The rejection of the "euro" – the common currency
of the European Community (EU) – in a referendum by the people of Denmark has
significance of special concern to Jews and minorities. Generally interpreted as
a small country’s fear of domination by the larger members of the Community,
the vote reflected an assertion of national concerns and is being exploited by a
party with an anti-foreign and anti-minority program.
Jews may not figure
specifically or prominently as targets of this and similar parties in Europe,
but they are invariably included.
|The rejection of the "euro" in a referendum by the people of Denmark reflects the assertion of national concerns being exploited by a party with an anti-foreign and anti-minority program.
Denmark, a liberal country with a long tradition of
democratic and socially progressive governments, now has an ultra-nationalist
party led by Pia Kjaersgaard, with a xenophobic, anti-European rhetoric similar
to that of Joerg Haider in Austria or Jean-Marie LePen in France. This Danish
development tends to be overlooked in the world’s media, as much happening in
Scandinavia has trouble breaking into the headlines in the papers of larger
Extreme right groups also operate in other countries, such as
the National Democratic Party (NPD) in Germany and in some east and southeast
European countries, but none of these have so far come close to a major role or
to joining a government. In Austria, France and Denmark, these parties are
either coalition partners or have to be taken seriously as a significant
political factor by democratic governments.
The Danish vote does not imply that the 53-percent majority
opposed to adopting the euro is anti-European or supports Ms. Kjaersgaard’s
nationalist party. But it is being interpreted as reflecting the voters’
concern that the interests of a small country like Denmark will be overlooked or
submerged by those of the larger ones, especially France and Germany, who are
pressing hardest for European unity.
One of the things that bothered many Danes, according to
observers of the campaign for the referendum, was the EU’s imposition of
sanctions against Austria after the entry of Haider’s party into the
government. This did not imply support for Haider, but fear that the same thing
might happen to Denmark, as another small country, if it acted in a way that
displeases the "big ones".
We thus encounter opposition by a small country to
strengthening a Community dedicated to fostering democracy, equal rights and
safeguarding the interests of minorities. The lesson seems to be that democracy
is just as important among countries as it is within countries. In the case at
hand, it may mean that more care and more discussion are required before the
Community takes steps against one of its members – particularly the smaller
ones – if it is to avoid counterproductive effects on its larger and more
fundamental objectives. Among these goals are the protection of human rights and
minorities -- a key rationale for Jews to support the advance of the Community
toward a truly united Europe. It is an area in which the ADL-initiated
European-Jewish Information Center (CEJI by its French initials) in Brussels
plays an active and effective role on behalf of European Jewry.
The Danish vote also was a setback toward that
"deeper" European union that the advocates of a truly integrated
continent, as German foreign minister Joschka Fischer articulated it earlier
this year, have in mind. That kind of Europe would in the end be close to a
federal union like the United States. Opposed to this concept is the union of
nations" that General deGaulle had envisioned and that continues to hold
the support of those who want to preserve a substantial measure of national
sovereignty within the Community.
Beyond "deepening" the Community’s purpose and
powers, there is the issue of widening its membership through the adherence of
central and east European countries once under Communist rule. Here, too, Jews
have an interest. The Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Rumania and
others have Jewish communities that would benefit from the protection of the
human rights provisions to which all members of the European community are
required to adhere. There are tentative time tables for the admission of
individual countries, but events such as the vote in Denmark and some strong
reactions against the bold approach advocated by Mr. Fischer show that national
feelings remain strong, and that efforts by big countries – chiefly France and
Germany – to press forward too fast, can be counterproductive.
The original reason for forming a Community, which began
modestly as a six-member economic union – the European Coal and Steel
Community – was to banish once and for all intra-European wars, and
particularly to bind Germany into a new Europe in which she would no longer be
tempted or able to wage aggressive war. This has long since been accomplished.
Now the choice is between a Europe endowed with so much supranational power
as to worry its smaller member countries, or a more flexible Community that
preserves essential national features of the member states and allows the
admission of the new applicants from central and eastern Europe. It would seem
that the latter approach is in the Jewish interest – for two reasons: it would
provide less rationale for nationalist and extremist reaction against the "Superstate";
and it would give the Jewish communities in the former communist-ruled countries
the benefit of protection of the human rights and anti-discrimination
institutions and provision of the Community.