Denmark votes on removing EU defense opt-out

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Denmark has been a European Union member since 1973, power transferring to Brussels was stopped in 1992 when 50.7 percent of Danes rejected the Maastricht Treaty, the EU’s founding treaty.

All member states were required to be ratified before entering into force. In order to convince the Danes to approve the treaty, Copenhagen negotiated various exemptions, and the Danes finally approved it the following year.

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Since then, Denmark has remained out of the European single currency, the euro, which was rejected in a 2000 referendum, and the bloc’s common policies on justice, home affairs, and defence.

– ‘Ukraine the major reason’-

The defence opt-out means that the Scandinavian country, a founding member of NATO, does not participate in EU foreign policy where defence is concerned and does not contribute troops to EU military missions.

Denmark is the only country to have negotiated a defence opt-out, though Malta remains de facto outside as well. Copenhagen has exercised it is opt-out 235 times in 29 years, according to a tally by the Europa think tank.

Danish PM Frederiksen called the referendum just two weeks after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and after having reached an agreement with a majority of parties in Denmark’s parliament, the Folketing.

At the same time, she also announced plans to increase defence spending to two percent of GDP, in line with NATO membership requirements, by 2033.

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Eleven of Denmark’s 14 parties have urged voters to say “yes” to dropping the opt-out, representing more than three-quarters of seats in parliament.

Two far-right eurosceptic parties- the Danish People’s Party and The New Right- and the far-left Unity List- have meanwhile called for Danes to say “no”.

One of their main arguments is that the emergence of a joint European defence would come at the expense of NATO, which has been the cornerstone of Denmark’s defence since its creation in 1949.

“NATO is the guarantor of Denmark’s security. It would be totally different if it were decided in Brussels,” the head of the Danish People’s Party, Morten Messerschmitt, argued during Sunday’s debate.

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