French Referendum: Danes feel close vote improves their hand: Divided loyalties

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The Independent Online
COPENHAGEN - The Danish government last night welcomed forecasts of a 'yes' vote in the French referendum on Maastricht, saying that the closeness of the result would strengthen its hand in negotiations with the other European Community states over its own future within the Community.

In an early reaction to the news from Paris, Uffe Ellemann-Jensen, Denmark's Foreign Minister, said that 'the European landscape is totally different to what it was in early June. The fact that other countries are worried about the same things as we are should mean they will listen to Denmark's case with greater understanding.'

Other politicians said that the large number of 'no' voters in France would force the other EC countries to respect the difficulty of Denmark's position after the shock rejection of the treaty in the referendum here in June.

'This is very good news for us,' said Henning Grove, a member of the Conservatives, one of the country's two governing parties. 'The French have said 'yes' but it was a very small 'yes' indeed. It is quite clear that many people in Europe think that the process of forging a closer union is going much too fast, and many people will now realise that what happened in Denmark could also have happened elsewhere.'

Before the outcome of yesterday's vote became clear, many Danes had hoped for a clear 'no' from France which would have effectively torpedoed the Maastricht process and not left Denmark out on its own.

'An outright rejection from France would have forced the politicians back to the drawing board and they would have had to have started all over again and come up with something much more in tune with what people actually want,' said Annette Just, a speaker of the right-wing Progress Party that campaigned vigorously for a 'no' result in Denmark. 'Personally I'm very disappointed with the French vote, but it really was so close that I do not think that Maastricht will be ratified in its present form.'

Another sombre note was struck by the Ekstra Bladet tabloid. 'We have a divided Denmark and now a divided France - the end result might be a divided Europe.'

With uncertainty over French intentions now at an end, the Danish government plans to draw up a White Paper covering what its new relations with the rest of the Community should be. The paper, which it hopes will be accepted as a protocol to the Maastricht treaty, is likely to request Danish exemptions to some of the key clauses in the Treaty, particularly those covering common security and defence policies and eventual European monetary union. It will also seek to safeguard as far as possible the rights Denmark enjoys as a member state.