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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Danish authorities can send sirens to phones with new alert system

A new digital warning system takes effect in Denmark from April.

Danish authorities can send sirens to phones with new alert system

Each May, Denmark tests the physical sirens that authorities can use to warn the population if there is an emergency situation.

That system will next month be supplemented by a digital version that will enable Danish authorities to send siren sounds and warning messages to smartphones, broadcaster DR reports.

With the new system, which is named S!RENEN, authorities will be able to send emergency messages to all phones within a selected local, regional or national area without those phones needing any specific apps to receive them.

“With this system we have a way to send out warnings that goes straight to the individual’s mobile phone and as well as being able to hear the physical sirens, the message will state what’s happened,” director of the Danish Fire Services (Beredskabsstyrelsen) Laila Reenberg told DR.

The messages will be one-way and so it will not be possible to reply to them. The siren noise they will make can be switched off by tapping the message.

The text of the messages can include safety advice and instructions as well as information about the situation.

Authorities do not receive data about mobile devices or their locations when the messages are sent.

“You don’t go in to the individual’s phone. It’s just a signal that goes in and not a registration of any kind,” Reenberg said.

The launch of the system will mean Denmark comes in line with a 2018 EU directive requiring the ability to warn all residents within the EU via their mobile phones in the event of a crisis or catastrophe.

Denmark’s version of the system will enable foreign SIM-cards within the affected area to receive an English-language version of the message.

The messages will go through to telephones even if they are set to silent or flight mode.

Because children with phones will also receive the messages, parents should consider speaking to kids about the possibility of receiving one, according to the head of the national parents’ association FOLA.

“You should start by saying to them that this was decided a long time before the war in Ukraine broke out, so remember to underline that it’s not because a war has broken out close to them that they are getting this alarm,” Signe Nielsen of FOLA, which provided input in the development of the system, told DR.

“We asked ourselves if we would be happy if our children didn’t get these messages, and we wouldn’t. They also need to know if there’s something like poisonous smoke and they have to go inside and find an adult,” she said.

An information campaign for the public, including children, is set to take place before the system launches in April.

READ ALSO: Danish authorities issue information to Ukrainians ahead of annual siren test