Rasmussen wants Danish referendum over EU defence relationship

Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen has said he would accept a Danish referendum on the country’s participation in the EU’s foreign policy on defence.

Rasmussen wants Danish referendum over EU defence relationship
PM Lars Løkke Rasmussen during an election campaign visit to an educational centre. Photo: Ernst Van Norde / Ritzau Scanpix

The PM has long been an advocate of Denmark’s participation in the European Defence Agency and is now suggesting a national referendum on the question during the next parliamentary term, public service broadcaster DR reports.

Denmark currently has an opt-out which makes it the only member state not part of the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy.

“We have to have the discussion and that must naturally done with a view to holding a referendum,” Rasmussen said.

“The Liberal party wants it (a referendum, ed.) and we want the referendum to take place during the next parliamentary term, and we want to win it,” the PM said.

Rasmussen is of the view that participation in joint defence initiatives within the EU will improve Denmark’s capability for defending itself and controlling migration.

Defence Minister Claus Frederiksen, who also represents the Liberal party, also raised the issue this week but did not suggest a referendum.

Due to its current opt-out on participating in joint EU defence, Denmark is not currently part of EU decision-making and activities on defence.

In practical terms, this means that Denmark is cut off from contributing to minor EU military operations and development.

The decision to opt out of the EU’s joint defence work was made via a 1993 referendum on the Edinburgh Agreement, which granted Denmark four exceptions to the Maastricht Treaty. Denmark had rejected the treaty in another referendum the previous year.

The other three exceptions granted to Denmark under the Edinburgh agreement are in the areas of justice, the single currency and European Union citizenship.

The latter opt-out, which stated that European citizenship did not replace national citizenship, was rendered meaningless when the Amsterdam Treaty adopted the same wording for all members.

In late 2015, a referendum in the country resulted in the rejection of a proposal by Rasmussen’s government to beef Denmark’s participation in the EU's justice cooperation.

READ ALSO: Danes reject EU justice rules in referendum


opt-out, exemption — forbehold

(military) defence, army — forsvar

referendum — folkeafstemning

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Denmark to cut wait for family reunion after losing European court case

Denmark is to reduce the amount of time refugees need to wait before apply for family reunification after The European Court of Human Rights ruled that the current "three-year rule" was excessive.

Syrian refugees protest outside Denmark's parliament against Denmark's decision that the area around Damascus is now 'safe'.
Syrian refugees protest outside Denmark's parliament against Denmark's decision that the area around Damascus is now 'safe'. Photo: Liselotte Sabroe/Ritzau Scanpix

In a press release issued on Friday, the country’s immigration ministry said that it would next year submit a bill amending the country’s immigration law, or udlændingeloven to reduce the length of time refugees need to wait before applying for family reunion from three years to two.

But the new law will also contain a clause allowing Denmark to bring back the “three-year rule” at short notice if there is a refugee crisis.

“I of course regret that the verdict went against Denmark,” Mattias Tesfaye, Denmark’s immigration minister, said in statement, adding that he was nonetheless “relieved” that the court had deemed a two-year wait acceptable, and had also left open the possibility of longer waits during periods of extremely high refugee numbers.

“We are working hard to keep our refugee numbers at a record low, but if we today have a situation similar to 2015, we want to be able to lift the limit from two to three years. That is a good tool to have in our toolbox.”

The so-called MA case was brought by the Syrian doctor Mosalam Albaroudi, who arrived in Denmark in 2015 and then five months later applied for family reunification with his wife and was rejected.

The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg ruled on July 9th that the reason for the rejection of his reunification visa was a violation of human rights.

The case concerns a controversial change to Denmark’s laws in 2016, when Denmark’s Parliament (Folketing) passed the so-called “three-year rule” that required refugees to wait three years before applying for family reunification.

That’s why Albaroudi’s application was denied a residence permit for his wife. The decision was upheld by Denmark’s Supreme Court in 2017.

Albaroudi and his lawyer, Christian Dahlager, believed the decision violated the European Convention on Human Rights, and so they continued their efforts to overturn the ruling.

The Convention states that everyone has the right to privacy and family life, and that an authority can restrict this right only if it is necessary in a democratic society to protect a number of essential interests of society. It applies to members of the Council of Europe, to which Denmark belongs.

In its decision, the European Court of Human Rights stated that Denmark’s three-year waiting period has not “struck a reasonable balance between, on the one hand, the applicant’s interest in being reunited with his wife in Denmark and, on the other hand, society’s interest as a whole in being able to control immigration in order to protect the country’s economic well being, to ensure effective integration and to maintain the cohesion of society.”

Sixteen judges voted in favor of Albaroudi, and one judge abstained. The court also awarded Albaroudi compensation of 75,000 kroner.