Non-euro Copenhagen tackles EU presidency

Non-euro Copenhagen tackles EU presidency

Non-euro Copenhagen tackles EU presidency

Denmark’s Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt arrives for an informal dinner gathering in Brussels in this photo. ‘We have the possibility to make Europe take a small but important step in the right direction,’ PM says in her first New Year’s message. AFP photo

Non-euro nation Denmark took over the European Union’s rotating presidency Jan. 1 aspiring to ease the bloc’s crisis, but few expected it to impact the power game dominated by the big players.

As Poland passed on the baton, the small Scandinavian country of 5.6 million - one of the few in Europe with a left-leaning government - will have to face head-on the ballooning euro debt crisis. However, with the big euro nations of France and Germany being seen to be driving the crisis management, Denmark risks being marginalized; along with the nine other EU members, including Britain, who have not adopted the single currency.

The importance and sway of the EU’s rotating presidency has also dwindled since the Lisbon Treaty created the post of a permanent president of the European Council. “Politically, Denmark will have little impact on the aspect of European cooperation that, for now, is mainly attracting attention,” the Ritzau news agency said Jan. 1. “Formally, Denmark cannot and should not resolve the euro crisis.”

Yet the news agency congratulated Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt and Wammen for their expressed aim to try to bridge the differences between the 17-member eurozone and the full 27-member bloc. “Over the next six months, we have the possibility to make Europe take a small but important step in the right direction. We must use this possibility everything that happens in Europe influences us here,” Thorning-Schmidt said in her first New Year’s speech since her election in September.

It is in the interests of core EU members France and Germany “to keep the 27 together” and consult all EU member states “when these decisions concern them,” she said recently. Meanwhile, Denmark’s European Affairs Minister Nicolai Wammen said the country’s main mission during its six months in the EU driver’s seat would be “to unify the countries in the eurozone with those outside of it.”

Turkey task

The towering task has been further complicated by Britain’s decision to leave the negotiating table at an EU summit Dec. 9, raising fears of an EU collapse. Wammen said he wants to see London remain “a very active member of the European family” and Europe had to “find concrete solutions to concrete problems.”

This will be Denmark’s seventh EU presidency. It last had the job in the second half of 2002 when the EU worked to complete accession talks with 10 new members in Eastern Europe and to open membership talks with Turkey, Bulgaria and Romania.

“We look forward to continuing negotiations with Turkey and Iceland, opening negotiations with Montenegro in June and granting candidate status to Serbia in February in accordance with decisions by the European Council,” Wammen told a news conference just before Christmas.

Turkey’s EU Minister Egemen Bağış said a new chapter would be welcomed during Denmark’s term presidency “if it is opened on Turkey’s conditions. But there was a crisis in the EU and opening of a new chapter would not be on Turkey’s conditions.”

Compiled from AFP, Reuters and AA stories by the Daily News staff.