June 2nd 1992 was a remarkable day in the history of Denmark, and perhaps in the history of post-World War II Europe. In a referendum a majority of Danes rejected the Treaty of Maastricht, which a few months earlier had so laboriously been knit together by the ec heads of government, their foreign ministers and Brussels bureaucrats. It is true that the No victory was won by a very narrow margin—50.7 per cent against, as opposed to 49.3 per cent for, a difference of approximately 40,000 votes. Nevertheless, rejection of the Treaty dealt a severe blow to the political and economic establishment in the country; and, notwithstanding Denmark’s relatively minor status within the ec, it certainly disturbed the Eurocrats. Furthermore, it seems to have played a decisive role in François Mitterrand’s decision to put the issue to the French people in a similar referendum.
It is no easy task to explain the No majority. In the pre-vote propaganda campaign the Yes side included the leaderships of all the major parties: the Conservative and Liberal parties in the Schlüter government, a united Social Democratic leadership, the Radical Liberals, and the Centre Democrats. The small Christian Democrat party was split. Only the ultra-liberal Progress Party and the Socialist People’s Party advocated a No vote, The Yes side represented a parliamentary majority of more than 75 per cent. In addition, the employers’ associations, the farmers’ organizations and, most notably, the trades-union leadership, unanimously recommended acceptance. They all poured millions of kroner into the campaign.
Media coverage followed the same pattern. With the exception of one independent paper, all daily newspaper editorials argued strongly for a Yes—although the letters pages indicated mixed attitudes among readers. The two national television channels abandoned their traditional neutrality, and packed their information and debate programmes with Yes supporters.
The odds therefore seemed heavily stacked against the No campaigners. Moreover, the latter formed an alliance of extremely diverse interests, ranging from old-time communists, democratic socialists, rank-and-file trade unionists, committed environmentalists, conservative nationalists, and ultra-liberals (from the Progress Party).
The nucleus of the opposition was the Popular Movement Against the ec, which was established before the 1972 referendum on Denmark’s entry. It is a broad cross-party organization with a long tradition of