How Europe reacted to Denmark's vote to end EU defence opt-out

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How Europe reacted to Denmark's vote to end EU defence opt-out
A press conference at Christiansborg on 1st June 2022, after a referendum shows people in Denmark favour joining EU defence operations. Photo: Philip Davali/Ritzau Scanpix

European leaders have reacted positively to Denmark's vote to scrap its EU opt-out from security and defence policy in an historic referendum triggered by Russia’s war in Ukraine. 


“Tonight Denmark has sent a very important signal. To our allies in Europe and NATO, and to (Russian President Vladimir) Putin. We’re showing, that when Putin invades a free country and threatens the stability in Europe, we others pull together,” Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen told cheering supporters on Wednesday evening.

“There was a Europe before February 24th, before the Russian invasion, and there is another Europe after”, she said after the results came in.

“When there is once again war on our continent, you can’t be neutral,” she said.


EU chiefs Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel on Wednesday welcomed Denmark’s “historic choice” to join the bloc’s joint defence policy, after almost 67 percent voted in favour on Wednesday.

Charles Michel, President of the European Council, hailed the country's "historic choice" on Twitter.

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the vote sent a "strong message of commitment to our common security," and that both Denmark and the EU would benefit.


Defence policy change

Wednesday's referendum is part of a change in defence policy across the Nordic region, after the invasion of Ukraine by Russia on 24th February 2022.

In May, Sweden and Finland officially announced their joint application for Nato membership as a deterrent against Russian aggression, entering a "new era" as it reverses two centuries of military non-alignment.

Germany's government and conservative opposition have agreed a deal to release €100 billion to modernise the army in the face of the Russian threat.

"I think one should not underestimate the importance of Germany in Danish politics," Kristian Soeby Kristensen of Copenhagen University's Centre for Military Studies told BBC News. 

Germany's Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock praised Denmark's referendum results.

Denmark's own Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod reiterated cohesion in Europe.

"The Danes have spoken. We can now fully participate in European cooperation on security and defence. And thus take greater responsibility for the safety of our own immediate area.

"It is a good and important step. Cohesion in Europe is the best answer we can give in the situation we are in", he said in a statement.



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