French 'no' on EU a boost to Danish resistance

21st March 2005, Comments 0 comments

COPENHAGEN, March 21 (AFP) - If France rejects the EU constitution in a referendum in May, euroscepticism will undoubtedly jump among Danes, who are set to vote on the charter four months later, observers and activists said on Monday.

COPENHAGEN, March 21 (AFP) - If France rejects the EU constitution in a referendum in May, euroscepticism will undoubtedly jump among Danes, who are set to vote on the charter four months later, observers and activists said on Monday.

"A French rejection (of the constitution) would clearly strengthen the Danish 'no' camp," Lars Bille, a political scientist at the Copenhagen University, told AFP.

"We're talking here about a large country that is one of the engines behind the European construction ... If (France) rejects the new charter, a new, unpredictable situation would be created and the constitution could easily be quashed," he said.

His comments came after a second poll in four days showed a majority of the French public rejecting the EU constitution in the May 29 referendum.

Jens-Peter Bonde of the eurosceptic June Movement and a member of the European Parliament agreed that a French rejection of the constitution could sway the Danish public to do the same, despite recent polls in the Scandinavian country showing the "yes" camp in the lead.

"In the beginning of the campaign ahead of the euro referendum (in September 2000), the 'yes' camp was also ahead by 18 percent. But the 'no' camp caught up and won with 53 percent of the votes," Bonde pointed out.

According to a poll on March 7, 57 percent of Danes would vote "yes", or would probably vote yes, to the EU constitution if the referendum were held today, while 26 percent would vote "no", and 12 percent said they remained undecided.

Another poll published a week later however showed that only 33 percent of Danes were in favour of the constitution, while a full 46 percent remained undecided.

Denmark's pro-EU Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen warned earlier this month that "a potential 'no' would above all plunge us into very, very deep uncertainty about our future in the European Union and Europe."

"Denmark would be in a very difficult situation, which it would not be able to resolve by asking for more exemptions," he added, referring to the Maastricht Treaty which Danes initially rejected in a 1992 referendum before finally agreeing to it a year later after negotiating four exemptions.

France approved Maastricht only by a whisker in 1992.

Denmark has so far held six referendums on the EU, and voted "no" twice - in the Maastricht vote in 1992 and in a referendum on the euro in 2000.

Keen to avoid a contagious "no" spell, Fogh Rasmussen scheduled the Danish referendum well ahead of the British vote, planned for 2006.

According to Bille however a French "no" would have a greater impact on Danish voters than a British rejection of the charter.

"A French 'no' is much more dangerous and would have a greater impact in Denmark, because we're talking about a pro-European heavy-weight that would thus change tracks," he said, refusing to speculate on the outcome of the Danish referendum.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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