In the new year, Denmark will take over the Presidency of the European Union. A small country with a new government, it stands to make a major contribution to the task of guiding Europe through one of the worst crises it has ever experienced.
It is in this context that that we should be all the more thankful for one remarkable fact: after centuries of war and conflict, Europe has found a means to cooperate, which has made yet another Danish Presidency possible.
It is an apt demonstration of the achievement of peace in a collaborative and generous Europe, which a little more than fifty years ago was still recovering from the one of the most devastating wars ever to afflict our part of the world. We are living in a new Europe, and it is this Europe that Denmark will have the opportunity to influence and protect over the next six months.
The presidency will have to demonstrate that the EU’s 27 member states should and can reach agreement on a wide range of political issues notwithstanding the scale of the current crisis.
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At the same time, we will also have to work hard to ensure that the heart of European cooperation is not reduced to practical short-term solutions. In recent months, the 17 countries of the Eurozone have set about resolving the sovereign debt and single currency crisis in a framework that is worryingly remote from the heart of European cooperation.
Ensure that the EU does not move closer to collapse
There is a serious risk of division – a risk that has been aggravated by the UK’s rejection of the proposed Stability Union. The EU is now divided in three parts: the 17 Eurozone countries, nine others including Denmark that plan to adhere to this pact, and Great Britain which is in conflict with other EU members.
Ensuring that the EU does not drift closer to collapse, but, on the contrary, moves ahead with negotiations on issues concerning the common framework will be a key criterion for the success of the presidency.
Denmark, which is taking on its seventh European Presidency, has plenty of experience, and our unfortunate lack of involvement in the euro may prove useful when acting as a mediator.
For Europe, the stakes are not only monetary and economic: it also has to protect peace, freedom and European values. In the coming months, Denmark will have a chance to raise these issues. It is an opportunity not to be missed.