chapter  5
16 Pages

Denmark and the ESDP opt-out: A new way of doing nothing?

The dominant understanding of the European Communities (EC)/European

Union (EU) and Denmark after 1945 has been an instrumental one which presented the EC/EU in terms of the concrete interests it could fulfil for the

country (Østerga˚rd 1993: 168). The development of Europe was primarily

legitimized by its utility for Denmark. Europe has been presented in non-

mythical terms – the development of ‘Europe’ was not seen as something

natural and organic, and certainly not something that Denmark was natu-

rally part of. Some analysts have seen this understanding as based on a

feeling of indifference towards Europe (Hedetoft 1995: 254), whereas others

identify a Danish hostility to Europe linked to fear of Germans and Germany (Hansen 2002: 54-5). Few political actors have since 1945 argued for

‘Europe’ in cultural terms (in particular the right-wing liberal party Vens-

tre). Even political actors who may be inclined to draw on arguments of a

cultural kind have found themselves constrained to arguing along instru-

mental lines. The main question in the traditional Danish debate on Europe

has not been what Denmark should do in the EU as a culturally based

member state, but whether alleged instrumental advantages have sig-

nificantly affected national sovereignty (Larsen 1999: 456). The main political parties, such as the Social Democrats, the Conservatives and the

Radical (social) Liberals, which (with the Liberal Party) have at different

times formed the government, have traditionally drawn on this under-

standing. The same has been the case for the Socialist Peoples Party (SF),

the left-wing Unity Party and the right-wing Danish People’s Party. Popular

movements against the EU (the June Movement and the People’s Move-

ment against the EU) have also drawn on the same basic understanding.

The signs are that it can be found among large parts of the population (Larsen 1999: 458). Political differences have been played out within this

understanding.