LONDON -- Denmark will be the next test for the treaty signed last December in Maastricht, Holland, that committed the 12-nation European Community to deeper political union and
1/8 TC single currency by the end of the century.
The treaty goes before the Danish public in a referendum Tuesday. If it is rejected, it cannot enter into force for any of the other countries.
For a while, that seemed to be what was about to happen in Denmark. Until the middle of the week, polls were indicating that the Danes would reject the treaty, thus forestalling the EC's biggest step toward integration since it was established by the original six nations under the Treaty of Rome in 1957.
But Wednesday, a Gallup poll showed 43 percent of Danes saying they would vote for the treaty and 37 threatening to vote against. The previous poll, released last weekend, had the no votes ahead 41 to 39.
There was evident relief at the Danish foreign ministry yesterday.
All the other states of the EC are expected to ratify the treaty before the end of this year, which is the deadline. Britain has just about completed the process. A threat in Ireland seems to have passed: The treaty had almost fallen victim to the squabble over abortion and the right of Irish people to travel.
The menace to the treaty swelled to a serious level late last week. The opposition developed as more Danes began to dwell on the implications of surrendering their national currency and some sovereignty.
Professor Marcus H. Miller, an expert on the EC at Warwick University, said early in the week that he was puzzled at the Danish response.
"This is a big shift in Denmark," he said. "It is a bellwether country." The country has been entirely committed for 10 years to the monetary discipline required by the EC, he said, a discipline which helped it overcome persistent inflation.
Opposition to the treaty was also helped along by some maladroitness on the part of the Danish government, headed by Prime Minister Poul Schlueter. It very simply tried to scare people into voting for it.
"They said Denmark would be thrown out of the community and we would be on our own," said a foreign office source who asked not to be named. People reacted against this campaign of fear, he said.
He also said that the opposition to the treaty had reflected a general negative feeling toward Europe.
"Danes are growing nervous as we move along the road to handing over sovereignty to Brussels. This is the issue. It is not a question of economics," the source said.