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As Awkward as They Need to Be: Denmark's Pragmatic Activist Approach to Europe

Anders Wivel

This paper explores the role of Denmark as an awkward member state in the EU. Danish EU policy is guided by a particular set of ideas embedded in the historical development of the state and its external environment and constrained by a set of external conditions such as the power and interests of states nearby and the power relations and fundamental principles of the current world order. The paper argues that EU policy initiatives are filtered through the ideas of the Danish policy elite. These ideas follow largely, internally, from the development of the Danish peasant and labour movements in the 19th and 20th centuries that provided the ideational foundation for the welfare state, and, externally from the lessons that Danish policy-makers drew from their relations with continental Europe (largely negative) and the United Kingdom and the United States (largely positive). The paper explores how Denmark seeks to handle awkwardness following fro this position through a pragmatic activist approach to European integration formulated in a political space between the reactive defence of the institutional status quo and proactive furthering of ideas and interests in selected policy areas.

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