Danes warned against isolation

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COPENHAGEN - Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, the Danish Prime Minister, yesterday launched his campaign for Denmark's second vote on the Maastricht treaty in May, saying a 'yes' was vital for the future of Denmark and Europe. 'Denmark cannot and will not be isolated from the rest of Europe. We cannot stand alone with our back turned to Europe. And Europe needs Denmark's 'yes' to come out of its present deadlock,' Mr Rasmussen said.

'A nation's independence and self-esteem depend on being where the decisions are taken and that means in Denmark's case taking part in deciding key European issues within the EC,' he said.

Danes voted 'no' by a 50.7-49.3 per cent margin to the European Community treaty on closer economic, monetary and political union in June last year, blocking implementation of the pact and causing a deep crisis in the EC. Denmark will vote again on 18 May on a revised deal agreed at the EC summit in Edinburgh in December allowing Danes to opt out of plans for a common currency, joint defence policy, union citizenship and supranational police co-operation.

Seven of the eight parties in the Danish parliament are to campaign for the Edinburgh deal in the referendum and so far all opinion surveys are pointing towards a 'yes'.

A poll in the financial daily Boersen yesterday showed 53 per cent of Danes in favour, 31 per cent against and 16 per cent undecided. The poll also revealed that while 43 per cent of Mr Rasmussen's Social Democrats would support the deal, 40 per cent remained opposed. A month ago, the 'yes' vote had a 12-point majority among Social Democrats, Denmark's biggest party.

'I intend to put my personal prestige behind getting a clear majority of Social Democrats to vote with a resounding 'yes' in the referendum. The result will be a clear 'yes' on the day,' said Mr Rasmussen.

The Prime Minister formed a four-party centre-left coalition in January following the collapse of the 10-year Conservative-Liberal government over a refugee scandal. Mr Rasmussen's own Social Democratic voters tipped the balance towards a 'no' last June by ignoring their leaders' advice to vote 'yes'.

A clear 'yes' would enable the government to step up its efforts to cut unemployment and assist European economic co-operation, Mr Rasmussen said.