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Friday, 29 September, 2000, 02:19 GMT 03:19 UK
European press review

Europe's dailies agree that Denmark's vote against joining Europe's single currency will be a setback for those who want further integration, but disagree as to whether this is a good or a bad thing.

"Nej"

Turin's La Stampa describes Danish voters' decision to reject membership of Europe's single currency as "tragic".

It says the decision will be an obstacle to further European integration, leaving instead a "minimal Europe, with cooperation between single governments that can be revoked, with no joint or federal institutions, with no political investment in solidarity between countries".

It says such a system of "strengthened cooperation" between particular countries, rather than one Europe moving forward at the same speed, will also "put the brakes on the enlargement of the EU to the countries of Eastern Europe".

The paper adds that the Danish result shows the weakness of the EU's decision-making mechanisms.

"It demonstrates," the paper says, "how a national decision, made on the basis of non-rational and parochial motives, can damage the entire community of countries, and in consequences the very electorate which makes that decision."

Geneva's Le Temps agrees that Denmark's "no" is "very bad news for the European project", but is less sure that this is a reason to worry.

It says the outcome of the referendum means that Sweden and Britain are less likely to join the currency soon, and reinforces the division between what it calls a "continental, mostly Latin and Catholic" Europe and a northern Europe which is "protestant, market-oriented and free trading, sceptical of real political integration".

The latter Europe, the paper reflects, is "so close to Swiss aspirations".

It says this growing divide raises the question of whether European unification still has a meaning "in a liberal and globalized world".

"Or is it," the paper asks, "the vestige of the post-war period, as one hears more and more frequently among Anglo-Saxon elites."

The Paris daily Liberation plays down the economic significance of the Danish vote. It says its impact will be far smaller than that of the 1992 referendum in which the Danes rejected the EU's Maastricht Treaty.

"The EU of 2000 is not the same as that of 1992," it says. "At that time, the rejection took governments by surprise... and also unleashed a spectacular crisis which culminated, a year later, in the near-disappearance of the European Monetary System."

"Now, Denmark no longer has the power to cause trouble. It is outside the euro, and a 'nej' merely confirms that fact."

But it adds that the vote will have a major political impact.

"The fiction of a Europe advancing at the same speed towards greater integration, already damaged by the Maastricht setbacks, is now dead," it says.

Milan's Corriere della Sera is perplexed by the Danes' reasoning. "In the name of national sovereignty, they have in effect decided not to send a representative to the European Central Bank," it says.

"After years of being subordinate to the Deutschmark, the Danes have decided to remain subordinate to the euro, economic dependence on which they cannot, for obvious reasons, escape," it adds.

Call for rapid EU enlargement

Writing in Berlin's Die Welt, German opposition spokesman Volker Ruehe calls for a firm date to be set for EU enlargement, suggesting January 2003 as the deadline.

Ruehe, a former Christian Democrat defence minister, argues that setting a date would not only give candidate countries a "concrete prospect" of joining, but would allow the union to restrict its enlargement to the most suitable candidates, whereas further delay could mean the union has to admit all 13 aspirants, "including Turkey".

"With an early date for concluding the negotiations it is possible to differentiate more clearly within the group of 13 membership candidates," Ruehe writes. "But the later the date, the larger the group of nations which would have to be accepted at the same time, and the greater the burden on the EU."

Ruehe also argues that the German Government should do more to convince its people of the "marvellous opportunities" offered by enlargement, in terms not only of trade, but of securing peace, strengthening democracy and improving environmental standards.

The European press review is compiled by BBC Monitoring from internet editions of the main European newspapers and some early printed editions.

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