COPENHAGEN – Russia’s war in Ukraine prompted Finland and Sweden to apply to join NATO, and now Denmark – already a member of the military alliance – is considering canceling its withdrawal from the European Union on security and defence.
On Wednesday, Danes will vote in a referendum on the future of the withdrawal, which has been in place for 30 years.
The Danish government supports canceling the withdrawal. “We have Europe before February 24 and after February 24 when Russia started the illegal war against Ukraine,” Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod told Politico, adding that getting rid of the opt-out would be a “strong signal” for a united Europe.
Polls show a strong lead for the Yes campaign. But experts say it will be a tight race, with the “no” vote expected to rise in recent days as 20 to 30 percent of undecided voters make their decision. The deciding factor may be the Euroskeptics.
Danes will vote on whether a defensive withdrawal – one of four negotiated after the country rejected the Maastricht Accord in a referendum in 1992 – should be converted into a no-participation option.
In the event of a “yes” vote, Denmark will be able to participate in joint EU military operations, such as the peacekeeping mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina or the anti-piracy mission off the coast of Somalia, and to cooperate in the development and acquisition of military capabilities within the EU framework.
Separate from the referendum, the government The main parliamentary parties also agreed to increase Denmark’s defense budget to 2% of GDP by 2033, in line with a NATO target.
“Since we are going to invest a lot in our defence, it will be beneficial for Denmark to turn these investments into real capabilities and participate, for example, in the European Defense Agency, PESCO. [Permanent Structured Cooperation] or cybersecurity projects,” Kofod said.
But, if Denmark votes to maintain the withdrawal, it will reaffirm the European skepticism of the Danes – while they support the single market and more economic cooperation, they are among the most skeptical when it comes to more European integration or perceived federalism, vote In two previous referendums to maintain non-participation.
It would also be a blow to the Social Democratic government and the eight other parties that are gathering for a yes vote. Only three parties are in favor of keeping it: the far-right Danish People’s Party, the far-right New Right and the far-left Unity List.
The Latest Poll From public radio DR, published on May 20, it showed that 42 percent of voters are expected to vote yes, while 28 percent are expected to vote no. About 20 percent of voters remain neutral.
Among the undecided voters, two-thirds are expected to vote No, said Derek Beach, who is working on a research project examining public opinion on defense at Aarhus University.
“If the yes vote advances by 14 percent, that means the end result is relatively close but still a yes vote,” Beach said. He added, however, that other Polls She drops a much smaller difference between the two campaigns, which means the race could be close and even tilted in favor of a no-no.
No more EU
in Eurobarmeter exploratory study As of 2014, when the last survey was conducted on whether the EU should “evolve into a union of nation-states”, 74 percent in Denmark were against that possibility, compared to just 34 percent on average in the EU as a whole.
Beach said the EU is “something sensitive to the Danes, and many feel that … whatever we give the EU, we lose”. But, if the Danes vote to cancel the withdrawal, it “suggests that there may be some movement in the sense that the Danes are in solidarity a little more with the rest of the EU and Ukraine”.
A perceived fear of losing sovereignty was also at the heart of the No campaign, with politicians warning that canceling the withdrawal could lead to more EU, and even an EU military.
“The EU’s full military dimension is not over yet, so we don’t want to recommend a yes to something that is still undetermined,” said Peter Kofod, a member of the European Parliament for the Danish People’s Party.
He added, “I am very afraid that the European Union will start to build something parallel to what is going on in NATO, and I would rather spend money, time, resources and soldiers on the latter.”
But Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod, backed by experts, stressed that Denmark would not lose any sovereignty as it would still have the right not to take part in tasks it did not want to be part of, or even veto before agreeing to them.
If there is a transfer of sovereignty, “we would never recommend Denmark to participate. It’s not about that, it’s about how Denmark can better cooperate with others.”
talks In Brussels over the revision of the EU treaty, which would repeal the rule allowing one country to veto foreign policy, it also faces a lot of opposition. In Denmark, such a move requires a referendum or a five-sixth majority in Parliament, and the Danish government has done this cooperated With dozens of other countries to object to any changes.