Danish PM pushes for new referendum on euro

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Friday, November 7, 2008

Anders Fogh Rasmussen at Davos in 2008
Image: World Economic Forum.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the Prime Minister of Denmark, said on Tuesday that he will seek broad parliamentary support for a national referendum on joining the euro, the common currency of the Eurozone.

"I'm convinced that we need broad support in parliament to hold a referendum, because it's about the Danish currency and about stability and safety," he said, speaking at his weekly press conference. "Recent events have shown the necessity to give the population the opportunity to vote on Denmark joining the euro."

Berlingske Tidende is reporting that Rasmussen is meeting with political leaders to negotiate support for the referendum.

In 1992, Danish voters rejected the Maastrict Treaty in a referendum. It was only able to pass the following year after the Edinburgh Agreement granted Denmark an opt-out of the third stage of the Economic and Monetary Union of the European Union (EMU).

In 2000, Denmark again rejected the common currency in a euro referendum. The current currency of the Scandinavian country is the Danish krone. As part of stage two of the EMU, the exchange rate of the krone is allowed to fluctuate within a ±2.25% range to the euro.

In order to maintain this peg Danmarks Nationalbank, the central bank, adjusts interest rates and performs foreign exchange operations by buying and selling currency. To do this, Danmarks Nationalbank has had to raise rates twice, even as other central banks, including the European Central Bank (ECB), were lowering rates to deal with the current economic crisis.

Euro banknotes

As a result, interest rates in Denmark are now 175 basis points higher than the ECB's rates. As recently as May, the difference was only 25 basis points.

Rasmussen heads the Venstre party which leads a minority coalition government. The main opposition party, the Social Democrats, also support adopting the euro as the nation's currency.

While there has long been support among the politicians, the euro has failed when it has been put before the voters. However, recent opinion polls have shown a growing support for the euro among Danes. The most recent of these have seen those in favor just topping the 50% level needed to pass a referendum.

Rasmussen has said he wants a referendum put before voters before 2011. His government had originally planned to hold a referendum this past September to abolish the EMU opt-outs, but that was scrapped when Ireland voted down the Treaty of Lisbon.

On October 30, while in Stockholm, Sweden, Rasmussen said: "The euro ensures political and economical stability in Europe and the current financial turmoil makes it evident that Denmark has to join the Euro."

Analysts consulted by Berlingske Tidende have said that an endorsement from the Socialist People's Party (SF) could prove to be the tide-turner.

"If there was a vote, then I would vote Yes. But I am of the opinion that it is stupid to hold a vote unless we first have a real debate. We haven't had a debate in eight years and all arguments need to be tested," said Margrete Auken of SF.


Sources

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