With my background, I have been focusing on the sentiments in Denmark about the EU, from the point of view of the politicians themselves. First, I talked to Morten Messerschmidt, a member of the Danish People’s Party representing Denmark at the European Parliament. Second, I talked to Anne Baastrup and Pernille Frahm, both members of the Socialist People’s Party in Danish National Parliament, while Pernille Frahm was also a former member of the European Parliament.
For this article, I talked to three politicians from the Social Democratic Party. Jacob Buksti, a former member of Danish Parliament and former Minister of Transportation. Mogens Lykketoft who has been a member of the Danish Parliament, is a former Finance Minister, a former Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the current Speaker of the Parliament. The third featured in this article is Dan Jørgensen, a current member of the European Parliament representing Denmark. In order to be able to write about all three at once, and spare you from an incredible number of articles on Denmark from me, I asked the three politicians the same questions, simple questions. I feel these ‘obvious’ questions need to be asked, since often what one thinks was obvious may have originated from an inaccurate stereotype. As said by one of my favorite Danes, “There are no stupid questions, only arrogant answers.” With that sentiment, I asked these three politicians a spectrum of simple questions to further hone in on Danish political sentiments towards the EU, and truly complying with Jante Law (the sentiment that no one is above another), all three provided answers without a hint of arrogance.
The first question I asked was simply whether Denmark really needed the EU. The predictable answer, due to the party view was – Yes! They each explained, in their own way, that in today’s largely interconnected world there is a necessity for a high degree of cooperation in order to address cross border challenges, as Dan explained through the example of climate change. As Jacob then pointed out, 75% of Danish Exports go to the EU, which means, as Mogens said, “We are depending on the decisions in the European Union. Therefore it’s much better to be inside and have a say than being outside but still dependent on the decisions made inside.”
Based off of their answers, I next asked about the extent to which they believe that Denmark should be actively involved. All three pushed for active involvement since the decisions made at the EU level will inevitably impact Denmark no matter what. This inquiry about active engagement led to a discussion of the opt-outs, since two of the three feel strongly that the opt-outs limit the extent to which Denmark is able to be involved in things, most noticeable recently with the financial crisis. Denmark has four opt outs, in the areas of Common Security & Defense Policy, Citizenship, Police & Justice, and the Euro. Jacob pointed out that Denmark, due to its opt-outs, has had a great interest of late in trying to ensure that discussions concerning the Euro zone are open to participation from non-Euro countries – specifically since the Danish currency is pegged to the Euro. But all were realistic that to get rid of the opt-outs there must be a referendum, which none believed would pass in this recession, as it seems that the EU level currently is unable to promote consistent growth and rising levels of employment.
Of course, national perception of the EU is affected by how the EU is able to impact a nation, thus leading to the next question which concerns the extent to which these three politicians believe Danish politics to be affected by politics at the EU level. In this regard, all three spoke of the high level of impact the EU has on the everyday life of all Danes. As pointed out by Jacob, 5 out of the 8 political parties in Denmark are in favor of the EU, and the impact of the EU is truly undeniable when 60-80% of decisions in the Folketinget (national parliament) have roots in EU activities. As Mogens said, this is for “good or bad”, which is why all three emphasized this as a reason for Denmark to be as active as possible in the European Union.
When discussing the future of the Danish perception of the European Union all three stressed that in these times, it is important to remain positive. Dan summarized this as a situation where, “Danes still accept [the] EU as an important and positive part of their lives in the future. The EU-skeptics must not succeed with their mistaken messages of the danger of EU. EU shall continue to solve the cross-border challenges we face in a globalized world, without turning into a EU federation. The standards set in the EU should always be minimum standards.” One thing is certain – all three cannot imagine a future in which the European Union does not play a vital role in the lives of Danish citizens.
Realistically, it seems to be that even within a set political party there are still some differences regarding individual sentiments about the EU. It is important, as a follower of European affairs, that one does not assume that sentiments are streamline in a nation. In Denmark, like every other EU country, there are many people for the project that is the European Union and there are those against the very idea. In my various discussions on the topic with politicians, not just from Denmark, I believe that learning to deal with the European Union is a reality of today. To believe that the EU is not a factor is, to put it simply, living under a rock. The EU touches virtually every aspect of citizens’ lives in Europe. However, within this there is a whole spectrum of emotions. I hope that with the past two articles along with the current one I have given you a taste of differing viewpoints on the EU. It is balancing these viewpoints that ultimately will move our society forward.