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Denmark Takes EU Rotating Presidency with Many Handicaps

With a cabinet split on the EU and public opinion highly skeptical, Denmark takes up the EU rotating presidency.
By Amiel Ungar
First Publish: 12/29/2011, 6:08 AM

Denmark takes up the rotating EU presidency as the year begins, succeeding Poland.

Denmark and its left-of-center government are taking the helm in most inauspicious circumstances. The main order of business will be stabilizing the euro, but Denmark itself is out of the euro zone and any attempt by the government to join the currency at this particular juncture is dead in the water. The voters will overwhelmingly reject the idea as they claim that Denmark has behaved more responsibly and played by the rules in comparison with many euro zone members.

Denmark promises a responsible Europe in the fiscal sense and will try to get the various members, aside from the United Kingdom, to sign the agreement that compels governments to balance their budget. Here the Social Democrat led government of Prime Minister Helle Thorning- Schmidt has problems within its own ranks. The more left-wing members are demanding a referendum and are suspicious of ceding power to Europe and losing the option of implementing a stimulus that is necessary, now that economic growth in Denmark has definitely stalled.

In addition to fiscal responsibility, Denmark wants a Europe that is dynamic, green and safe. Everybody is for stimulating growth - the only question remains how.

The Danes are hinting at a reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), one of the biggest drains on the EU budget. The idea of reforming CAP is sure to draw opposition from France, the major beneficiary of the policy, as well as the new Eastern European states. Denmark, with one of the most efficient agricultural sectors can function well without the massive subsidies, but this is not true for other members.

When all else fails, the European Union can bask in its role as the leader against global warming. The question is how to pursue the green agenda against the pushback of countries such as the United States, Canada and China on the airline carbon tax.

The Danes want a safe Europe and while the new government has lifted the border controls imposed by its predecessor, it feels that the EU has to give greater consideration to the pressures imposed on the union by migration and international crime.

An interesting question is how the Danish presidency will stack up against the other players in the EU, such as the European President and Foreign Minister, the European Commission and perhaps more seriously, the Franco-German diumvirate that is throwing its weight around irrespective of who is holding the rotating presidency.