On Friday, Danish PM Lars Løkke Rasmussen formally set the date for what will be Denmark’s first referendum on the country’s relationship to the EU since voters soundly rejected the euro in 2000. On December 3rd, there will be a referendum on ending one of Denmark's four EU opt-outs, a vote that has been in the works since March.
Denmark's opt-out on the EU’s justice and home affairs rules threatens to push the country out of the EU's joint police law enforcement agency, Europol. Denmark’s five pro-Europe parties agreed in mid-March to band together to support the passage of a referendum that would replace the opt-out with an ‘opt-in’ agreement that will result in Denmark joining 22 specific EU legislative acts (see the full list below).
“It is essential that we do not slide out of the Europol cooperation. It is also important that we continue to decide ourselves on asylum and refugee policies,” Rasmussen said on Friday, flanked by the leaders of the five parties behind the deal and Uffe Elbæk of new party The Alternative, who said he supports a 'yes' on the referendum but would prefer to see the opt-out fully dropped.
Although its opt-out keeps Denmark from being obligated to participate in Europe's shared approach to the current migrant crisis, the new 'opt-in' model – if approved – would have no bearing on Denmark's asylum and immigration policies. Instead the opt-in will focus on ensuring Denmark's continued participation in Europol, Eurojust and a European system for registering flight passengers, among other things.
At Friday's press conference announcing the referendum, Rasmussen again emphasized that Denmark will continue to set its own course when it comes to immigration issues.
"The agreement does not make it possible to go along with the EU's joint immigration policies. That is rock solid," he said.
According to reports, Rasmussen decided to hold the referendum sooner rather than later in order to avoid conflation with the UK’s referendum on EU membership, which is expected in 2016. Politiken speculated that with British Prime Minister David Cameron due to propose his reform demands during the EU summit in Brussels in mid-December, Rasmussen is trying to get out ahead of the ‘Brexit bomb’ so that it doesn’t influence Danish voters.
Rasmussen’s Venstre party, typically seen as pro-EU, surprised many when just days before the June 18th election, they joined the Eurosceptic Danish People’s Party (DF) to vow support for Cameron’s negotiations with the EU.
Venstre, DF, the Conservatives and Liberal Alliance released a joint statement saying that they will “stand behind Britain’s, and other like-minded countries’, work to ensure that the EU does not become a social union”.
Many viewed Venstre’s apparent shift as pure election pandering to DF. Since taking power, EU politics have been far from the front of the agenda of Rasmussen’s one-party government.
Another referendum coming?
Denmark was granted four opt-outs from the 1992 Maastricht Treaty: defence; justice and home affairs; the maintaining of the kroner rather than the euro; and an opt-out on citizenship rules that was cancelled out by the Amsterdam Treaty that took effect in 1999.
According to a report in Information newspaper earlier this month, the government also plans to hold a referendum on ending Denmark’s opt-out on the EU's Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP). A Venstre spokesman told the newspaper that the referendum should be held “as soon as possible” but no timetable was given.
Opinion polls have shown that a majority of Danes are in favour of ending the justice and home affairs opt-out.
The full list of legislative files that Denmark will opt in to if the referendum passes is below, courtesy of the Foreign Ministry.
Criminal law and police cooperation
1. Directive 2011/36/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 5 April 2011 on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings and protecting its victims, and replacing Council Framework Decision 2002/629/JHA
2. Directive 2011/92/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 December 2011 on combating the sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children and child pornography, and replacing Council Framework Decision 2004/68/JHA
3. Directive 2013/40/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 August 2013 on attacks against information systems and replacing Council Framework Decision 2005/222/JHA
4. Directive 2014/41/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 3 April 2014 regarding the European Investigation Order in criminal matters
5. Directive 2014/57/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 April 2014 on criminal sanctions for market abuse (market abuse directive)
6. Directive 2014/62/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 May 2014 on the protection of the euro and other currencies against counterfeiting by criminal law, and replacing Council Framework Decision 2000/383/JHA
7. Directive 2011/99/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 December 2011 on the European protection order
Civil, Family and Commercial law
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8. Council Regulation No 1346/2000 of 29 May 2000 on insolvency proceedings
9. Council Regulation (EC) No 1206/2001 of 28 May 2001 on cooperation between the courts of the Member States in the taking of evidence in civil or commercial matters
10. Regulation (EC) No 805/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 April 2004 creating a European Enforcement Order for uncontested claims
11. Regulation (EC) No 1896/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 December 2006 creating a European order for payment procedure.
￼￼12. Regulation (EC) No 861/2007 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 July 2007 establishing a European small claims procedure
13. Regulation (EC) No 864/2007 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 July 2007 on the law applicable to non-contractual obligations (Rome II)
14. Directive 2008/52/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 May 2008 on certain aspects of mediation in civil and commercial matters
15. Regulation (EC) No 593/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 June 2008 on the law applicable to contractual obligations (Rome I)
16. Civil protection Order: European Parliament and Council regulation 606/2013 of 12 June 2013 Regulation on mutual recognition of protection measures in civil matters
17. Regulation (EU) No 655/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 May 2014 establishing a European Account Preservation Order procedure to facilitate cross-border debt recovery in civil and commercial matters
18. Council Regulation (EC) No 2201/2003 of 27 November 2003 concerning jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in matrimonial matters and the matters of parental responsibility
19. Council Regulation (EC) No 4/2009 of 18 December 2008 on jurisdiction, applicable law, recognition and enforcement of decisions and cooperation in matters relating to maintenance obligations
20. Regulation (EC) No 662/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council of
13 July 2009 establishing a procedure for the negotiation and conclusion of agreements between Member States and third countries on particular matters concerning the law applicable to contractual and non-contractual obligations
21. Council regulation No 664/2009 of 7 July 2009 establishing a procedure for the negotiation and conclusion of agreements between Member States and third countries concerning jurisdiction, recognition and enforcement of judgments and decisions in matrimonial matters, matters of parental responsibility and matters relating to maintenance obligations, and the law applicable to matters relating to maintenance obligations
22. Regulation (EU) No 650/2012 on jurisdiction, applicable law, recognition and enforcement of decisions and acceptance and enforcement of authentic instruments in matters of succession and on the creation of a European Certificate of Succession