Denmark and the ratification of the renamed EU-constitution

Tales of European Democracy – 01
ole krarup1 Besides referendums there exists a variety of political and legal tools to prevent unitaristic and homogeneous Europe to emerge. TEAM will try to collect and present some examples of the struggle against enforced political unification. First examples will be mainly describing legal aspects but we are always interested in learning new ways. You are invited to apply any of them or shape new ones within the practice of your national frameworks and then share your experience with us.

First story – Denmark and the ratification of the renamed EU-constitution

Denmark has had so far six referendums on EEC/EU of which the first was in 1972 when a majority voted in favor of joining the EEC…

Following referendums have been held when EU evolved through major changes, either because the Danish Constitution rendered a referendum necessary or because it had become an established tradition to ask the people on important EU matters.

The Danish Constitution allows ceding of sovereignty – to a limited extent – to international authorities if 5/6 (83%) of the Danish Parliament (Folketinget) votes in favor or if it’s accepted at a referendum. This is why the Danes voted on the Maastricht Treaty – and rejected it.

In 2004 the Prime Minister promised a referendum about the EU-Constitution but has broken his word after the French and Dutch referendums.

The “legal experts” from the Ministry of Justice have later concluded that “there is no ceding of sovereignty” with the Renamed Constitution and therefore there exists no ground for a referendum. Their main course of argument was that the Constitution doesn’t surrender any authority to EU in the areas where it already doesn’t have it.

But the truth remains that in more than 50 areas where until now decisions have been passed by unanimity from this Renamed Constitution on they are going to be voted merely by a majority. However this seems to be of no importance to these government’s lawyers.

As a diversion the government now speaks of having a referendum about the four Danish opt-outs. Perhaps this is even not a diversion; one of the opt-outs is on justice and home affairs. It’s an area where the Renamed Constitution will transfer a lot of power from the member-states to EU but as long as Denmark has its opt-out legal experts can continue arguing whether these changes have any consequences to us or not. Therefore we can be pushed to ratify the Constitution without a referendum and be asked to vote for a removal of the opt-out afterwards! Of course from the democratic point of view such procedure is totally unacceptable.

In the parliament the Liberal-Conservative government and the opposition parties of Social-Democrats and Social-Liberals (all of them in favor of the EU and of the Renamed Constitution) all agree with such procedure. The right wing Danish Peoples Party and the leftist Red-Green Alliance are – for different reasons – both against the EU and the Constitution and demand a referendum about the new treaty, not about the opt-outs. Also the pro-EU Socialist People´s Party is in favor of a referendum about the Constitution but there remains a comfortable majority in the parliament which is prepared to deprive Danish people of the right to have a vote on it.

Major cross-political EU-critical organizations like The People´s Movement against the EU and the June Movement have established a network of groups and individuals from different organizations and even from the pro-EU parties who are in favor of a referendum. They might still exert some pressure on the parliamentarians before the ratification process starts in the beginning of January 2008.

But if this attempt fails the People´s Movement is determined to use all legal means to prevent the ratification. The People´s Movement has demanded that a group of independent legal experts should analyze the consequences of the Renamed Constitution and the ratification procedure. They might come to different conclusions than the lawyers from the Ministry of Justice!

If the government refuses to appoint such a group of independent experts, Mr. Ole Krarup, professor of Law and former MEP for the People´s Movement (picture above) is preparing a court case against the Prime Minister. In Denmark there is no Constitutional Court, but the Supreme Court has once before accepted a similar case against the former Prime Minister and assessed whether the Maastricht Treaty was compatible with the Danish Constitution or not. The Supreme Court concluded that it was but that there exist limits to the extent to which sovereignty could be ceded.

So even if the Danish parliament disregards democracy there remain legal ways of postponing or preventing the ratification of the Renamed Constitution. And one thing is for certain: around 70% of the voters demand to be heard. The People´s Movement is collecting signatures in the streets demanding a referendum and the more arrogant the political elite will behave easier it will be to attract these signatures.