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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

Danish court convicts suspected pirate for attack on sailors

A Copenhagen court on Monday found a suspected Nigerian pirate guilty of endangering the lives of Danish navy sailors in a firefight in the Gulf of Guinea but did not punish him.

Danish court convicts suspected pirate for attack on sailors

The Nigerian, who has not been identified, was arrested in November last year when the Danish frigate Esbern Snare was patrolling international waters off Nigeria to protect merchant ships.

Its sailors attempted to board a suspected pirate vessel from a helicopter and a firefight ensued.

The suspect received leg injuries and was brought to Denmark to receive medical care, the first time the Scandinavian country has transferred a piracy suspect to its territory.

He was put on trial after needing a leg ampution and had faced up to one and a half years in prison, but prosecutors did not charge him with piracy.

Three other suspects were detained after the fight but later released. Four others were killed and a fifth fell overboard, the Danish authorities said.

The prosecution did not accuse the defendant of firing on the Danish sailors but argued that as a member of the suspected pirate gang, he had “caused imminent danger to the lives of the Danish helicopter crew”.

Defence lawyer Jesper Storm Thygesen argued that his client should be acquitted because the Danish navy had fired first.

The court found the man guilty but ruled against handing down any punishment because of his health and his suspected accomplices had been released.

The individual will remain in custody until at least December 20th when the
deadline for appeal expires.

The Gulf of Guinea, which stretches 5,700 kilometres from Senegal to Angola, has been a troubled area for shipping companies.

In 2020, there were 115 skirmishes in the region, according to the Maritime Information Cooperation and Awareness Center.

That fell to 52 in 2021 and to 20 since the start of 2022.

READ ALSO: Denmark to commence trial of suspected pirate

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