The Danish EU presidency: Bridge over troubled water [Archived]


With the euro debt crisis, Denmark's presidency of the EU council coincides with one of the most difficult moments in the Union's history. As Denmark is not member of the euro zone, it is prepared to take a back seat in the troubleshooting effort, but would strive to keep the countries from both sides united - "a bridge over troubled water" as European Affairs Minister Nicolai Wammen described it.

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The current climate of lasting crisis stands in marked contrast to Denmark's last EU presidency, held in 2002, at a time of European optimism with the recent introduction of the euro and preparations for the biggest-yet wave of enlargement.

The current presidency is the seventh for Denmark, which joined the European Communities in 1973, along with the UK and Ireland.

The stint will represent a great challenge for Helle Thorning-Schmidt, who became Denmark's first female prime minister when her 'Red Alliance' narrowly beat the incumbent centre-right government in October. Thorning-Schmidt leads a government of four coalition parties with 89 seats in the 179-seat parliament against 86 for the opposition.

The election represented a small but significant victory for European integration as Thorning-Schmidt, a College of Europe graduate, has removed national border controls reinstated by the previous government and pledged to remove some of the country's opt-outs from EU policies.

Thorning-Schmidt's European connexion notwithstanding, it appears that her presidency agenda will be overshadowed by the financial crisis. The Danes, not members of the eurozone, have indicated they will not play a central role in the elaboration of the response to sovereign debt crisis and in particular the drafting of a new treaty to enforce fiscal discipline.

The Danes nonetheless hope to move forward on other items important to them. These include improving the EU's environmental standards and making progress in negotiations on the 2014-2020 European budget.