10th Dec 2023

Denmark brings forward decision on treaty referendum

  • Copenhagen - Danish foreign minister Per Stig Møller expects a political decision on whether or not there will be a referendum (Photo: EUobserver)

The Danish government has pushed forward a decision on whether or not to hold a referendum on the EU's new treaty, saying it will start examining the issue next month instead of in December as planned.

Member states are aiming to get the negotiations on the treaty – known as the Reform Treaty – finished next month, prompting the Nordic country to decide sooner on the issue of Danish sovereignty.

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The Danish Constitution requires that any handover of power must be approved by the Danish people.

A so-called "paragraph 20 examination" will determine whether Denmark is handing over sovereignty under the new treaty, ultimately deciding whether Danes will go to the ballot box to cast their vote on the document.

"The law experts will tell us whether there is a hand over of sovereignty," said Danish foreign affairs minister Per Stig Møller, adding that there will be a referendum if that is the case.

"If there is no hand-over of sovereignty, then there will be a political decision on whether there will be a referendum," he stated during an EU foreign affairs ministers meeting in Portugal this weekend, according to Danish daily Politiken.

The centre-right government initially planned to put the original Constitution, which was rejected by French and Dutch voters in 2005, to a referendum.

The new treaty still has much of the original constitution but Copenhagen managed to secure that seven issues were removed from its draft earlier this year after an assessment by its own legal experts. These seven points would have prompted a referendum in Denmark on sovereignty grounds.

The deadline for ratification of the reform treaty across the member states is Spring 2009.

So far, only Ireland has definitely said it will have a referendum. But there are still open questions elsewhere.

UK prime minister Gordon Brown is facing increased pressure to put the treaty to a vote while The Netherlands – which voted "no" the last time around - is also still to decide whether or not to hold a referendum.

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