The Danish PM paid a visit to Downing Street to meet with his British counterpart on the current refugee situation and the two leaders’ joint desire to keep the EU from turning into a what Rasmussen has characterized as a “social union”.
Rasmussen told Sky News that he would work with Cameron to establish “a new balance between the freedom to move and the freedom to claim social benefits”.
“I think the different member states should have some access to protect their own welfare model,” he added.
Rasmussen said that he is strongly in favour of UK remaining in Europe and thinks that Cameron has “a window of opportunity” for renegotiating Britain’s relationship with the the other 27 member states before British voters are given the chance to decide whether to remain 'in or out' of the European Union.
“Everyone really wants the UK to stay in Europe […] I’d like to look at us as helpful in developing such ideas between now and the UK referendum,” the Danish PM told Sky News.
Denmark’s own relationship with the EU will be put to the test when Danes vote on a referendum on replacing the nation’s opt-out on EU justice and home affairs with an ‘opt-in’ that would result in the adoption of 22 specific pieces of EU legislation. That referendum will be held on December 3rd.
Rasmussen told the Danish press that in addition to discussing the British referendum, which could come as soon as June 2016, he and Cameron agreed that the EU should stop focusing on the redistribution of 160,000 refugees and instead redouble its efforts in Syria and its neighbours.
“We both have a wish, I sense, that we can move the debate on Wednesday [when EU leaders will meet in Brussels, ed.] so that it is more about doing something about the problem rather than how we move around a part of the problem,” he said, according to news agency Ritzau.
“We need to increase our efforts in the surrounding countries and develop mechanisms to distinguish between refugees and economic migrants, whom we don’t have space for,” he added.
Like Rasmussen, Cameron has also resisted Europe’s call to participate in an obligatory redistribution of refugees throughout Europe.
Cameron said last week that he would give asylum to 20,000 refugees from camps in countries like Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan. Rasmussen meanwhile has offered to voluntarily take in an additional 1,000 refugees.
Rasmussen and Cameron will meet again on Wednesday for an extra European Council summit to discuss the refugee problem.