Danes push for some sort of deal

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The Independent Online
DENMARK'S Foreign Minister, Uffe Ellemann-Jensen, yesterday signalled his determination to salvage the Maastricht treaty when he urged other EC states to reach an agreement reflecting Danish anxieties so that a protocol or declaration could be put to Danish voters in a second referendum.

While repeating there was no question of Denmark violating its own constitution and holding a referendum on the same issue, Mr Ellemann-Jensen said that if discussions with the country's partners led to a 'new basis', that could be voted on by Danes next spring. However, the Danish voters would have to be convinced, among other things, that the concept of subsidiarity would mean something in practice and that a post-Maastricht EC would believe in democratic and open decision- making.

'Maastricht as it was signed, in the city of Maastricht, no longer exists,' Mr Ellemann-Jensen said. But the upshot of the negotiations could perhaps be 'some kind of Maastricht, plus something'. A protocol or declaration might be the framework for maintaining full participation in the Community while meeting the concerns of Danish voters.

The salvage operation urged by Mr Ellemann-Jensen yesterday is naturally predicated on a 'yes' result in France's referendum on Sunday. Talking up the 'yes' vote in a speech to the Liberal Democrats' Harrogate conference, he said: 'Denmark has no interest in a French 'no' in a world where we see strong tendencies to dissolution, like in former Yugoslavia, problems with the international economy, and tensions between industrial countries.'

Mr Ellemann-Jensen told a press conference afterwards that the main problems that could be resolved under some kind of arrangement around the Maastricht treaty included subsidiarity - the principle that laws should, where possible, be made at national or regional level, rather than Community level. There was a feeling that 'bureaucracy and centralisation has simply gone too far.' It had to be ensured that subsidiarity was 'not just an empty word'.

Another concern, he said, was 'to discuss the possibility of establishing new rules regarding openness in the decision-taking procedures', and there were also specifically Danish concerns over the right of the country to determine its own social security policy, and over the role that might be given to the Western European Union. Denmark, 'one of the strongest supporters of Nato', has fears that the WEU might undermine Nato and transatlantic co- operation.

Mr Ellemann-Jensen said he hoped to reach agreement with EC partners at the Edinburgh summit in December, prior to Denmark taking over the presidency on 1 January. A White Paper would be issued soon after the French vote.

'I hope that they will be understanding. I'm sure they will be understanding, because what we have seen in recent times is that this is not just a Danish problem. Everywhere, leaders have been moving too fast without explaining what is actually taking place and why it was necessary.'