Danish voters back joining EU’s defence policy: Exit polls

Exit polls show more than 66 percent voted in favour of ending the 30-year-old opt-out from the policy.

Approximately two-thirds of Danish voters have backed abandoning the country’s 30-year-old opt-out from the European Union’s common defence policy in a referendum, according to exit polls.

TV2 broadcaster said its exit poll showed that 66.6 percent voted in favour of ending the opt-out – which would have limited practical effect for either Denmark or the EU – and 33.4 percent against. Public broadcaster DR’s exit poll had the figures at 69 percent for and 31 percent against.

The polls were published just after voting ended on Wednesday.

The referendum was the latest example of a European country seeking closer defence links with allies in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

It followed Sweden and Finland’s historic bids to join NATO – an issue to be taken up at a summit next month.

Christine Nissen, a researcher with the Danish Institute for International Studies, said both moves were “part of the same story”, and would strengthen military cooperation on a continent stunned by the war in Ukraine.

“Their will to cooperate in security and defence will push for stronger roles for European countries to take more responsibility in NATO,” she told Al Jazeera.

The main effect of abandoning the opt-out will be that Danish officials could stay in the room when EU colleagues discuss defence topics, and Danish forces could take part in EU military operations through the bloc’s Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP).

A first in 30 years

It would be the first time that one of the four Danish opt-outs from the EU’s Maastricht Treaty, which laid the foundation for political and economic union, is scrapped by voters in Denmark.

“A lot indicates that after 30 years, Danes have decided to get rid of the defence waiver,” Søren Pape, head of the opposition Conservative Party told party members.

“Right now, we are the only country that cannot contribute [on defence] and we are not allowed to take responsibility for European cooperation in this area,” Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said on Tuesday ahead of the referendum.

“Even in a situation where there is war on our own continent,” added Frederiksen, who campaigned to join the policy.

The final results are expected to be published later on Wednesday.

For decades, Europe has been a source of contention in Denmark. In 1992, voters set back plans to turn the European construction into a union by rejecting the Maastricht treaty amid widespread opposition to a federal European government that could limit the sovereignty of individual nations.

At an EU summit in Edinburgh, Scotland later that year, European leaders agreed on a text with tailor-made provisions allowing Danes to ratify a revised treaty with four provisions.

They allowed Danes to stay out of a joint EU citizenship, justice and home affairs, the monetary union which allowed Danes to stay out of the euro and keep the krone, and defence.

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