LO launches an intensive campaign on the Amsterdam Treaty

The Danish Confederation of Trade Unions (LO) has begun a campaign to impart information in the run-up to the Danish referendum on the Amsterdam EU Treaty, which is likely to be held in spring 1998. The primary targets of the campaign are local shop stewards. The LO favours a positive campaign emphasising the opportunities offered by the Treaty, rather than a negative "scare" campaign.

The Danish debate on the new EU Treaty, agreed in Amsterdam in June 1997 (EU9707135F) and due to be signed in October, is gathering momentum. Whether Denmark ratifies the Amsterdam Treaty depends on the outcome of the referendum, which is expected to be held in late spring 1998. Unlike the referendums on the Maastricht Treaty in 1993, there is sufficient time for an in-depth debate. With the aim of ensuring a majority in favour of the new Treaty, the Danish Confederation of Trade Unions (LO) has decided to ensure that its members have as much information on the Treaty as possible. By spending DKK 3 million on the campaign, which is 50% more than was spent on the 1993 EU referendum, LO is very much aware of the importance of this new poll.

LO has a major task, since a large proportion of its members voted "No" in the 1993 referendum. Because the debate leading up to the 1993 referendum is seen in retrospect as a negative campaign, which focused mainly on the negative consequences of a "No" vote, LO has decided to concentrate this time on ensuring that as much information as possible on the Treaty is available to its members. Hence, LO has been critical of those leading politicians who are using the same negative tactics as in 1993. The confederation is aware that such methods will backfire and make the sceptics even more sceptical. As the president of LO, Hans Jensen, said: "It is fair to say that our campaign is quite different from the scare campaign which has been conducted so far by others."

The first step in LO's campaign is a 16-page newspaper, entitled The Workers' Europe (Fagligt Europa). Although the newspaper is written in a neutral style, simply presenting factual information, LO does not conceal its preference for a "Yes" vote in favour of ratifying the Amsterdam Treaty. A more normative campaign aimed at convincing the sceptics, will be launched a few weeks prior to the referendum.

Europe - a continent of opportunities

LO's view on the Amsterdam Treaty is as follows, according to Ib Wistisen, who is responsible for EU matters at the confederation: "LO sees a Europe offering new opportunities, where all of the former eastern European countries will join. A Europe where the emphasis is on employment, good working conditions and a clean environment. On all of these points Europe and the Amsterdam Treaty is moving in the right direction. Five new countries await membership. The employment issue is a central theme of the Treaty, and it is a springboard for new initiatives ... Moreover, the LO emphasises the adoption of the Agreement on social policy, which in the view of LO offers an unique opportunity for the social partners to take the lead and assume responsibility in the field of social affairs. A lead and a responsibility which LO has carried out over the last century in Denmark."

It is equally important, according to LO, for the principle of subsidiarity in the field of social policy to be made clearer. The confederation maintains that there is no real need for detailed regulation from Brussels. Instead, LO advocates that the European Commission and the social partners should deal with the large transnational companies at EU level.

The EU project is inevitable, simply because the Danish economy is so dependent upon the international economy. As Ib Wistisen said: "the globalisation of the economy is continuing. No one can stop us from maintaining what is Danish culture but we cannot reverse this development. Companies know no borders, they move to countries which can offer the best profitability. In order to avoid "social dumping" international solutions will have to be found.".

Joint campaign in industry

The major social partner organisations in the private sector, theCentral Organisation of Industrial Employees in Denmark (CO-industri) and theConfederation of Danish Industries (DI) decided back in 1993 to launch a joint campaign on the Maastricht Treaty. This time the campaign will be much more low key. They have issued a leaflet entitled Full knowledge about Europe, which is presented in a simple and easy comprehensible style, informing employees in industry of the content of the Amsterdam Treaty. As in the case of LO, the aim of the campaign is to ensure a majority in favour of the new Treaty. The employers, like the LO, emphasise the importance of debate on the Treaty taking place at workplace level.

The largest Danish trade union, the Union of Commercial and Clerical Employees in Denmark (HK), has so far reflected the Danes' mixed feeling about the new Treaty. The political level of HK has so far been unable to agree what the union's standpoint should be, and has for that reason chosen not to issue any recommendation or engage in campaigns on the Amsterdam Treaty. However, changes are under way. HK has approved the results of the negotiations between the Member States which resulted in the revised Treaty. This could be taken to mean that the former "Euro-sceptics" within the trade union movement and the Social Democratic Party, with whom the LO trade unions have had long-established historical close ties, are on the retreat. On the other hand, the low-key campaigns does suggest that the trade union movement respects the views of its members and allows room for the sceptics views to be aired.

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