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Special> Debt Crisis in Europe> Latest News
UPDATED: December 20, 2011
Solving Debt Crisis Tops Denmark's EU Presidency Agenda: Minister

Solving Europe's debt crisis will take the center stage in Denmark's upcoming European Union (EU) presidency, the country's minister for Europe said in Copenhagen, Denmark, on Monday.

"The crisis will heavily affect our agenda and we will do our best to secure what we can do to do bring Europe forward within the limits of the presidency role," Nicolai Wammen told international journalists at a news conference.

The comments came as he released the government's focus areas for Denmark's six-month EU presidency which starts January 1, 2012.

The official priorities are a "responsible, dynamic, green and safe Europe," but beating the debt crisis will be paramount.

"The basic objective for the Danish presidency will be to contribute to get Europe out of the crisis... The economic crisis, and also the lack-of-trust crisis. We need to restore faith in the EU," he added.

For Denmark, this means encouraging greater economic responsibility among EU members, which in turn "implies (members') political willingness to comply with new rules on economic governance."

These rules, proposed by EU leaders at their December 9 summit in Brussels, include preventing EU members running deficits of more than 0.5 percent, and automatic sanctions for those with deficits exceeding three percent.

The rules are scheduled to come into force in March 2012.

Euro opt-out

Denmark is put in an awkward position while drafting a course for the eurozone out of the crisis, as it does not use the euro and has not yet agreed to sign on to the new fiscal agreement, which so far only binds the 17-member euro zone, and is still being drafted.

"We have a positive attitude towards the draft and the government will engage constructively in the negotiations with a clear political intention to the greatest extent possible participate in the agreement with full respect of our national opt-out on the euro," Wammen said.

He insisted that the euro opt-out would not prevent Denmark taking a leading role in economic negotiations with euro zone members under its presidency.

"I believe there is strong confidence in the Danish presidency from all member states... we have a strong economy, a strong commitment to Europe, we are seen as an honest broker, and that is the way we will deal with the presidency," Wammen said in response to questions from Xinhua.

"We will try to bring all 27 together to find solutions to the problems and challenges we are facing," he added.

Denmark will chair most meetings on the EU budget, and other vital meetings, during its presidency. This means it will have an important role to play as a mediator between the 17-member euro zone, and the 10 EU members outside the euro, including the UK, which is the only member to outright reject the new inter-governmental fiscal agreement.

Green growth, enlargement

Job creation, improvement of the single market, and improving competitiveness in the global market, are also high on the presidency agenda.

In this respect, Wammen said more funds would have to be channeled to "growth-enhancing areas like research, education and innovative technologies."

The green emphasis will promote sustainable growth, preserve the EU's lead on climate and energy policies and measures, and keep and create knowledge-intensive green jobs in the EU.

With regard to the EU enlargement, Wammen said Denmark was looking "forward to continuing negotiations with Turkey and Iceland, opening negotiations with Montenegro in June, and granting candidate status to Serbia in February."

Under its previous presidency in 2002, Denmark oversaw the expansion of the EU by 10 new member states.

(Xinhua News Agency December 19, 2011)

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