Copenhagen, Denmark One of Europe's smaller nations will make a large statement about the goal of a unified Europe today when Denmark's proudly independent voters decide whether to adopt the euro, western Europe's new common currency.
Denmark already belongs to the European Union, and the political and financial establishment here is firmly advocating use of the euro. The five biggest political parties, all major business groups and most labor unions are campaigning for a "yes" vote. But the elites have had a hard time getting rank-and-file voters to go along. Most opinion polls published this week show the "no" side leading by a small margin, with as many as 15 percent of those surveyed undecided.
"The referendum is going to be very, very close," Prime Minister Poul Nyrup Rasmussen said in an interview. "One thing we know quite well is that the Danish people do not want anybody telling them what to do."
And yet this tight vote in a small state Denmark's population of 5.3 million is less than 2 percent of the EU could have a major impact on the future of political and economic union in Europe.
If the Danes vote to join the euro, which already is in limited use in most EU countries and soon will replace national currencies in Europeans' pockets, their next-door neighbors in Sweden will likely do the same. That could push Great Britain, another holdout EU member, to decide it can no longer stay out of the common currency and the European Central Bank.
But a "no" vote here could trigger a further plunge in the euro's value when the common currency has been dropping sharply against the dollar and seriously set back the push toward European unification.
But for Danish voters, the points at issue seem to revolve around identity and independence rather than economics.
"Our own currency, the krone, is already pegged to the value of the euro," Foreign Minister Niels Helveg Petersen noted. "So joining the currency shouldn't make any difference in fiscal terms. We are fighting here a psychological battle."
The Danes treasure their independence, and many think that joining a common currency will undermine it.