The Danish presidency of the EU's Council of Ministers will fight against a split of the EU into two tiers, in which eurozone and non-eurozone member states are divided.
Nicolai Wammen, Denmark's European affairs minister, told European Voice that Denmark, which has opted to stay out of the single currency, was opposed to the creation of two clubs within the EU. “If we split into two we are going in the wrong direction,” he said.
The six-month presidency, which starts in January, will work “on the core belief that we are a European Union of 27 member states,” Wammen said. He said that the idea was supported by a “huge majority” of member states during European Council discussions on Sunday (23 October). The ten non-euro countries, fearing they might be excluded from decision-making, had objected on Sunday to an initial plan to hold a summit of eurozone leaders without them yesterday (26 October).
Jobs and growth
Wammen said Denmark's presidency would focus on spurring jobs and economic growth as part of its plan to get the EU out of its economic crisis. His country's six-month agenda had already been “greatly affected” by the eurozone debt crisis, and any decisions that come out of this week's European Council meetings will have to be included in the presidency priorities. “There will certainly be a lot of work in implementing the decisions taken by the [EU] leaders,” Wammen said.
As a response to the crisis, the presidency will focus on the EU's ten-year jobs and growth plan, and push ahead with European Commission proposals to reform the EU's internal market, said Wammen.
Denmark would aim to commence the negotiations on the 12 “priority measures” intended to reform the EU's single market, which include promoting venture capital and improving energy transport and communications infrastructure. “We need to create jobs and progress in European economies, and we are especially focused on green growth as a tool to achieve progress in this area,” he said.
Denmark will also be responsible for guiding the second European semester – the annual cycle of economic policy co-ordination - as well as seeking a deal on the energy-efficiency directive, which has set a target of a 20% improvement by 2020. Wammen said Denmark will also try to make progress on a common EU asylum and immigration programme.
The minister added that Denmark was unlikely to achieve an accord on the EU's 2014-20 multiannual financial framework (MFF) under its presidency.
Wammen said sensitive issues such as the UK's rebate would be dealt with by Cyprus, which will hold the presidency during the second half of 2012. He said he was already “testing the waters” in other member states as to what progress can be made in the MFF negotiations, and would draft a plan on what parts of the MFF the presidency would focus its attention on in the run-up to taking office.
Danish diplomats have said that the presidency would be responsible for guiding member states to an agreement on the appointment of a new president of the European Council in June. They said they expected Van Rompuy to secure a second two-and-a-half-year term.