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.

A campaign placard in denmark
A campaign placard in Herlev on May 7th 2022 ahead of Denmark's June 1st referendum on its EU defence opt-out. Photo: Claus Bech/Ritzau Scanpix

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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Why high inflation is a headache for Denmark’s government

Denmark’s government faces a difficult dilemma in the face of spiralling food and fuel prices.

Why high inflation is a headache for Denmark’s government

The government faces a thorny problem as it decides how to respond to the ongoing inflation, according to an analyst.

“To respond passively to inflation with a general election coming relatively soon would be very difficult,” Erik Holstein, commentator with Danish political media Altinget, told news wire Ritzau.

Danish inflation hit a near four-decade high in April, as energy and food prices soared, official figures showed Tuesday.

READ ALSO: Food and energy prices rocket as Danish inflation hits 40-year high

Denmark’s consumer price index (CPI), rose 6.7 percent in April, compared to a year earlier, the highest rate since June 1984, according to Statistics Denmark.

Prices of goods have meanwhile risen by 10.3 percent over the past year, a rate last matched in November 1982, the official statistics keeper said.

“Within goods, price increases for electricity, food, fuel and gas are very much evident in April 2022,” the agency said in a statement.

Excluding energy and unprocessed foodstuffs, Danish consumer prices rose 3.6 percent, which is still up from 3.2 percent in March.

While prices are increasing at breakneck speeds, economists have warned against the government and parliament sending one-off cash benefits to sectors of the population affected by the high prices.

“This is a devil of a problem for the government because there is no good solution to it. And politically, remaining passive would go against the distribution politics the government stand for,” Holstein said.

The government has earlier proposed paying a one-off sum of 5,000 kroner to 290,000 senior citizens who receive a social benefit known as ældrecheck (elderly cheque).

But economists have warned that such a measure could make the inflation problem worse.

READ ALSO: Danish central bank director says cash help for high prices will cause inflation

“The government could certainly explain to voters (why) it is not responding to inflation with economic help but there would be a lot of dissatisfaction amongst those groups,” Holstein said.

“Economists are right that it could potentially make the problem worse,” he said.

Withdrawing the proposal to send money to senior citizens could already cost votes for the government, he added.

“And they have to think about the upcoming election,” he said. Denmark is scheduled to vote in a general election by June 2023.

“The high inflation is not the government’s fault but it’s the government that will be given responsibility if it fails to solve the problems of individual voters,” he said.