Danes want an 'open Europe'

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The Independent Online
COPENHAGEN - Denmark took over the rotating leadership of the European Community yesterday, outlining its goals for the six-month presidency under the headline 'The Open Europe'.

The Foreign Minister, Uffe Ellemann-Jensen, said in a new year's statement that openness would be the key word for the period in the Community's external relations as well as in its internal affairs.

Among the priorities, Mr Ellemann-Jensen identified negotiations with EC applicants (Sweden, Finland, Austria and Norway), closer links with formerly Communist Eastern Europe and Russia, concluding a Gatt world trade deal, and putting the principle of EC transparency - openness - into practice.

'We will strengthen relations with countries in Central and Eastern Europe. We will discuss with these countries how we can facilitate their road towards full membership of the EC. At the same time, we will make a major effort to conclude a co-operation agreement with Russia during our presidency. This would contribute substantially to supporting President Yeltsin and his reform path,' Mr Ellemann-Jensen said.

Close relations with US President-elect Bill Clinton, who takes office on 20 January, were a top priority, he said.

'On both sides of the Atlantic there are inward-looking forces. We will resist them. Transatlantic solidarity would be able to advance a solution to many international problems - political, economic and in the field of trade,' he said.

The principle of openness would apply to the EC's internal affairs, too. 'Under the Danish presidency we shall begin to use the new rules about openness and closeness in the Community's work. This should create better contact between the EC and its citizens.' Mr Ellemann-Jensen has said that EC foreign ministers will allow their first meeting under the Danish presidency, on 1 February, to be televised.

But his most crucial effort will be on the home front - to unblock the implementation of the Maastricht treaty on European economic and political union by convincing Danes to vote 'yes' in a second referendum due in April or May.

The official logo of the Danish presidency is a Viking ship with 12 people on board inside a circle of yellow stars representing the Community's 12 members.