Pressure builds to ratify treaty

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The Independent Online
EUROPE MAY not wait for Britain to ratify the Maastricht treaty on European union, a French minister warned yesterday.

The comments by Elisabeth Guigou, European Affairs Minister, indicate how pressure is building up on Britain and Denmark to push ahead with ratification. 'First of all we wish to do everything we can to help Mr Major, who is a sincere supporter of ratification of the treaty, to persuade his parliament to ratify this treaty,' Mrs Guigou said. 'But we will also say, naturally, that we are not going to wait indefinitely.'

Mr Major visits Paris tomorrow to discuss Maastricht with President Francois Mitterrand. The Prime Minister has said he wants to wait until Denmark clarifies its intentions on the treaty before proceeding with ratification in Britain. He is due to meet Poul Schluter, the Danish Prime Minister after returning from Paris.

Denmark wants substantial additions to the treaty before it proceeds with a new referendum, having rejected it in June, Mr Schluter has said. A Danish opinion poll yesterday showed support for the treaty - but only if it were amended. Sixty-four per cent would approve a revised version of Maastricht, if it included sections to exempt Denmark from some key provisions. Plans for a single currency were the main sticking point, the poll showed.

Denmark has the option of a second referendum before taking part in such plans. Perhaps the explanation of this apparent contradiction lies in a statement from a Danish minister yesterday, who underlined that Denmark wanted to be part of any 'hard core' which went ahead with monetary union. 'I would like to stress that whatever happens, it is the policy of the Danish government to participate in the hard core of the ERM even if it is made harder,' the Economics Minister, Anders Fogh-Rasmussen, said.

Most Danes said they would reject the existing treaty, and only a few per cent had changed their minds from the earlier vote, which gave a slim majority against Maastricht. Only 16 per cent said they would not consider approving even a revised treaty.

The Danes are not alone in wanting a vote. A large majority of Europe's voters would like a referendum on the Maastricht treaty before they become citizens of the European Union, an opinion poll released yesterday showed.

The poll, carried out for the International Herald Tribune by Continental Research of London, indicates that seven out of 10 of the EC's voters want a single currency, and six out of 10 back EC powers over economic policy. But 80 per cent of those polled wanted a referendum on the treaty. So far, only France, Denmark and Ireland have put the treaty before the people in this way, though there is pressure for the same step in Britain and Germany. The poll showed substantial support for the EC, but opposition to its bureaucracy.