15th Jun 2021

Denmark under new pressure for EU treaty vote

  • Helle Thorning-Schmidt (Photo: Socialdemokratiet)

The Danish discussion on whether to have a referendum on the new EU draft Treaty has taken another twist after the country's main opposition party changed course and called for a political discussion on the issue - instead of just a legal discussion as the government wants.

The opposition leader, social democrat Helle Thorning-Schmidt, wants Denmark to enter into a political discussion once the treaty text has been negotiated and not just wait for a legal assessment.

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"I think it is important to spread out [the discussion] a bit and acknowledge that this is also a political assessment," she told Danish daily Politiken on Tuesday (9 October).

She also argues that even if there are no legal issues for Denmark in the reform treaty text there might be aspects which could have political consequences.

"We were at no point in doubt that the former draft constitution should be subjected to a referendum. We would like to look at the new treaty and do a similar evaluation," she told the paper.

Ms Thorning-Schmidt's latest statement challenges Danish centre-right prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen's argument that the Danes should only be invited to the poll stations if legal experts in the Danish ministry of justice find that the reformed treaty will lead to a handover of power from the Danish government to the EU.

Copenhagen – as with other member states – did as much as possible in the treaty negotiations last Spring to ensure that it would not have to have a poll.

It drew up a list of nine points which it said could no longer be included in the draft treaty if it was to avoid having a referendum. These points were then removed from the draft text.

Ms Thorning-Schmidt denies that her turnaround has anything to do with rumours of a call for an early election that have been circulating since July.

Mr Fogh Rasmussen is meeting with UK prime minister Gordon Brown, who himself is also resisting domestic political pressure for an EU referendum, in London on Wednesday (10 October).

Both leaders are keenly aware that a decision to hold a referendum in either country could create a domino effect and put pressure on the other.

So far, only Ireland has said it will definitely have a referendum. The Netherlands – another country where a referendum had been a possibility - recently said it would not have a public poll.

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