Euro Tested in Danish Referendum
COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) _ The beleaguered euro faced a tight race in this tiny country Thursday as voters appeared evenly divided about whether to replace their krone with the EU’s common currency, according to early exit polls.
The second of four exit polls being broadcast by the TV2 station said 52.2 percent of voters were against the euro, while 47.1 percent were in favor. The Megafon polling institute based the estimate on replies by 9,044 voters as they left the polling stations and earlier surveys, but a 3 percentage point margin of error indicated a statistical dead heat.
Lawmakers remained cautious about predicting the outcome of the Scandinavian country’s fifth referendum on EU-related issues since it joined what became the European Union in 1973.
``I am not feeling very certain,″ Prime Minister Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, whose Social Democratic-led government supports joining the European Monetary Union, said after he cast his ballot.
An anti-euro activist warned it was too early to guess the outcome because many of the 4 million eligible Danes had yet to vote. Danish radio reported that turnout so far was 18 percent.
``It can still change because all active business people haven’t voted yet,″ said Jens-Peter Bonde of the grass-roots June Movement. ``It still can be a yes or a no.″
The euro took effect in 11 of 15 EU countries in January 1999 for corporate and investment transactions, with coins and bills to be introduced in January 2002. Denmark, Britain and Sweden opted out, while Greece, which was barred from membership because of high inflation and a budget deficit, will join on Jan. 1.
EU officials, who said a ``yes″ vote in Denmark would help the euro but a rejection would have no effect, planned to meet Friday morning in Brussels, Belgium, after the Danish vote.
Thursday’s vote also was being closely watched by Sweden and Britain, whose governments support joining the EMU but plan to let the public decide in as-yet referendums. Even non-EU member Norway was watching as it undergoes renewed debate on whether to join the trading bloc at all.
Denmark already ties its fiscal and monetary decisions to those made by the 11-member euro zone, which forms the bulk of its export market. Supporters say membership in the European Monetary Union will give it more influence.
Many opponents say the euro threatens Denmark’s extensive welfare state and will lead to an erosion of sovereignty, as more powers are ceded to EU headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, and the European Central Bank in Frankfurt, Germany.
Christina Dallmann, a 31-year-old student, checked ``Ja,″ or yes. ``I think it’s better to be sitting at the table.″
Danes stunned fellow EU nations in 1992 by rejecting the Maastricht treaty for a common currency and a common defense. A year later, voters approved a revised treaty with clauses allowing it to initially stay out of the currency and the defense cooperation.
A slew of polls published almost daily for the past few weeks had given the opposition a comfortable lead, but that began to narrow late last week as the Social Democratic-led government turned up its rhetoric. Five final surveys published earlier Thursday also forecast a statistical dead heat.
The EU countries in the euro zone are Germany, France, Italy, Finland, Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Austria.
On the Net:
Danish foreign ministry’s site: http://www.um.dk/english/
European Union’s Euro site: http://europa.eu.int/euro/html/entry.html