Share this story
Close X
Switch to Desktop Site

Politicians Entice Danes to Vote `Yes'

THE Danish government is promising a major income tax reform, including substantial tax relief for the middle class - but only if the Danish people reverse last year's decision and vote tomorrow to approve the European Community's Maastricht Treaty.

And just in case that is not enough enticement, Lego, the homegrown plastic building-block maker that is one of Denmark's best known exporters, is threatening to shift some of its production to a more "stable" European country if tomorrow's response is a second "no."

About these ads

With carrots like these to chew, Danish voters appear ready to say "yes" to the treaty to create a closer European monetary and political union. After a brief rise in "no" support, weekend polls showed those intending to vote "yes" climbing back up to 50 percent, with the "no" vote dipping back down to 32 percent.

But surveys probing beyond the simple "yes" or "no" intentions should provide European leaders with much to contemplate long after the Danes' anticipated approval makes Denmark the 11th of the 12 EC countries to ratify the bruised and tired treaty. Britain is still embroiled in parliamentary debate on ratification.

What the surveys show is even more hostility to the Maastricht program than a year ago. At the same time, however, a majority of Danes are satisfied with the special "opt-outs" that EC members granted Denmark after its June 1992 rejection of the treaty. Those will allow Denmark to stand outside an eventual single EC currency, common European defense, police cooperation, and European citizenship.

The Danish Maastricht campaign gives an indication of the low public standing of the European integration process.

First, campaign arguments have focused more on the negative economic impact for Denmark of a "no" than on the merits of deeper European union.

Second, the campaign has placed a kind of gag order on EC leaders: Remembering how non-Danish comments on Maastricht's "federal" ambitions turned off a crucial percentage of voters in the first referendum, European officials have been careful to stay out of the debate this time and to keep to a minimum new policy proposals out of EC headquarters in Brussels.

EC Commission President Jacques Delors was uncharacteristically mute during an April visit to Denmark, and even went so far as to close to the press a recent speech on the future of European integration - even though the speech was to a convention in faraway Aix-en-Provence, France.

About these ads

Despite the caution, when Martin Bangemann, EC commissioner for industry, said in a recent Wall Street Journal interview that Maastricht could still serve as the basis for a federal Europe, polls showed the "no" support in Denmark taking an immediate spurt. "It shows the jumpiness of the Danish voters," says Ben Skou, director of the International Press Center in Copenhagen.

Leaders of the "no" campaign have been accused of secretly wishing to see Denmark drop out of the EC altogether. Some of this group have called on Denmark to reject Maastricht in favor of closer links with other Nordic countries and of a Western Europe more open to the struggling democracies of Eastern Europe.

But polls show that a clear majority of Danes - about 70 percent - want Denmark inside the EC. They seek a single market that promotes Europe's free-market direction, with more cooperation in such issues as the environment, but where the Community's tendency toward centralized government is reversed.

Even if they do say "yes" this time, the upheaval the Danes caused with their first "no" vote, and the brake it placed on European union, seem to have already given the Danes some of what they want.

Follow Stories Like This
Get the Monitor stories you care about delivered to your inbox.