Danes want special deal from Community

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DENMARK said yesterday that it was seeking opt-out clauses on three key areas of the Maastricht treaties; monetary union, defence and social policy. In talks with the German Chancellor, Helmut Kohl, the Danish Prime Minister, Poul Schluter, said that only by 'meeting special Danish problems with legally binding amendments to the Maastricht treaty' could the way be opened for a second, favourable, referendum in Denmark next year.

Mr Schluter said there was no question of 'reopening negotiations on the Maastricht text as such' - a point underlined by Mr Kohl. But, arguing for 'amendments that would not be changes', Mr Schluter said 'we will perhaps have to have a special opt-out possibility for Denmark on problems that are of special concern to us'. Mr Kohl emphasised that it was of the 'utmost importance to Germany and Europe' to find a solution that would enable Denmark to be a full member of the EC.

Beyond the strengthening of the principle of subsidiarity in the treaty - which is regarded as essential by all EC members - Mr Schluter, accompanied by his Foreign Minister, Uffe Ellemann-Jensen, indicated that the 'special Danish problems' covered monetary union, common European defence, and social policy. He described an opting-out clause on the third and final stage of monetary union - akin to the one negotiated at Maastricht by Britain - as a 'possible solution'. He added, jokingly: 'We know that the Germans, too, are rather hesitant about losing the Deutschmark, so I suggested that if we call the common currency the Denmark, it may help.'

On defence, Mr Ellemann-Jensen underlined Denmark's strong Atlanticism, and concern that too rapid a move towards European defence co-operation may weaken the North American commitment to Europe. 'This lies behind our hesitation on tightening European defence,' he said. 'We need more time, and a special text clarifying our position on this.'

According to Mr Schluter, Denmark would not present its demands before the emergency EC summit in Birmingham on 16 October, which will deal with general principles such as subsidiarity. Copenhagen will present to its 11 EC partners its 'particular problems' at the beginning of next month, for a full discussion at the Edinburgh summit in December. There, said Mr Schluter, they would be part of a political declaration which must be 'transformed into a legally binding framework'.

'Amendments are not out of the question,' Mr Schluter said, 'since the Maastricht treaty is constructed in such a way that it needs amendments'. He described subsidiarity as a 'principle lying on an empty shelf' which needed to be filled and expanded.