Helle Thorning Schmidt (centre) was flanked by (l-r) Pia Olsen Dyhr, Morten Østergaard, Lars Løkke Rasmussen and Søren Pape Paulsen at Wednesday's press conference. Photo: Jonas Skovbjerg Fogh/Scanpix
With the prospect of Denmark no longer being a part of Europol's cross-border police cooperation as a result of the country’s EU opt-out, both PM Helle Thorning-Schmidt and opposition leader Lars Løkke Rasmussen pledged to Danes on Wednesday that both leaders would follow through on a referendum on Denmark’s relationship to the EU.
“Denmark risks no longer being a part of the EU’s police cooperation. That is not particularly good, as that cooperation ensures that we can remain one step ahead of criminal offenders, human traffickers and organised crime,” Thorning-Schmidt said at a press conference on Wednesday, where the Social Democrats’ leader was flanked by Venstre's Rasmussen and the leaders of the Social Liberals (Radikale), the Socialist People’s Party and the Conservatives.
In a joint statement sent out by the five political parties, they stressed that “Denmark should be as close to the core of the EU as possible.”
“We are in agreement that Denmark’s interests and values are best safeguarded through strong European cooperation,” the statement reads.
The parties said “it will be a serious problem for the safety and security of all Danes if Denmark is required to leave Europol.”
Concretely, the agreement calls for a referendum that will ask Danes to vote on changing Denmark’s opt-out to an opt-in agreement that will allow Denmark to be part of the Europol cooperation while maintaining sovereignty in immigration and asylum policies.
Under the proposed arrangement, Thorning-Schmidt said that every time the European Commission puts forth a law proposal, Denmark should be able to choose whether or not it wants to go along.
Both Thorning-Schmidt and Rasmussen agreed that the referendum would be held no later than March 2016, regardless of who comes out on top in the next parliamentary election, which must be held no later than September.
An opinion poll conducted last month for Jyllands-Posten newspaper found that 55.3 percent of Danes are ready to end Denmark’s EU justice opt-out.
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.
Denmark last held a referendum on its relationship to the EU in 2000, when voters once again rejected the euro.