EC relieved as Copenhagen changes guard

DENMARK'S new government, which took office in Copenhagen yesterday, brought cheer to capitals throughout Europe, where anxiety over the fate of the Maastricht treaty is uppermost in the minds of politicians.

The predominantly Social Democratic coalition government which has taken over is expected to have a much easier time securing a 'yes' vote in the second referendum on Maastricht, because the protest factor, that saw almost 60 per cent of Social Democrat supporters rejecting the treaty in June, will be absent when Danes go to the ballot-box this spring.

Seven out of Denmark's eight political parties back the deal struck at Edinburgh in December, giving the country exemptions on monetary union, common defence policy, EC home affairs, justice and common citizenship. With the Social Democrats leading the government and committed to campaign aggressively for Maastricht, expectations are rising that the fitful progress of European union will be given another boost when the referendum takes place at the end of April.

The coalition, led by the Prime Minister, Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, 49, has a majority in the Folketing for the first time in 11 years. With eyes now on Denmark's presidency of the Community, there was much relief yesterday at the appointment of Niels Helveg Petersen as Foreign Minister.

An influential figure in the tiny Radical Party, he is a well-known enthusiast for the Community, who served as chef de cabinet to the Agriculture Commissioner in the early 1980s.

Danish foreign policy is governed by the Folketing's powerful EC committee, where a big preoccupation at the moment is heading off the isolationist tendencies of the Clinton administration. The Danes have no interest in seeing the EC take over defence policy and having the US pull out of its commitments to defend Europe. Thus, while there were rumblings of displeasure in Paris and elsewhere as cruise missiles rained down on targets in Iraq, the Danish approach was to back up the US all the way.

In his swansong speech to the European Parliament last week, the former Danish foreign minister, Uffe Ellemann-Jensen said that one of the presidency's chief tasks is the 'strengthening and intensification of transatlantic relations'. Significantly, that speech was cleared by the Folketing committee first and the only change in policy as the Rasmussen government takes over will be of 'style rather than substance', in the words of one senior official.

The government is determined to press ahead with negotiations on the enlargement of the EC to include Austria, Sweden and Finland, which begin on 1 February and with Norway soon afterwards. Copenhagen is also anxious to hasten integration of the east with the Community and is calling for 'massive input' by the EC into Central and Eastern Europe.

'The western part of Europe will be hard put to maintain its present economic level or the stability it has achieved, if chaos spreads in the eastern part of Europe and the flows of refugees from civil wars grows into migrations,' Mr Ellemann-Jensen said, reflecting the consensus Danish view. But some changes can be expected from Mr Rasmussen on employment and environment policy, and the Conservative government's advocacy of free markets will be one of the first victims.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
Seth Rollins cashes in his Money in the Bank contract to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
WWERollins win the WWE World Heavyweight title in one of the greatest WrestleMania's ever seen
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor