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Denmark changes wording of question on EU referendum ballot

The wording of the question on voting ballots for Denmark’s upcoming referendum on its EU defence opt-out is to be changed following objections from politicians opposed to scrapping the opt-out.

Denmark's Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod, center, speaks with Estonia's Foreign Minister Eva-Maria Liimets, right, during a meeting of NATO foreign ministers at NATO in Brussels on April 7th 2022.
Denmark's Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod, center, speaks with Estonia's Foreign Minister Eva-Maria Liimets, right, during a meeting of NATO foreign ministers at NATO in Brussels on April 7th 2022. Photo: Olivier Matthys/AP/Ritzau Scanpix

Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod confirmed to news wire Ritzau on Thursday that the wording would be changed to include the words “EU” and “opt-out”.

In the original version of the ballot, the referendum question was posed as “Do you vote yes or no to Denmark participating in the European collaboration on security and defence?” [Danish: “Stemmer du ja eller nej til, at Danmark kan deltage i det europæiske samarbejde om sikkerhed og forsvar?”, ed.].

According to Kofod, that wording will be changed to “Do you vote yes or no to Denmark participating in the European collaboration on security and defence by revoking the EU defence opt-out?” [Danish: “Vil du stemme ja eller nej til, at Danmark kan deltage i det europæiske samarbejde om sikkerhed og forsvar ved af afskaffe EU forsvarsforbeholdet”, ed.].

”There has been a lot of noise around this ballot paper and I have listened to the debate,” Kofod said.

“So I am now cutting through it and fully meeting the requests of the ‘no’ side. Both ‘EU’ and ‘opt-out’ will be added, which I understand is important for them,” he said.

EU-sceptic parties were most critical of the original wording, with Danish People’s Party leader Morten Messerschmidt calling it “senseless” while Peder Hvelpund of the left-wing Red Green Alliance said it was “playing tricks with democracy”.

But centrist parties including the opposition Liberal party later said they would also be open to reformulating the ballot.

The government in March announced that citizens will vote on whether to overturn Denmark’s opt-out from EU defence policy in a referendum to be held on June 1st, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

READ ALSO: Why does Denmark have four EU ‘opt-outs’ and what do they mean?

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MILITARY

Defence minister would welcome Nato troops in Danish port city

Denmark’s Minister of Defence Morten Bødskov said on Friday he wants to increase the viability of west coast port Esbjerg for use by military alliance Nato, including troops from the United States.

Defence minister would welcome Nato troops in Danish port city

Bødskov visited West Jutland city Esbjerg on Friday as part of considerations over a potential extension of the city’s port, the Ministry of Justice said.

The port city, which also played host to this week’s green energy meetings, has been flagged as the site of a new mustering point for Nato and especially United States military forces, according to a press release from the Ministry of Defence. 

“Russia’s terrible attack on Ukraine makes it very clear that Denmark must live up to expectations that we can act as a host country for allies who want to go through Denmark,” Bødskov said in the statement.

The ministry said that the United States in particular has shown interest in making more use of Esbjerg harbour.

Such use would be part of operations in which the city’s port would be used to transport military personnel and hardware to the Baltic Sea region including the Baltic countries.

Esbjerg Harbour has been used by the American military on a number of previous occasions in relation to exercises, while hardware and personnel have previously travelled through the city.

“Esbjerg Harbour has an attractive location in relation to supporting our Nato allies – particularly the United States – with the deployment of things like hardware in the Baltic Sea region,” he said.

“It’s a good opportunity for Denmark to provide support to countries that send reinforcements to maintain security for all of us,” he said.

The exact plans for the harbour – and their cost – are currently unconfirmed.

Preliminary work at the location will include environmental approvals, which must first be prepared. The Defence Ministry did not give clear detail as to what this process entails.

An extension of the harbour is expected to be complete by the end of 2023, however.

READ ALSO: Denmark begins largest military deployment in 23 years

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