The Danish presidency of the European Union comes at one of the most difficult moments in the union’s history.
It’s biggest challenge: Keeping the EU construct together.
The financial crisis has driven a wedge between euro and non-euro countries, with David Cameron’s UK seeking isolation from the rest of Europe at a time that the global economy is becoming increasingly interdependent.
Denmark joined the EU in 1973, at the same time as the UK, and it’s the 7th time that it now holds the EU presidency.
Like the UK, Denmark is not a member of the Eurozone. Its government is ready to take a back seat in the French-German-led efforts to solve the euro crisis.
Yet….it’s also has positioned itself as a bridge builder, eager to keep the EU from breaking up further.
The EU is braced for more contentious talks on changes to the EU treaty that would delegate more powers to Brussels to supervise member state budgets. Denmark will have no direct role in drafting that new treaty.
The presidency is a serious challenge for Helle Thorning-Schmidt, a graduate of the College of Europe in Belgium who became Denmark’s first female prime minister last October.
Thorning-Schmidt leads a four-party coalition based on a narrow, 3-seat majority in the Danish parliament.
Her European agenda will be overshadowed by the financial crisis, but at the same time, she will see to book progress on other items that are important to the Danes: the climate, the EU’s budget, and the single market.
If the Danes can manage that successfully, they can look back this summer and claim that they’ve done all they could.
But if they are seen taking up their ambition of being effective bridge builders, then Denmark, as an outsider to the euro zone, could deliver a lasting legacy.
Such a ‘Lego presidency’ could really lead to a more effective Europe, not just a Eurozone with better and stricter rules.