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Danish government wants second referendum on euro

Updated 23.11.2007 - 11.50 CET - The recently re-elected Danish government has announced a referendum on scrapping one or more of the country's four EU opt-outs from 1993.

But there is no mention of a vote on the EU Reform Treaty in the new political working programme of the government published on Thursday (22 November).

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  • The four opt-outs were introduced after the Danish people voted no in a referendum on the Maastricht treaty (Photo: European Commission)

"It is no secret that the government has been convinced all the time that the EU opt-outs are a hindrance for Denmark. We now say that the time has come to let people take a stand on it," Danish prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen said at a press conference in Copenhagen.

The Danish liberal-conservative coalition, lead by Mr Fogh Rasmussen, was re-elected by a slim majority in general elections earlier this month.

"With the new treaty, Denmark will be left out of a major part of the co-operation. The government finds that time has outrun the opt-outs from 1993, which were made in another time and under special conditions," the political working plans for the new government read.

The Euro is one of the four opt-outs, but it is more likely that the first referendum will be on the Danish derogation on justice and home affairs or on defence.

A key partner for the government, the New Alliance party, has voiced support for referendums only on defence and justice opt-outs.

Meanwhile, critics of the government's plans say it is illogical to vote on the opt-outs and not on the new EU treaty, which is to go for ratification throughout the 27 member states next year.

"Before a referendum on the Danish opt-outs, we will need a vote on the Lisbon treaty, because it is the most far reaching treaty ever. It also amends the basis for the opt-outs," said Hanne Dahl, leader of the EU-critical JuneMovement.

"With the loss of national veto rights in 68 areas, and the loss of a permanent Danish commissioner, it is obvious that Denmark is handing over sovereignty to the EU," Ms Dahl argues.

The four opt-outs were introduced after the Danish people voted no in a referendum on the Maastricht treaty. At a subsequent referendum, a majority voted yes.

One of the opt-outs is from the Economic and Monetary Union's third phase, which introduced the Euro. This means that future Danish rejection of the opt-outs will lead to the country joining the European monetary union.

Another opt-out is on justice and home affairs, where Denmark currently does not fully take part.

Mr Fogh Rasmussen revealed that the government may be interested in a model similar to what Britain and Ireland have in the justice and home affairs sector.

Under their set-up, the British and Irish decide on whether they wish to participate on a case-by-case basis.

"The treaty makes it possible for Denmark - after a referendum - to decide from case to case to fully participate in the cooperation on justice and home affairs," says the government's programme.

The remaining two opt-outs mean that Denmark does not participate in drafting or acting on common EU defence policies, and that EU citizenship cannot replace Danish citizenship.

According to Danish daily Berlingske Tidende, sources close to the government suggested referendum on the opt-outs could take place next year or in 2009 at the latest.

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