THE news that the recently re-elected prime minister of Denmark, Anders Fogh Rassmussen, had decided to call a referendum on Europe naturally set the pulses racing among those UK opponents of the EU Reform Treaty campaigning for a referendum. However, their excitement was premature since Mr Rassmussen's referendum will not be about the Reform Treaty but will be designed to ask for a second opinion from the Danish electorate on its decisions taken in 2000 not to join the euro and to opt-out of certain other EU commitments on defence, justice and home affairs. Denmark, like Britain, has always had a reputation for eurosceptism but on present evidence does not deserve it, unlike Britain. A recent Eurobarometer poll showed that 74 per cent believed the country had benefitted from EU membership, well above the overall EU average of 54 per cent. Support for joining the euro is not so strong but still shows a majority in favour. Denmark's opt-out on defence will also be tested in the referendum; first arranged in 1992 during the Maastricht Treaty negotiations, this opt-out has meant that Denmark had to withdraw from peacekeeping duties in Bosnia when responsibility for them passed from NATO, to which it belongs, to the EU. As matters stand the Danish government intends to seek ratification of the EU Reform Treaty by parliamentary procedure, on the same basis that Britain intends to use. The new government is a broadly-based coalition of parties in favour of closer EU integration.


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