Monday

20th Jan 2020

Danish EU presidency to focus on euro crisis

  • EU ministers will see the Copenhagen mermaid four times (Photo: Valentina Pop)

Denmark's upcoming six months of chairing EU meetings and overseeing legislation in the making will mainly focus on fire-fighting the "worst crisis the EU ever had" and on the bloc's next budget, the Danish ambassador to the EU said Wednesday (23 November).

With at least seven EU leaders having had to resign or being voted out as a direct consequence of the euro-crisis, with bleak growth perspectives and an ever-deepening sovereign debt crisis, the Union is going through its "worst crisis" ever, Denmark's ambassador to the EU Jeppe Tranholm-Mikkelsen told journalists and academics during a briefing organised by the European Policy Centre, a Brussels-based think tank.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join as a group

Given the economic situation, the priorities of the Danish government when taking over the rotating EU presidency on 1 January will focus less on what it had hoped for - green growth, energy efficiency - and more on financial matters.

As a non-euro country with a recently elected centre-left government favourable to the EU, Denmark is interested in keeping decision-making as much as possible at 27, even if it recognises that the 17-strong eurozone needs to integrate more in order to save its currency.

"We will whatever we can to keep family of 27 together. We are strong believers in the EU at 27 and the community method," the ambassador said. In recent months, several informal groupings, such as the Frankfurt Group of bankers and key eurozone-states have gained prominence in shaping the decisions for eurozone governance and a possible treaty change.

Poland, the current EU presidency, and Great Britain - both non-euro countries - have been increasingly vocal about the need to keep decision-making at 27 and to respect the so-called community method, meaning the regular institutional process in the EU, where the European Commission proposes legislation, which is then negotiated with the European Parliament and members states, who need to adopt it before it becomes law.

Denmark however does not wish to become a leader of the 10 non-euro countries or to try and box its way into the eurozone meetings as Poland has tried. Instead, it considers that Herman Van Rompuy, who chairs both the 27 EU leaders summits and the eurozone meetings of premiers and presidents is the perfect representatives of the non-euro countries.

A mooted treaty change, pushed forward by Germany, should be "as limited and as quick as possible," he said.

EU's next seven-year budget will meanwhile be "the biggest single item" on the Danish agenda. While no final agreement on the figures is expected during the Danish presidency, the Scandinavian diplomat said his team will try to finish a "negotiation box" with elements of a compromise, while leaving blanks for the figures.

The same applies for some 60 pieces of legislation on agriculture, research, external relations and others which are underpinning the next budget and which will also have to be ironed out as much as possible before the final deal on the figures is sealed.

Transparency and less meetings

True to its Scandinavian spirit of openness, Denmark wants to make ministers meetings as efficient and transparent as possible.

"We were always in favour of transparency and you can count on its full implementation in all council meetings discussing legislative acts," the ambassador said. He noted that an article in the Lisbon Treaty obliging ministers to hold public debates whenever decisions on legislative acts are taken goes back to 1992 when Denmark first rejected the Maastricht Treaty.

Currently, public deliberations are being held, but often they are just a technical sum-up of lengthier talks behind closed doors.

So-called informal ministers meetings - often an opportunity for the country hosting the presidency to advertise its cities and landscapes - are also going to be kept to a minimum under the Danish presidency. If Poland held 20 such meetings, the Danish government so far has planned for only eight - four in Copenhagen and four in Jutland, the Danish peninsula.

Manpower, however, was boosted for the task of dealing with all the various dossiers ranging from fisheries to police co-operation and from financial markets reform to enlargement policy. Even as the Danish government has cut back some staff of its ministries, it doubled the staff of the permanent representation in Brussels from 80 to almost 160.

These extra posts were not hired from outside, but redeployed from other ministries, the ambassador explained. "We are good at moving money, reprioritising. Maybe that is why we are below 60 percent debt," he joked.

Former centre-left MEP wins Danish elections

Denmark on Thursday elected former Social-Democrat MEP Helle Thorning-Schmidt to become its first female premier. The new government is likely to row back on the controversial border checks and have a more generous approach to EU spending.

Stop criticising Merkel, Danish PM says

With Denmark taking over the EU presidency in January, Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt has said she will fight to make sure that non-eurozone countries are involved in all discussions concerning the internal market.

Denmark stuck in EU treaty quagmire

Days away from taking over the EU's rotating presidency that will be responsible in part for steering through a new intergovernmental treaty, the Danish government has become stuck in a quagmire of domestic resistance to the so-called fiscal compact.

Denmark launches 'tap water' presidency

Tap water instead of bottled water, fewer gifts for dignitaries, more use of public transportation - cost-efficiency is to be the hallmark of Denmark's EU presidency.

Catalan MEPs Puigdemont and Comin look for a party

The former head of the Catalan regional government, Carles Puigdemont, and one member of his government, Toni Comín, have requested to join the Greens/EFA group - but they do not close the door to other political groups.

News in Brief

  1. 'No objection in principle' on Huawei cooperation, EU says
  2. French aircraft carrier goes to Middle East amid tensions
  3. EU suggests temporary ban on facial recognition
  4. EU industry cries foul on Chinese restrictions
  5. 'Devil in detail', EU warns on US-China trade deal
  6. Trump threatened EU-tariffs over Iran, Germany confirms
  7. EU trade commissioner warns UK of 'brinkmanship'
  8. Germany strikes coal phase-out deal

This is the (finally) approved European Commission

MEPs gave the green light to the entire new European Commission during the plenary session in Strasbourg - but with the abstention of the Greens and a rejection by the leftist group GUE/NGL.

Magazine

Welcome to the EU engine room

Welcome to the EU engine room: the European Parliament (EP's) 22 committees, which churn out hundreds of new laws and non-binding reports each year and which keep an eye on other European institutions.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  5. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  2. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  3. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us