Denmark for abolition of EU defense reservation

Mette Frederiksen

Most Danish parties, including Prime Minister Frederiksen’s ruling Social Democrats, had spoken out in favor of abolishing the reservation.

(Photo: dpa)

Stockholm Denmark will in future participate in the common EU defense and security policy. In a referendum on Wednesday, a surprisingly clear majority of Danes voted in favor of lifting the exception rule from the Maastricht Treaties. After more than 83 percent of the votes were counted, those in favor of abolishing the reservation were ahead with 66.7 percent.

“I’m happy and I’m proud,” said the social democratic Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen in a first comment. In the past few weeks, she had repeatedly campaigned for a “yes to EU defense and security policy”. Under the impact of the Russian attack on Ukraine, the vast majority of voters followed her recommendation. Five opposition parties also supported the abolition of the reservation.

Prime Minister Frederiksen called the referendum shortly after Russian troops invaded Ukraine. A new era had begun in European history, she justified the complete reversal of the previous skepticism about all attempts at European integration.

So far, the NATO country Denmark is the only EU member not to take part in EU military operations and does not provide any financial or military resources for them. When the EU foreign ministers meet in Brussels to discuss security and defense policy, the Danish foreign minister always leaves the group.

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Denmark’s future participation in EU defense and security policy is indeed a big step for the small kingdom. Because the EU and NATO member has repeatedly opposed stronger cooperation between EU members.

Denmark going it alone

The fear of losing sovereignty is the reason why they do not participate in the common currency or in judicial and police cooperation. In addition, the country repeatedly makes negative headlines by going it alone. Denmark is following its own course, especially when it comes to asylum policy.

The proposal by the Social Democratic minority government to no longer hold asylum procedures in Denmark but to move them to Rwanda in Africa caused a stir. The Swedish EU Commissioner for Refugees Ylva Johansson warned Copenhagen as a precaution and spoke of a “selfish plan” that would have consequences if implemented.

An agreement has already been signed with Kosovo on renting 300 prison spaces for detainees awaiting deportation. Justice Minister Nick Hækkerup said the intention was to relieve the Danish prison system. At least in defense and security policy, Denmark will no longer play a special role in the future.
The EU exception rules became necessary after a narrow majority of Danes rejected the Maastricht Treaty in 1991. The Maastricht Treaty regulates cooperation between EU member states in various areas. This also includes a common security and defense policy. With its “No to Maastricht” Denmark plunged the EU into a serious crisis. The EU defense reservation has been in effect since 1993.

security policy under scrutiny

That is why the EU-sceptical country was granted some exceptions from the Maastricht Treaty, including those from participating in EU security and defense policy. The derogations made possible a second referendum in which a majority of Danes said ‘yes to Maastricht’.
Russia’s war against Ukraine has persuaded Finland and Sweden, after decades of non-alignment, to apply to join NATO. It was a turning point. Denmark is now among the countries that have put their security and defense policies to the test and, for the first time in a long time, have spoken out in favor of more cooperation.

More: Sweden joins Finland in NATO

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