Denmark | Referendum for the participation in EU defence policy
Defence Redefined
Published on 01/06/2022 at 12:34

The traditionally Eurosceptic Danes are voting today on whether their country will join the European Union’s defence policy.

Denmark is the only member of the 27 nation bloc that does not belong to the Common Security and Defence Policy, having secured exceptions from it as well as the euro currency following a referendum in 1993 on the Maastricht Treaty, which laid the foundations for the EU.

If Danish critics of the EU vote in favor of abolishing the self-exclusion clause, as opinion polls show, it will mark another major change in European policy since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February.

Nearly 4.3 million Danes are called in to answer the referendum question. The polls opened at 09:00 (Greek time) and will close at 21:00. The first results are expected late this afternoon. Polls show that a majority of Danes want to get rid of the exclusion clause.

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According to the latest poll before the referendum, conducted by the DR network, 44% of Danes were in favor of abolishing the clause, while 28% were in favor of maintaining it.

Opponents of the abolition have argued that EU defence cooperation is burdened by bureaucracy and inefficient decision-making and also fear the prospect of having to contribute to a possible EU supranational army. 

Many were undecided or reluctant to respond. A majority of parties, including Prime Minister Matthew Frederiksen’s Social Democrats, have called for the abolition. In particular, 11 of Denmark’s 14 parties – more than three-quarters of the seats in parliament – have called on their constituents to vote in favor of abolishing the clause.

Instead, two far-right Eurosceptic parties and one far-left party called for the opposite. Their argument is that participation in the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy will be to the detriment of NATO, which has been the cornerstone of the country’s defence since its inception in 1949.

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Despite the polls, however, analysts are skeptical about the outcome of the referendum, given the expected abstention in the country, which has repeatedly said “no” to greater European integration, most recently in 2015.

“We must always vote when we are asked to vote,” the Prime Minister told the Danes during the last televised campaign on Sunday. “I firmly believe that we must vote ‘yes’. At a time when we must fight for security in Europe, we must be more united with our neighbors,” she said.

The Prime Minister announced the referendum just two weeks after Russia invaded Ukraine and reached an agreement with the majority of the parties in the country’s parliament, the Folketing. At the same time, it announced plans to increase defence expenditure to 2% of GDP (as is NATO’s goal) by 2033.

Sweden and Finland decided this month to apply for NATO membership. Both Denmark and Germany have already promised to increase their defence spending rapidly. Denmark is a founding member of NATO, but the alliance’s largest military power, the United States, has indicated that European allies must take greater responsibility for their own security.

Participation in the Common Security and Defence Policy will allow Denmark to participate in joint EU military operations, such as those in Somalia, Mali, and Bosnia.

Source: APA MPA

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