Denmark will join EU defense policy in the latest overhaul of Europe’s security architecture following Russia’s full-scale war on Ukraine.
In the biggest ever pro-EU vote in the traditionally Eurosceptic Scandinavian country, 67% of Danes voted to end the opt-out in a landmark referendum.
It is the first time in three attempts that Denmark has voted to end one of its hard-won waivers after rejecting the Maastricht Treaty in 1992, and comes two weeks after Finland and Sweden submitted requests membership in NATO.
“Denmark tonight sent a very important signal – to our allies in Europe and to [Russian president Vladimir] Cheese fries. We show that when Putin invades a free country and threatens the stability of Europe, then the rest of us come closer,” Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said on Wednesday evening.
Analysts said the Danish referendum and Finnish and Swedish decisions to seek NATO membership should lead to a strengthening of the Nordic region and its influence in Europe.
“It is a strong signal that Denmark is united with Ukraine and our allies in the fight for freedom and democracy,” said Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the former Danish Prime Minister and NATO Secretary General. .
Denmark’s centre-left government has argued that the Scandinavian country must be at the heart of Europe, especially after Russia’s full invasion of Ukraine.
Copenhagen still sees NATO as its main defense and security tool, but is currently excluded from discussions on EU policy in this area and cannot participate in the bloc’s missions, mainly in Africa and the Balkans.
Denmark has held two referendums on scrapping its two other opt-out options – on the euro in 2000 and on justice and home affairs in 2015 – but in both cases they voted no.
Copenhagen is increasing its military budget and opening up to allow foreign troops to train and train on its soil for the first time since the 1950s in a huge shift in defense policy across the Europe.
“The Danish people have made a historic choice. The world has changed since Russia invaded Ukraine. This decision will benefit Europe and make the EU and the Danish people safer and stronger,” said Charles Michel, President of the European Council.
All of the other 26 EU members participate in the bloc’s defense policy, which some politicians, like French President Emmanuel Macron, have tried to elevate.
Opponents of ending the opt-out have argued that Denmark should rely solely on NATO. The no is a crushing defeat for the nationalist Danish People’s Party, whose support has dwindled since the current Social Democratic government began copying its tough immigration policies.
“The Danes have chosen cooperation in this incredibly complicated situation we find ourselves in. I am very happy about that,” Health Minister Magnus Heunicke said.
Many had seen Denmark as a possible candidate to follow the UK out of the EU, but even the Danish People’s Party walked away from Dexit, while the government moved from London to Berlin on a number of policies .
Lykke Friis, director of think tank Europa and former centre-right minister, said: “The most important message is that since 2016 we have seen a very big shift towards EU membership. What we are seeing now is also a major effect on Ukraine.