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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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Poll suggests Danes ready to scrap EU opt-out in referendum

A new poll indicates a majority of Danes is in favour of scrapping the country’s EU defence opt-out in an upcoming referendum.

Poll suggests Danes ready to scrap EU opt-out in referendum

The poll, conducted by Epinion on behalf of broadcaster DR, shows 38 percent of voters in favour of revoking the opt-out, compared with 27 percent who want to retain it.

28 percent said they do not know how they will vote, meaning there is still plenty of potential for both a “yes” and “no” outcome in the June 1st vote.

An earlier poll, conducted in March, put the two sides closer, with 38 percent of eligible voters then saying they would vote ‘yes’ to scrapping the opt-out, with 31 percent saying they would vote ‘no’ and 31 percent saying they didn’t know.

The government announced in March a June 1st referendum in which citizens will decide whether to overturn Denmark’s opt-out from EU defence policy. The referendum was called 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?

In April, the wording of the question on voting ballots for the referendum was changed, following objections from politicians opposed to scrapping the opt-out.

According to a breakdown of the new poll, younger voters and women are the most undecided groups. 20 percent of men said they were unsure how to vote compared to 38 percent of women.

Among 18-34 year-olds, 39 percent were unsure how they would vote compared to 22 percent of voters over the age of 56 who have yet to decide how to cast their votes.

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