Danes to put faith in 'yes': A well-informed electorate prepares a heartfelt vote on the Maastricht treaty

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The Independent Online
THE ONLY Dane not to have expressed an opinion on Tuesday's Maastricht referendum would seem to be Hans Christian Andersen.

Denmark's 46 newspapers, all but one of which are pro-treaty, have polled every interest group imaginable as to their voting intentions. The television channels have carried two hours of coverage a night - a mixture of studio discussion and political broadcast. Politicians and captains of industry have toured the country, volunteers shower pamphlets from buses, the Prime Minister, Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, has answered phone-ins and delivered speeches.

The campaign, which is after all nearly one year old, has induced a certain languor, as evidenced by the 4 per cent of Danes who in the most recent poll professed not to care what happened on Tuesday, but the mood stops short of boredom. The Danes must rank as one of the world's most articulate and informed electorates. Most people say they have read at least 'bits' of the Maastricht treaty. They display an awe-inspiring familiarity with the detail of the Edinburgh Agreement that gave Denmark a more flexible interpretation of the treaty sections on a single currency, defence and citizenship.

Yet the gut feeling in Copenhagen yesterday was that the Danes would be voting not so much with their heads, on the basis of a legal fudge, as with their hearts. 'This time the vote isn't about the detail of the Maastricht treaty so much as about the future of Denmark,' said Jacob Burcharth, a 30-year-old musician.

The government has played on this. All the polls now point to a clear lead for the 'yes' vote which, according to a poll for the newspaper Politiken, now stands at 52 per cent in favour and 36 per cent against. Most people cite a weakening economy as their principal concern. Recession has bitten here too in the last 12 months.

The Social Democrat-led government has proposed tax reforms once the referendum is over, and Mr Rasmussen is pledged to tackle unemployment - 12 per cent and rising. 'It is my job to explain to people that the Danish krone will be weakened if they vote 'no'. The government will have to take that into consideration when setting next year's economic objectives,' says Mr Rasmussen.

Mr Burcharth will be voting 'yes' again on Tuesday because, he says, 'I think we will only survive in the future as some kind of community. I suppose it is the European ideal - it's about believing in something.'

His friend Henrik Jan Hove, who is a physiotherapist, will also be voting 'yes', but says his choice owes much to the 'no' campaign. 'I think the 'no' vote has forced the EC to do some soul-searching, it provoked a proper debate. As a result the Maastricht treaty is already a more flexible document, European leaders have been forced to take democracy seriously and listen to the people,' he said.

In the cramped offices of the June Movement yesterday, a team of volunteers was still working overtime to get the 'no' vote out. Karen had taken time off work to help. Young, bright and friendly she is against the Maastricht treaty 'because its decision-making procedures are undemocratic, it exists as an economic club to make the rich richer'.

For her the treaty does not go far enough; a nuance unlikely to faze the Tory sceptic Bill Cash when he addresses a June Movement rally this morning. The Foreign Minister, Niels Helveg Petersen, has told Tory Euro- sceptics to go home because 'we must decide for ourselves. It is, as you say, not cricket to try and influence the poll.'