Danes call for reappraisal of Maastricht

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IN THE light of the narrow French 'yes' to Maastricht, Danish political leaders yesterday called for a thorough reappraisal of the treaty - but stopped short of demanding its complete renegotiation.

Pointing out that French objections to Maastricht were similar to those voiced here prior to the Danish referendum in June, Uffe Ellemann-Jensen, the Foreign Minister, said that some of the elements in the treaty should now be 're-discussed'.

In particular, he called for the fleshing out of the so-called subsidiarity principle - a device whereby decision-taking should wherever possible be kept at the lowest level, as a means of reducing 'centralisation and excessive bureaucracy in the Community'. More generally, he called for greater 'openness and democracy' in the Community's institutions, demands that found an echo right across the political spectrum in Denmark.

According to Bjorn Westh, a spokesman for the opposition Social Democrats, Denmark's largest party, the French vote indicated a general 'mistrust' of the Maastricht treaty that is felt across Europe. 'Like us, the people of France have shown that they think the Community is too bureaucratic and too removed from the people,' he said, 'we have to draw the relevant lessons from that.'

The French vote in favour of Maastricht - albeit by a slender majority - has increased the pressure on Denmark to work out a deal with the rest of the Community over how it can remain on board following the 'no' verdict in its own referendum.

The government and opposition are working on a White Paper that will cover the parts of the treaty from which Denmark seeks to be excluded and which it hopes will be accepted by the other 11 EC states in the form of a protocol to the Maastricht treaty.

Among the specific aims from which Denmark wants to disassociate itself are the commitments to work towards common foreign and security policies, economic and monetary union and the creation of a European citizenship.

While a French 'no' would have removed the necessity for Denmark to come to a special arrangement with its partners, everyone here is agreed that the closeness of Sunday's result had strengthened Denmark's negotiating position.

'Our 11 partners will now be able to understand better that Denmark has some special views on the treaty,' said Poul Schluter, the Prime Minister. 'The Maastricht treaty cannot take effect before all 12 EC members have signed . . . before the Danish conditions have been negotiated and are in place.'

Mr Schluter will be travelling to London next week to discuss the Danish position with John Major. Many observers here have drawn encouragement from the Prime Minister's intention not to seek ratification of Maastricht in the British parliament before the Danish question has been resolved. Some have even expressed the hope that Mr Major may call for a renegotiation of the treaty.

'If Britain wants to reopen talks over Maastricht, we would gladly go along with that,' said Mr Westh. 'I do not think it would be right for Denmark itself to push for such a move, but, of course, it would make our position easier.'

The government itself, still keeping most of its cards to its chest, has refused to go so far, insisting instead that rather than abandoning Maastricht altogether it would be possible to amend it significantly within its current framework.

Many Danes, however, do not feel the need for such reservations. 'If the Maastricht treaty was so good, many more people would say 'yes' to it than either here or in France,' said Helle Frydendall, a 'no' voter in the Danish referendum. 'Such important changes should not be decided with such small majorities.'