11th Dec 2019

EU referendum question opened in Denmark

  • Three political parties holding the majority in the parliament have not yet decided on the referendum issue (Photo: EUobserver)

In a surprise move, the political spokesperson for the governing conservative party in Denmark, Pia Christmas-Møller, has spoken out in favour of a referendum on the EU's Refom Treaty, calling it 'idiotic' not to put it to a public poll.

"The more transparency and the more direct dialogue with citizens, the better", she told Danish daily Berlingske Tidende, which splashed the comments on the front page of Friday's print edition (28 September).

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The treaty is currently being negotiated by member states and could be wrapped up by the end of this year for ratification to begin in 2008.

"We have nothing to hide, and it would be idiotic to act, as if we had. It would only cement a faulty perception among the people", she said, adding that it would be a "catastrophe" if the Danes were to vote no to the new treaty.

"But it [a referendum] is essential to secure long-term backing of the citizens. Danes are among the best informed in the EU thanks to our referendums", said Ms Christmas-Møller, who used to head the conservative party.

"This is a democratic problem, and democracy is really heading off course, when politicians begin to fear the voters".

Ms Christmas-Møller's unexpected statement was circulated ahead of this weekend's annual national conservative congress.

The Conservative party has been governing Denmark for the past six years in alliance with the Liberals.

The statement from the conservative camp could undermine the current 'wait-and-see' approach of liberal prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

Mr Ramussen has refused to make a decision on whether to hold a referendum before he knows whether the reformed treaty will lead to a handover of power from the Danish government to the EU.

This assessment can only begin once the 27 EU member states have agreed to a final deal on the treaty, he argues.

Legal experts in the Danish justice ministry will then examine whether the reformed treaty represents any "delegation of powers" from the state to the EU – something that would automatically trigger the need for a referendum under the Nordic country's constitution.

The conservative's apparent support for a referendum will get backing in the Danish parliament Folketinget, where the Socialist People's Party is on Friday (28 September) to table a proposal for a referendum.

The Red-Green Alliance as well as the right-wing Danish People's Party will back a poll - something that had originally been promised for the rejected EU constitution. The Reform Treaty takes on most of the old constitution's innovations.

In addition, Naser Khader, leader of the small break-away party, New Alliance, in the centre of Danish politics has voiced support for a referendum.

But three political parties - the Social Democrats, the Liberals and the Danish Social-Liberal Party - holding the majority in the parliament, have not decided on the issue.

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