Denmark still pondering 'Yes' or 'No' to EU

Hans Martens.
By Politiken

"Denmark still hasn't gotten over the issue of a yes or no to the European Union." That, at least, is the view of Hans Martens, a Dane who is director of the European Policy Centre think tank in Brussels.

Martens gives the example of the Danish People's Party, which in April proposed that Danes should be able to choose the red-and-white Danish flag for their numberplates instead of the blue-and-yellow European Union ones that Denmark – as the last country to do so – is to adopt in 2010.

In that light, Martens forecasts that the issue of the Danish krone and the euro – which Denmark voted against in 2000, is also a natural part of the debate.

Denmark's EU-sceptics have found a haven in several parties across the political spectrum– from the June Movement on the left, to the neutral People's Movement Against the EU to the Danish People's Party on the right.

But this time, Martens forecasts that the 'No' vote will primarily go to the Danish People's Party.

"As in the other countries of the Union, opponents in Denmark are increasingly going to the more right-wing nationalist parties. That makes it more difficult for the left wing to attack the Union as they would end up being linked to the right wing," says Martens.

He says the election in Denmark will also be a test of how Denmark's non-socialist government is doing.

"Unfortunately national issues often determine voting at EU election time, and it will be an election for or against the government in power," he says, adding however, that major issues in the national debate that have a European Union connection may become part of the debate. Among other issues, Martens mentions the immigration debate, which has been a major issue in Denmark.

Pure EU issues may also draw part of the electorate. "The EU's proposal on about the free mobility of patients – the right to seek treatment throughout the European Union – may possibly become one of the major issues."

Last but not least, he mentions the economic crisis in which he says Danes support the EU's basic economic principles.

"The Danes are a social-liberal nation and are positively inclined towards the open market. Even the parties to the left support the free market, but with social guarantees," he says.

With a turnout of about 50 percent in previous European elections, Denmark scores much higher than countries like Slovakia or Sweden, where turnout was 16 and 38 percent respectively in the last election in 2004.

Still, Martens says, the Danes have no reason to congratulate themselves. “There are no emotions surrounding the EU elections. If there is an emotion at all, it is probably indifference."

Denmark, year of EU entry: 1973

Political system: constitutional monarchy

Capital city: Copenhagen

Total area: 43 094 km²

Population: 5.4 million

Currency: Danish krone

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