Auteur: | By Richard Carter
The apathy Europe's voters have shown during the recent European elections could have grave consequences for the EU, Danish prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen warned yesterday (15 June).
In an interview with the Financial Times Deutschland, Mr Rasmussen said, "If this trend continues downwards, then there is a real danger. If we weaken the institutions, we would have a return to nationalism. That would be a big step backwards".
"There is a real risk that we will re-nationalise policies and take several steps backwards to the Europe of the past - the Europe in which there is no co-operation and, seen from a smaller country's perspective, that would be a real danger", he continued.
Furthermore, such a step backwards would increase the risk of a two - or many - speed Europe, according to the Danish PM.
Voter turnout in Sunday's European elections fell to a new low of 45.3 percent. In some new member states, only one fifth of voters bothered to vote.
Failure is not an option
And the apathy of Europe's voters makes it all the more important that the EU's leaders reach agreement on the Constitutional Treaty at the summit which begins tomorrow (17 June).
"We cannot afford a failure", declares Mr Rasmussen. "We can and will close out the negotiations".
He said that the proposed "double majority" system of voting would probably be adopted, whereby 55 percent of countries representing 65 percent of the population could constitute a majority when the EU makes decisions.
Timing is everything
Turning to more domestic issues, Mr Rasmussen hinted that a proposed Danish referendum on the Constitution would be followed by other votes intended to end Denmark's opt-outs on issues such as defence and the euro. It is "absurd" that Denmark is not represented on these issues, said the prime minister.
And he highlighted the lack of support for Denmark's eurosceptic parties in the recent election, saying, "That is the most important signal: we can concentrate on positive things - on how we can maximise Denmark's influence in the EU".
But he was less certain about the timing of a possible referendum on the Constitutional Treaty, saying that he had to be very careful about the timing of such a vote.
However, he rejected the idea of a Europe-wide referendum.