Danes point to EC's way ahead

Click to follow
The Independent Online
MORE THAN four months after its voters shocked Europe by rejecting the Maastricht treaty on European union, Denmark yesterday published a list of eight ways of resolving the crisis that it has brought about.

The options appeared in a government White Book that has been eagerly awaited all over Europe as the key to the Maastricht conundrum. Although Danish officials acknowledge that the government has already been having secret discussions with both opposition parties at home and EC partners abroad, the book's publication is now likely to bring the debate into the open.

The basic problem is that the Maastricht treaty as presently drafted cannot come into effect until it is ratified by all 12 members of the EC. Poul Schluter, the Danish Prime Minister, has indicated that he hopes to win a 'yes' vote to closer European integration in a second referendum to be held next spring or autumn. But the details of what Danish voters might be asked in that referendum, and the changes that the Danish government might consequently demand to the treaty, have so far remained unclear.

The civil servants who drafted the 251-page document have taken care to avoid formal recommendations, so as to leave to talks between the Danish government and opposition the choice of option the country will take up. But comments in the text make it clear which way thinking is moving in the Danish bureaucracy.

Although it formally recognises that one option might be to abandon the new treaty altogether, and to carry on running the EC according to rules laid down in the 1957 Treaty of Rome, the paper warns that without Maastricht, the EC may start to crumble at the edges as its members start to bend the rules.

Another canvassed option is for Denmark to carry on with the Rome rules while its 11 partners forge ahead with Maastricht. But the paper warns of the dangers that such a two-speed Europe would bring. 'A nucleus of European countries wanting to continue the economic and political integration will come into existence . . . the European countries will gradually be divided into several groups depending on the degree to which they participate in a still closer European union.'

The White Book underlines the advantages to be gained if Denmark could avoid an outcome that left it on a legal island all of its own. The system of giving all the EC's members the same rights and obligations, it insists, 'has constituted the framework for EC enlargements in 1973, 1981 and 1986'.

The White Book, copies of which will be made widely available in Denmark, also reassures Danish voters that things have already changed a great deal since they turned the treaty down in June. It says that there is 'an increasing awareness' among EC diplomats and government officials that they need to appear less autocratic and distant.