Danish government promises new referendum in event of supranational EU army

Denmark’s government said on Monday it will hold a fresh referendum on the country’s participation in EU defence and military areas should the union ever decide to establish a supranational army.

Danish foreign minister Jeppe Kofod during a visit to Georgia in March 2022
Danish foreign minister Jeppe Kofod during a visit to Georgia in March 2022. Photo: Ida Marie Odgaard/Ritzau Scanpix

Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod said that the government would guarantee a referendum in such an event, but called the scenario “unthinkable”.

“It is completely unthinkable that there would be a proposal for a treaty with a supranational army. European countries would never accept it,” he said.

“But even if it did happen, I guarantee that the government would insist on a referendum. And the government would recommend that the public vote no (to the treaty),” he said.

The question of an EU army has become topical after 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.

Denmark’s opt-out – retsforbehold in Danish – is one of four EU special arrangements negotiated by the Scandinavian country, and has seen it abstain from participation in EU military operations and from providing support or supplies to EU-led defence efforts.

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

Kofod spoke on the issue after newspaper Jyllands-Posten recently reported that the government would not guarantee a new referendum should the result of the upcoming referendum be to scrap the opt-out, followed by the EU announcing an EU army at some time in the future.

A supranational EU army would represent a significantly larger commitment from member states than the present EU joint military activities.

EU countries can currently choose not to send their soldiers on military missions with the EU, but that right would not exist in a theoretical EU army. That has concerned commentators and EU sceptics who say that the final decision to send Danish soldiers into conflicts should always be in the hands of the Danish parliament.

“I can guarantee that the (governing) Social Democrats would be against making the (military) participation supranational. And I am yet to see any parties in parliament who would not be against it,” Kofod said.

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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