Yesterday was the day when Denmark was supposed to have had its referendum on the Constitutional Treaty of the European Union. Obviously, this did not happen.
Instead it was the day when an ambitious attempt was made to restart the debate on where Europe is heading.
Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen published a not particularly offensive piece on the issue in Politiken in the morning, and Danish industy – including the trade unions – organised a major conference on European issues where I was one of the featured speakers. Among others there was also Foreign Minister Per Stig Möller and the new leader of the Social Democratic opposition party.
And there seems to have been a fair amount of attention given to these issues on TV as well. I was the guest in the main TV current affairs program in the evening.
It has to be said that Denmark takes these issues seriouly. To some extent it is the result of having had a long series of referendums which over time have forced far more of debate on these issues.
There seems to be a fair amount of consensus on getting away from the focus on the institutional issues, and to concentrate on some of the issues of substance, with the economy taking centre stage. As expected, Danes of all persuasions speak proudly of their Danish model of labour market flexicurity.
Noticeable is also a broad consensus is sharply critical of the mess created with quotas for Chinese textile imports. Being the trading nation that it is, Denmark is a strong opponent of the protectionist sentiments sometimes found in the deliberations in Brussels. Good.
The controversial issue remains enlargement with an emphasis on Turkey. In his article, the PM was vague on the issue, restricting himself to asking questions, although the Foreign Minister was obviously more positive.
I spoke about the merits and importance of enlargement with an emphasis on Turkey and the Balkans. I’ll make certain that a link to the text appears here as well.
A good initiative, Denmark!