activism in Saudi Arabia

Hinnerk Daniel Frech, Martin Ashwin Bryld & Malte Tue Møller

Studenteropgave: Basisprojekt


This study investigates the reasons for Denmark’s economic relation to Saudi Arabia. The authors of this study seek, from a critical realist perspective, to shed light on the puzzle of why a liberal state is engaging in economic relations with an authoritarian state. This inquiry takes a retroductive approach to the engagement with pre existing theoretical literature and a qualitative content analysis on the basis of four expert interviews and official governmental sources.
Applying small state theory mainly from a neo-realist perspective to explain why a small state as Denmark behaves as it does, the study comes to the conclusion, that Denmark engages in the relationship with Saudi Arabia mainly due to economic interests. The authors argue, that the economic interests are part of Danish economic activism, which is institutionalized through the Danish project of economic diplomacy. This can be seen in a larger geopolitical context as part of Danish bandwagoning behaviour, alongside Danish military activism. On a more general level, this study argues, that Danish foreign policy is characterized through activism and opportunistic bandwagoning and status-seeking behaviour. For this, the study extends the use of the mentioned theoretical concepts to the domain of economic relations. Thereby, this study contributes to a gap in International Relations literature, which has applied bandwagoning and status-seeking primarily in a military context.
Finally, the authors of this study suggest a different approach to Danish foreign policy. A more critical and ethical approach is suggested instead of the current economic and military activism which, despite of its official legitimization through an emphasis of liberal values, does not pay attention to human rights issues and critical considerations in the case of the Danish-Saudi relationship.

UddannelserBasis - International Samfundsvidenskabelig Bacheloruddannelse, (Bachelor uddannelse) Basis
VejledereMichelle Pace


  • economic activism
  • Danish foreign policy
  • small state theory
  • critical realism
  • international relations
  • bandwagoning
  • Saudi Arabia
  • economic diplomacy
  • Denmark
  • military activism
  • Mogens Lykketoft
  • Anders Wivel