Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod said on June 2 that he expects Denmark to join the European Union's (EU) common defence policy after two-thirds of voters who cast ballots in a referendum supported abandoning a 30-year-old waiver that kept the EU country out.
There are “a series of formal steps before Denmark can be admitted” to the defence agreement, Mr. Kofod said, including the Danish Parliament giving its approval of the referendum's result. The Minister said he expects Denmark to be able to join as of July 1.
With 100% of the votes counted, 66.9% voted in favour of getting rid of the opt-out while 33.1% were against, according to figures from Statistics Denmark. Voter turnout was 65.76%.
Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said the results were “a clear signal” to Russian President Vladimir Putin. The referendum followed the decisions of fellow Nordic countries Sweden and Finland to seek join NATO membership.
For Denmark, a founding member of the 30-member defence alliance, joining the EU's defence policy will have a relatively modest impact on Europe's security architecture, particularly compared to the historic bids of Sweden and Finland. But Christine Nissen, a researcher with the Danish Institute for International Studies, said both moves were “part of the same story,” and would strengthen military cooperation on a continent stunned by the war in Ukraine.
But pundits have said that both moves reflected the same concerns and would strengthen military cooperation on a continent stunned by the war in Ukraine.
The main effect of abandoning the opt-out will be that Danish officials could stay in the room when EU colleagues discuss defence topics and Danish forces can take part in EU military operations, such as those in Africa and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Mr. Kofod called the referendum “a good and important step.” He said in a statement, “Cohesion in Europe is the best answer we can give in the situation we are in.”
Danish voters give strong ‘‘yes’‘ to joining EU defence policy
With nearly all votes counted from a referendum on June 1, Denmark is headed toward joining the European Union’s common defence policy that it long eschewed, a new example of a country in Europe seeking closer defence links with allies after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The electoral commission said that with ballots fully counted in 84 of 92 Denmark’s electoral districts, 66.9% voted in favour of abandoning the country’s 30-year opt-out. “An overwhelming majority of Danes have chosen to abolish the defence opt-out. I’m very, very happy about that,” Ms. Frederiksen said.
“We have sent a clear signal to (Russian President Vladimir) Putin,” she added. “With the decision we have made, we show that when Mr. Putin invades a free and independent country and threatens peace and stability, we will move closer together.” On Twitter, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock applauded the outcome of the Danish vote. “Every step each of us takes, makes us stronger in the face of these tectonic shifts.”
It would be the first time that one of the four Danish opt-outs from the EU’s Maastricht Treaty, which laid the foundation for political and economic union, is scrapped by voters in Denmark.
”I believe people have voted yes because of the war in Ukraine. The yes’ side has tried to misuse the war in Ukraine to make the Danes feel that it is important that we stand together,” said Morten Messerschmidt, the leader of the opposition Danish People’s Party and a leading opponent of removing the defence opt-out.
One of the founding members of NATO, Denmark has stayed on the sidelines of the EU’s efforts to build a common security and defence policy in parallel with the trans-Atlantic military alliance.
For decades, Europe’s been a source of contention in Denmark. In 1992, voters set back plans to turn the European construction into a union by rejecting the Maastricht treaty amid widespread opposition to a federal European government that could limit the sovereignty of individual nations.
At an EU summit in Edinburgh, Scotland, later that year, European leaders agreed on a text with tailor-made provisions allowing Danes to ratify a revised treaty with four provisions. They allowed Danes to stay out of a joint EU citizenship, justice and home affairs, the monetary union which allowed Danes to stay out of the euro and keep the krone, and defence.
The citizenship issue, which said European citizenship would not replace national citizenship, has since become irrelevant as other members later adopted the same position.
But the other provisions remain intact despite efforts by successive government to overturn them. In a 2000 referendum, Danish voters decided to stay outside the euro and 15 years later they voted to keep the exemption on justice and home affairs. Ms. Frederiksen, who on Wednesday became the first Danish Prime Minister to win a referendum on removing an opt-out, said she was not tempted to test other opt-outs in plebiscites.