23rd Sep 2023

Danes likely to have two referendums on EU treaty op-outs

The Danish centre-right government has launched negotiations with opposition parties to agree on a strategy for scrapping opt-outs from the EU treaties, with the government hoping to abolish the derogations in two steps, according to Danish media reports.

Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen is set to call for a referendum in September to remove the derogation from judicial and defence co-operation and at the same time announce a subsequent referendum on the euro.

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  • The Danish government is eager to have their country participating fully in the EU. (Photo: EUobserver)

Denmark is not bound by first-pillar legislation on justice and home affairs and EU citizenship and does not take part in EU defence co-operation.

Denmark is also not obliged to take part in the single currency and refused to abolish its national currency, the Krone, in a referendum in 2000.

The liberal-conservative coalition government is eager to scrap the opt-outs and have the country participating fully in the EU.

Scrapping the opt-outs are also among the few bits of unfinished businesses for Mr Rasmussen, a liberal politician, before he could eventually accept an international post.

Mr Rasmussen has so far firmly rejected all queries and insists he is not a candidate for any international posts and that he has no plans to quit his job as Denmark's prime minister.

But an unusually busy travel schedule has made most Danes believe that their prime minister, in power since 2001, is in fact hunting for a promotion.

Last month, Danish national news agency Ritzau went through his diary for this year and found that he had spent almost as many days abroad as at home: 53 in Denmark and 47 on foreign trips.

According to Liberal insiders, Mr Rasmussen is already the unofficial candidate of the European Liberals for a top post in the EU.

Big-bang referendum difficult to win

Opinion polls have suggested a big-bang referendum including all four Danish opt-outs would be very difficult to win – but taking the issues one-by-one would increase the chances of a yes.

According to a fresh poll by the Greens polling institute, published by business paper Boersen on Friday (9 May), a slim plurality of 43 percent would accept scrapping all four derogations in such a big-bang referendum, 39 percent would vote no and 18 percent are undecided.

Taken one-by-one the chances for a yes would grow. A large majority - 63 percent - is ready to scrap the defence opt-out, with 22 percent against.

A less comfortable majority (38%) want to end the judicial opt-out, with 31 percent against.

Scrapping the Danish currency and joining the euro is also supported by a majority of 54 percent, but the opposition remains high, on 42 percent.

The government is eager to have the Socialist People's Party included in its Yes front, but the party is still opposed to the euro. It could however join the Yes front if the judicial and defence opt-outs are singled out for a special referendum.

Another uncertain aspect of the plan is the outcome the Irish referendum on 12 June on the Lisbon Treaty. Only if the treaty is ratified in all 27 member states would the new top jobs such as an EU president be available.

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