Opinion | There is no alternative to the EU

Let me start by asking a question: What are the alternatives for Denmark, if not the EU?

While the Danish presidency begins, even the youth wings of the centre-right parties are becoming more sceptical. So if the presidency is not to become an embarrassing illustration of Denmark as a bunch of EU-haters, it is essential that the Danish politicians recognise the need to kickstart Danish EU optimism.

Let me start out by talking about Danish industry. Roughly 450,000 Danish jobs directly relate to the EU and about 60 percent of the Danish exports go to the Internal Market. I don’t think most Danes know that the EU has such a big influence on Danish industry.

When talking about the euro, the Danish minister of economic and internal affairs, Margrethe Vestager, herself has expressed a wish for a full Danish membership. As Denmark does not use the euro, we lack influence, as most political agreements are formed during the meetings of the 17 Eurozone countries. Therefore Denmark has no influence on, for example, the working conditions of our companies. And as a result of the financial crisis, the European community will move even closer together in the future. When this happens, Denmark will be left completely alone if we do not eliminate the opt-out to the euro. 

Looking at the real estate market and technical areas such as investment and re-financing, foreign investors will start investing much more in the Danish market if the euro is introduced and investment barriers are removed. This will make it much easier to find commercial potential for Danish estate agents as they will have a much wider investor range to choose from. Besides this, a new regulation is coming into force this year, stating that an investment deficit has to be covered in the same currency that the deficit is made in. When this happens, Danish sellers of Danish bonds will have a hard time selling them to foreign investors, as a deficit in the Eurozone hardly ever includes kroner.

The EU is also the way out of the crisis for Denmark. We cannot only stimulate the internal consumption and demand and hope that five million people will save our economy. We have to bet on a larger consumer base for our companies to recover fully. In which case, the EU is the best bet.

In fact, I don’t think that Danes know how much influence the EU actually has on their everyday life. Eighty percent of Danish legislation is framed between Denmark and the other member states in the EU. To give an example, the EU has secured the use of electronic invoices, so they are just as valid as paper versions. Initiatives like these save a lot of money for companies in paper waste alone.

To give an example of how the EU helps consumers, it was recently decided to standardise mobile phone chargers. So if you are in Italy and your phone charger breaks, you can just borrow your friendly Italian neighbour’s charger, even if your phone is a HTC and his phone is a Sony Ericsson. All phone producers are included in this agreement, even Apple, who usually denies co-operating with others. 

Because Denmark is such a small and open economy, we simply cannot make it on our own in a more globalised world. Some are afraid that we will be crushed in the EU because we are a small country. But look at Luxembourg: they have managed to become one of the most influential countries in the EU, in spite of their size. Why should this not be possible for Denmark as well?

And yes, we could choose the Morten Messerschmidt-model and have a relationship with the EU like Norway does. But do we have the same amount of money in our bank account as the Norwegians? No. Therefore this model will simply not work for us. And anyways, even Norway has to follow EU’s rules and regulations when dealing with the Internal Market.

So if you ask me, Denmark definitely has to remain in the EU, because as I see it, we do not have an alternative.

The author is president of Europa Bevægelsen (The Danish European Movement)

This opinion piece was submitted as part of opposing viewpoints for our EU presidency speicial report. Read Say no to the new EU pact, by Rina Ronja Kari of the Folkebevæglsen Mod EU (The People’s Movement Against the EU)