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7 Mar, 2022 10:25

Denmark to hold ‘historic’ referendum on abandoning EU defense opt-out

The Danish PM warned Russia’s offensive in Ukraine has ‘heralded a new era in Europe’
Denmark to hold ‘historic’ referendum on abandoning EU defense opt-out

Denmark’s Prime Minister, Mette Frederiksen, announced on Sunday that the country will hold a referendum on June 1 to scrap the opt-out from the European Union (EU) defense policy, declaring that “historic times call for historic decisions.”

The Danish leader’s statement came as she declared that “Putin’s pointless and brutal attack on Ukraine has heralded a new era in Europe,” calling it a “test of strength for everything we believe in: our values, democracy, human rights, peace and freedom.”

Frederiksen urged voters to back abandoning the defense opt-out, calling it a “values-based decision,” citing how it will allow Denmark to work in greater tandem with its European neighbors. Joining the EU’s common security and defense policy (CSDP) would see Denmark join EU military exercises and work with the bloc to develop and acquire military capabilities.

For around 30 years, Denmark has maintained its decision to opt-out of defense cooperation but is potentially on the brink of turning this around amid the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. Other European nations have taken similar steps to bolster cooperation with EU and NATO members, with Finland and Sweden announcing closer partnerships with the alliance last week.

The statement from Frederiksen came as the government announced its “largest investment in recent decades” in defense spending, pledging 7 billion kroner ($701 million) over the next two years. This will see Denmark increase defense spending to 2% of GDP, in line with NATO membership requirements, by 2033.

The referendum was announced after an agreement was reached on Sunday with a majority of the parties in the country’s parliament, known as the Folketing. Danish citizens previously rejected, in December 2015, an effort to strengthen cooperation between the country and the EU on policing and security matters, fearing it could cost them their sovereignty.