At the time of the interview, he has just been two weeks in his new position as Denmark’s ambassador to Singapore, Brunei, Australia and New Zealand. That means long working days. Meetings, presentations and getting to know the staff, the Danish community and in general settling in. However, if Klavs A. Holm is stressed, it does not show. Relaxed he sits down at the table in the meeting room of the Danish Embassy in Singapore.
“I knew my predecessor (Jørgen Ørstrøm Møller, ed.) very well. He used to be my mentor when I worked for the Foreign Ministry back in Copenhagen. He has been doing a good job here and as we see a lot of things the same way, I am not going to change a lot of things now,“ he says.
Before being appointed Danish ambassador, he was deputy chief at the Danish Embassy in London.
“Just like in London, I will be sending reports to the Foreign Ministry about what is going on out here, but on a more general scale. Can we learn from the way Singapore looks at globalization? And other issues like that,” he says.
Fewer reports than in London leave time for other tasks and Klavs A. Holm know how he intends to spend that time. He is keen on helping Danish companies export their goods to the region and thus creating more jobs in Denmark.
“Danes are considered good to do business with as we are reliable, punctual and clever and Danish companies have a lot to offer. They are very innovative and in that way creating their own niches. Danish products like Bang & Olufsen are in a league of their own. No where else can they make things like that,” he says.
But the new ambassador cares about more than creating more export.
“Being here is not like being in London with 26 daily one hour flights to Denmark. You can say all you want about fast planes, phones and e-mails, but when you live here, you are very far away from Denmark. I think that makes it even more important to take care about being Danish,” he says.
“The embassy can help doing that by being visible to the Danes living in Singapore. By supporting them and the organizations for the Danish community i.e. the Danish Seamen’s Church and Danish Business Association of Singapore and the work they do,” Klavs A. Holm says.
Before moving to Singapore Klavs A. Holm had only been to Singapore a few times on business.
“In the past I have always arrived here after dark and never been out of the city. That gave me the impression that Singapore was a city all made of glass and concrete. Now I can see that I clearly have been too busy studying my papers when driving through Singapore,” the 51 year old Dane laughs.
“My impression changed the instant I got here with my wife Tove and saw Singapore by daylight. There are a lot of green areas with tropical plants and in general it is a nice city to be in. There is a friendly and relaxed atmosphere here. I especially like the ethnical diversity and that all the ethnical minorities, including my own, seem to get along so well. Just like they did in London the last days I was there,” Klavs A. Holm says.
This July, just before he was leaving for Singapore, bombs exploded in busses and subway trains in London.
“After the bombings the Londoners really impressed me. Ethnic and religious groups joined forces in stead of splitting up. They resisted have their spirits broken. It was like they were thinking “we can get through this if we stand by each other,”” he says.
Klavs A. Holm’s stay in London started the same way it ended. Starting working in London September 1st 2001, Klavs A. Holm got off to a rather rough start.
“I use to say that I had eleven peaceful days in London. Then the catastrophe of September 11 happened and that changed a lot of things. Danish foreign policy has always been closely connected to the British and perhaps even more so after September 11,” Klavs A. Holm says.
Being the deputy chief in London, one of his tasks was to follow British foreign policy closely.
“Because of the Danish foreign policy being so closely connected to the British, the Danish Government wanted to know the position of the British in international matters e.g. the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, regional conflicts in the Middle East, the India-Pakistani conflict, NATO matters and much more. I did a lot of detailed reporting,” he says.
According to Klavs A. Holm the situation following September 11 caused a heavy workload and meant that he never got to have a daily routine in spite of spending four years in London.
His entire career Klavs A. Holm has been working in the Foreign Ministry. Just like he planned. In 1980 Klavs A. Holm graduated Cand. Scient. Pol (an education made for employment in the Foreign Ministry, he says) from Århus Universitet.
“I have always been interested in doing something for my country and interested in foreign countries generally speaking. Working in the Foreign Ministry I can combine these things. Denmark has no raw materials and in order to survive Denmark needs to do well abroad. As the world gets more and globalized, my interest just gets even bigger”, he says.
Having just graduated, he got his first job in the Foreign Ministry, handling a lot of EU related issues, especially regarding the EU aid to developing countries. In 1986 he started working as embassy secretary at the Danish Embassy in Paris. His main task was to report back to the Foreign Ministry in Copenhagen, how the French were doing implementing the internal market of EU. In 1989 he got a job at the Foreign Ministry in Copenhagen. Handling a lot of financial issues, but also writing speeches and articles for the Foreign Minister’s campaign up to the Danish referendums on the Treaty of Maastricht in 1992 and 1993.
Just after the second referendum Klavs A. Holm started in a position as coordinator for the Danish EU representation in Brussels. He worked there for three years and had many tasks helping to arrange EU summits and other meetings. Before going to London, he went back to Denmark. Klavs A. Holm was appointed head of department of trade politics in the Foreign Ministry in 1996, the year after the World Trade Organization was established. A WTO meeting brought him to Singapore for the first time.
Klavs A. Holm has moved to Singapore together with his Tove, but none of the couples three children are in Singapore.
“When we moved to London, all three of them came with us. But then one moved back, then another one and just before we moved from London, the last one went back to Denmark. We started with three and ended up with none,” Klavs A. Holm laughs.
Their son Mikkel, 24, is studying medicine, daughters Tanne, 20, is at Law school and Signe, 16, is at the famous Danish boarding school Herlufsholm.
“Now we will have to get used to just being just the two of us, but we are doing just fine,” he says.
In his spare time he likes to do sports. Swimming, tennis, badminton and squash. But it cannot all be fun.
“Doing business in Singapore you have to play golf, so I have to keep my game going. It is a dirty job, but someone has got to do it” he says tongue in cheek.