Monday

17th Feb 2020

Denmark to battle for European unity

Denmark takes over the six-month EU rotating presidency on Sunday (1 January), kicking off what is expected to be another traumatic year for the eurozone and its single currency.

Like all presidency countries, Denmark has a specific to-do list, but the eurozone crisis means that its most pressing task will be political in nature: ensuring that euro and non-euro states do not drift apart.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Thorning-Schmidt has pledged to keep the EU as unified as possible (Photo: The Council of the European Union)

Not being a member of the single currency means that politically it is already on the back-foot however.

Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, one of the few centre-left politicians in the European Union, had a taste of what this means during her first EU summit in December.

When she spoke out about the importance of keeping the EU 27 together, French President Nicolas Sarkozy rejected the overture: "You're an 'out', a small out, and you're new. We don't want to hear from you," he said, according to an account in the Financial Times.

While Sarkozy's outburst came during the summit, the actual results of the summit make Thorning-Schmidt's EU cohesion task yet more difficult.

By the end of the long and fractious evening, the 17 eurozone countries said they would forge ahead with an intergovernmental pact on tightening fiscal discipline. Nine non-euro countries - including Denmark - pledged to eventually sign up to it, while the UK is not taking part at all.

The coming weeks will be dominated by efforts to nail down the details of the pact. But this presents its own set of problems for Copenhagen, which is keen to make sure its contents will not trigger a referendum.

Internal Danish politics means that this will be a difficult tightrope for Thorning-Schmidt, whose coalition government is propped up by a eurosceptic left-wing party that is against the pact and is calling for a referendum on the issue.

Like Poland - a non-euro member whose presidency finishes at the end of 2011 - Denmark is expected to spend much of its time trying to keep minds focussed on everyday policies even as the eurozone crisis continues to push member states into yet more emergency summits, meetings and decisions.

One big issue that requires member states' attention but where Copenhagen may struggle to make itself heard above the efforts to deal with the eurozone crisis will be the EU's next long-term budget (2014-2020).

EU budget talks are traditionally ill-tempered affairs. But the tough economic climate promises to make the talks more difficult than usual.

Denmark will be in charge as fresh new legislation on economic governance begins to be felt. The six new laws, massively increasing Brussels' oversight of national budgets and committing member states to a new European Semester, came into force mid December. The March summit will be the first test of the new system, with member states supposed to agree European Commission recommendations on their budget spending policies.

Another event that Denmark will have to factor into the running of its presidency is the French presidential elections in April.

Past experience shows that when large EU countries are facing elections, domestically awkward topics are pushed off the EU table while spurious topics - which may help the incumbent - find their way on to it.

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.

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.

Debt-ridden Cyprus takes on EU presidency

Debt-ridden Cyprus took over the day-to-day running of the EU Sunday becoming the first euro state to take on the presidency since the end of 2010.

Agenda

This WEEK in the European Union

The leaders of France and Germany will kick off the week with a bilateral meeting on the eurozone crisis with the single currency still facing many of the same problems - only exacerbated - that it did one year ago.

Central Europe mayors join in direct EU funds plea

They call themselves the "Pact of Free Cities". The mayors of Budapest, Bratislava, Prague and Warsaw want EU funds to bypass their governments, in order to fight climate change and populism.

News in Brief

  1. Michel proposes GNI 1.074 percent for budget
  2. Five Star Movement to protest against own government
  3. France pushing for tougher EU line on Brexit alignment
  4. Facebook delays EU roll-out of dating app
  5. Coronavirus a 'key risk' in EU's economic forecast
  6. Von dey Leyen defends record at German parliament inquiry
  7. Johnson loses finance and N. Ireland ministers in reshuffle
  8. Eight EU states warned over money-laundering delay

Five new post-Brexit MEPs to watch

Five MEPs to keep an eye on from the 27 new members who are joining the European Parliament this week, following the UK's departure from the EU.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersScottish parliament seeks closer collaboration with the Nordic Council
  2. UNESDAFrom Linear to Circular – check out UNESDA's new blog
  3. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December

Latest News

  1. The last best chance for Donbas and peace in Europe?
  2. EU commissioner lobbied by energy firm he owns shares in
  3. Will coronavirus lead to medicine shortage in EU?
  4. EU transparency on lobbyist meetings still piecemeal
  5. 'Westlessness' - Western restlessness at China's ascent
  6. Central Europe mayors join in direct EU funds plea
  7. What you don't hear about Spain's migration policy
  8. 'Top-down' future of Europe conference 'will fail' warning

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us