Another Danish ”No” ahead?

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By Ole Aabenhus, Dec. 2

WE HAVE SEEN IT time and again: From the outset the Yes vote has it in opinion polls up to Danish referendums on EU matters. But in the final sprint, the No vote swells. In two cases, we ended with a Danish No: First in the 1992 referendum on the Maastricht Treaty, later in the 2000 referendum on Denmark joining the euro.

For a long time the Yes-side stood at a confortable 40 per cent against 30-something. Then came a neck-to-neck period and over the last few days, and now: In a survey carried out November 22-30 by pollster Epinion, the Yes-side stands at 32 per cent against 36 per cent No – with 25 per cent still undecided.

THE STRANGE TING about the expected outcome is that all political parties agree on most of the issue that was supposed to form the subject-matter of the referendum: They all agree that we should stay in Europol – as we would do automatically, if the Yes-vote would carry the day. And, minor details apart, they all agree on the 22 laws and regulations included in the voting package.

The major issue is how to stay in Europol, the European cooperation set-up between national police forces. Up to now, Europol has been based on state-to-state cooperation. But soon it will be incorporated in the EU as a supra-national unit.

FOR DENMARK, this raises the question: How to join? Yes in the referendum will mean that Denmark does away with an opt-out in the judicial field, and opts in to continue working with Europol as before.

But laws and regulations related to asylum are left out. They are part of the existing opt-out, but here the government will not opt-in. As asylum-regulations divide the waters here as elsewhere, the Government and the major opposition party have given a joint guarantee that the Danish opt-out on asylum will not be changed without still another referendum.

Thus the referendum issue has become extremely complex in the eyes of most Danes, and even politicians and TV anchors constantly talk about the “complexity” of we are to vote on.

NO WILL MEAN that we will have to ask for a so-called parallel agreement – i.e. we have to ask the Commission and the 27 other member countries for their explicit accept that we work as a Europol-partner a process that takes at least a year or two.

Similar agreements will have to be sought in regard of the other 22 laws and regulations (on cross-border issues related to marriage, divorce, heritage, debt recovery, consumer claims…), but there has been very little debate about where to start.

Why this opt-out?
The four opt-outs were invented after the Danish No to the Maastricht treaty in 1992 – the first No ever in EU history. They were voted in a second referendum the following year, together with the treaty. The four opt-outs were designed to say No to

1. EU citizenship (understood as an alternative to national citizenship).
2. Defence cooperation (understood at the time as a No to a European Army).
3. The euro (i.e. the plans which have now been realised).
4. Judicial area (understood mainly as plans to establish a European version of FBI, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation).

TODAY, HOWEVER, the four Danish opt-outs have all changed in character and content:

1. The EU citizenship is no longer an issue at all. It was settled in the Treaty of Amsterdam. Being a citizen in a member state automatically means that you are also a citizens in the EU.

2. The idea of a European Army has died out. The defence opt-out now means that Denmark cannot take part in even the most sensible military operation, if it is managed by the EU. Example: Danish demining in Kosovo had to stop when authority over the operation changed from the U.N. to the EU.

3. The euro: In formal terms this opt-out still stands, but as Margrethe Vestager (now EU-commissioner) said when she was minister of economics: Denmark is the 18th euro-country. Denmark has a fixed rate of exchange with the euro and almost all the regulations set up by the euro-countries are followed here.

4. The judicial is no longer about a European FBI. On the contrary, Denmark now want to join Europol to increase national police efficiency as more and more crime turns international.

Where does the No come from?
In 1992-93, when the four Danish opt-outs were invented, opposition to the EU was a hallmark of the Left. Today this has changed. Now, it’s among the followers of right wing parties you find the strongest No (figures by Epinion, as above): 40 per cent Yes on the Left, almost 40 per cent No on the Right.

You have a similar spread among age groups: almost 40 per cent No among the young, almost 40 per cent Yes in the older age group.


BUT THERE IS STILL a large group who will vote – they say – but who were still undecided, when the poll took place: 25 per cent in total, but with many more women undecided than men:

So, the still-undecided, especially women, can bring a total surprise to the referendum tomorrow. But apparently the result will be No.

For a different overview, see an article in the Politico web daily by Danish journalist Flemming Rose, foreign editor at Jyllands-Posten and the man who some years back ordered the famous Mohamad-drawing


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