Tuesday

17th Sep 2019

Danes to vote on EU relations in December referendum

  • To be, or not to be part of Europol? (Photo: Ray Forster)

Danish PM, Lars Loekke Rasmussen, announced on Friday (21 August) a referendum on replacing Denmark's “opt-out” on EU justice and home affairs with an “opt-in” model, similar to the one used by Ireland and the UK.

The decision to hold the referendum - on 3 December 2015 - follows a political agreement between five parties in parliament - the Liberal Party, the Conservative Party, the Social Democrats, the Social Liberals, and the Socialist People's Party - from 10 December 2014.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Announced on a hot Friday afternoon, the public debate on the referendum is yet to start in earnest (Photo: quietdangst)

Under its opt-out, which dates back to 1993, Denmark automatically stays out of all supra-national EU justice and home affairs policy and doesn’t take part in EU Council votes in these areas.

The EU dossier was slim in the early 1990s.

But it has ballooned since then, including on EU police and judicial co-operation and on migration, with Denmark still on the outside.

A Yes vote in December will let Denmark, in future, choose which home affairs policies and laws it takes part in.

It will also let Denmark agree specific legislation in the area without the need for further referendums.

The Yes-parties have already identified 22 existing EU initiatives they want Denmark to opt into.

They’ve also promised Denmark won’t take part in 10 other EU initiatives - including the hot-button issue of asylum and immigration.

Big shift

The Yes would mark Denmark’s first important shift in EU relations since Danes, in a referendum, soundly rejected eurozone membership.

In a less signigicant step, Danish voters, at the same time as the EU elections last May, agreed to join the EU's Unified Patent Court.

Announced on a hot Friday afternoon, the public debate on the referendum is yet to start in earnest.

But the last opinion polls, from June, show Yes on 53 percent, No on 24 percent, and 23 percent undecided.

For its part, the second largest party in the Folketinget, the Danish People's Party, is to campaign for a No.

It is critical of the EU and hostile to immigration. It sits with UK tories in the European Parliament and will be the major force in the No-side.

Trump card

It also has a trump card: Its European Parliament candidate in 2014, Morten Messerschmidt, won with an unprecedented 465,758 personal votes in a country of just 5.6 million people.

The leftist Red-Green alliance will also campaign on the No-side, saying Denmark must have full sovereignty on divorce, child custody, and criminal sentencing, among other topics.

Its EU spokesperson, Pernille Skipper, noted that Denmark doesn’t share values with some other EU states.

"The European Union includes countries banning abortion or so-called homosexual propaganda. The vote is thus about much more than Europol, contrary to what the EU-rave parties claim”, she said.

The Yes side has chosen Europol as the corner stone of its campaign.

The pro-Yes parties’ compromise agreement says: “Currently, the Council is negotiating a revision of the regulation on Europol. Once adopted under the new rules of the Lisbon Treaty, Denmark can no longer participate in this co-operation”.

"The perspective of Denmark having to leave Europol is the main reason behind the agreement to hold a referendum”.

Norwegian model

But the No side says Denmark could continue Europol co-operation via a voluntary parallel agreement, on the Norwegian model.

Europol is the European Union’s joint police agency.

Headquartered in The Hague, it works closely with law enforcement bodies in EU member states, as well as in Australia, Canada, Norway, and the US.

By choosing to have the Danish poll on 3 December, the PM, Loekke Rasmussen, will, for the most part, avoid getting the campaign mixed up with the UK’s referendum on EU membership.

An EU summit on 17 December is expected to discuss in greater details the UK prime minister, David Cameron's demands for EU reforms in the run-up to the British vote, due at the latest in 2017.

Populist surge topples Danish PM

Thorning-Schmidt has stepped down as Denmark's PM after elections Thursday saw the right-wing bloc win, and a surge in popularity for the populist Danish People's Party.

News in Brief

  1. Germany prepared to top up post-Brexit EU budget
  2. New Saudi attack threats, but EU and US still divided
  3. EU anti-trust chief goes after Belgian tax breaks
  4. Luxembourg PM Bettel humiliates Johnson
  5. No new backstop proposal at Juncker-Johnson lunch
  6. Saudi oil production in flames after drone attack
  7. US: attack on Saudi oil came from Iran or Iraq
  8. Poll: Belgium's far-right Vlaams Belang largest party

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  2. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  6. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  8. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  9. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  10. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  11. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat

Latest News

  1. EU must give full support to Ukraine to dissuade Kremlin
  2. EU divided on how to protect rule of law
  3. Nordic region to become world's most sustainable and integrated
  4. In detail: Belgium's EU nominee faces crime probe
  5. France urges EU virtual currency rules amid Libra risk
  6. Brexit and new commission in focus This WEEK
  7. As recession looms, Europe needs more spending
  8. How should the EU handle Russia now?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us