Danish European Union opt-outs referendum

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Denmark holds a number of "opt-outs" from European Union policies. These opt-outs relate to the Common Security and Defence Policy, citizenship, police and justice, and the adoption of the euro. The present government had planned to hold a referendum on abolishing the opt-outs on defence and justice, but not on the euro.[1] However, Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt backed off that commitment in June 2012 citing the "anxiety and uncertainty" surrounding the European project at the time.[2]



One or more referendums on abolishing one or more the opt-outs were announced by Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen in his speech on 22 November 2007 after he won the 2007 parliamentary election.[3] It was not announced whether the referendum would only offer a full repeal of all opt-outs, or a case-by-case choice, and no date was announced, except that it would be before the 2011 Danish parliamentary election.[4] The V/K (Liberal-Conservative) government had been planning to hold a referendum on abolishing the opt-outs (or at least the euro opt-out) since at least 2004, following a favourable change in public opinion, but the discussions and controversy regarding the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe and the Treaty of Lisbon had delayed this.[5]

The referendum was originally expected to be held in the autumn of 2008[6][7][8][9] but following Ireland's rejection of the Treaty of Lisbon, Fogh Rasmussen stated that this would not happen.[10] In early 2009, it was announced that Fogh Rasmussen expected to hold a referendum on Denmark joining the Eurozone in 2010, as he believed it was possible to meet the demands of the Euro-sceptic Socialist People's Party.[11]

Lars Løkke Rasmussen Government[edit]

Following the appointment of Anders Fogh Rasmussen as Secretary General of NATO in 2009, his successor, Lars Løkke Rasmussen, announced that the opt-outs would be put to a referendum "when the time is right", which was seen as an indication that he did not necessarily intend to proceed with a referendum.[12] Following a meeting with the European Commission president José Manuel Barroso in mid-May 2009, Løkke Rasmussen stated that he hoped at least a referendum on the common currency would take place before the next parliamentary elections in 2011.[13][14] At the same time, he said that Denmark was already using the euro (because of the currency peg); but they had decided to call it "danske kroner". However, no referendum was held and Løkke Rasmussen's coalition lost the election in the autumn of 2011.

The leaders of the three largest opposition parties, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, Villy Søvndal, and Margrethe Vestager had suggested that a referendum on abolishing the opt-outs concerning the Common Security and Defence Policy and the Justice and Home Affairs be held on 23 March 2010.[15]

Competitiveness Pact[edit]

During the European sovereign debt crisis in early 2011, during negotiations over a new "Competitiveness Pact" to stabilise the euro and reform economic governance in the European Union, Løkke Rasmussen proposed to hold a referendum on the opt-outs before June 2011 to have a mandate to participate in the negotiations over the Competitiveness Pact. However, some politicians warned that Rasmussen's low popularity might cause the referendum to result in a protest vote against him and his government.[16][17] The Prime Minister's suggestion was criticised by an "expert", claiming that the time for a referendum was ill-chosen, pointing out that Denmark was set to hold general elections later that year.[18] Politiken suggested that this might be his deliberate intention, pointing out that the parties currently in opposition had different opinions on two of the opt-outs (although all parties in the opposition wanted to abolish the defence opt-out). Pia Kjærsgaard, leader of the Dansk Folkeparti, didn't like the Prime Minister's wording.[19]

Helle Thorning-Schmidt government[edit]

After the victory of the left-wing coalition under Thorning-Schmidt in the September 2011 elections, the new government announced that it planned to hold referendums on abolishing the defence opt-out and on either abolishing the justice opt-out or modifying it to a flexible opt-in like that of the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland to allow Denmark to participate in measures which it chooses.[20] However, in June 2012 Thorning-Schmidt announced that she didn't anticipate holding a referendum before a certain amount of stability and order returned to the situation in Europe, possibly not before the end of the government's term.[21] In August 2013, Lars Løkke Rasmussen, the leader of the opposition Venstre (Denmark) proposed that a referendum on the opt-outs of EU defence and justice co-operation, as well as on the Unified Patent Court, leaving opt-outs from European citizenship and the Euro, coincide with the 2014 European election.[22] The proposal was rejected by the Minister for European affairs, Nick Hækkerup, who argued that the timing was not right.[23] In October 2014 Thorning-Schmidt announced plans to hold a referendum on converting the justice opt-out into an opt-in following the next Danish general election due by September 2015, due to concerns that the opt-out would force Denmark to leave Europol.[24][25] The two largest parties in parliament, the Social Democrats and Liberals, reached an agreement that the referendum would be held in early 2016 regardless of the outcome of the election.[26]


Further information: Opt-outs in the European Union

Denmark obtained four opt-outs from the Maastricht Treaty following the treaty's initial rejection in a 1992 referendum. The opt-outs are outlined in the Edinburgh Agreement and concern the Economic and monetary union (EMU), the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) and the citizenship of the European Union. With these opt-outs the Danish people accepted the treaty in a second referendum held in 1993.

The EMU opt-out means that Denmark is not obliged to participate in the third phase of the European Exchange Rate Mechanism, that is, to replace the Danish krone with the euro. The abolition of the euro opt-out was put to a referendum in 2000 and was rejected. The CSDP opt-out originally meant Denmark would not be obliged to join the Western European Union (which originally handled the defence tasks of the EU). Now it means that Denmark does not participate in the European Union's foreign policy where defence is concerned. Hence it does not take part in decisions, does not act in that area and does not contribute troops to missions conducted under the auspices of the European Union.[27] The JHA opt-out exempts Denmark from certain areas of home affairs. Significant parts of these areas were transferred from the third European Union pillar to the first under the Amsterdam Treaty; Denmark's opt-outs from these areas were kept valid through additional protocols. Acts made under those powers are not binding on Denmark except for those relating to the Schengen Agreement, which are instead conducted on an intergovernmental basis with Denmark. The citizenship opt-out stated that European citizenship did not replace national citizenship; this opt-out was rendered meaningless when the Amsterdam Treaty adopted the same wording for all members. Under the Treaty of Lisbon, Denmark can change its opt-out from a complete opt-out to the case-by-case opt-in version applying to Ireland and the United Kingdom whenever they wish.[28]

Polls and analysis[edit]

In November 2007, the social-liberal broadsheet Politiken was in favour of a referendum and supported a case-by-case vote on all four opt-outs; it saw the possibility to break the "yes-or-no" deadlock over EU politics in Denmark.[29][30] In January 2008, the liberal-conservative broadsheet Jyllands-Posten supported Denmark abolishing all four opt-outs.[31]

A poll from early June 2008 saw a clear majority in favour of repealing the defence and judicial issues opt-outs, a very close race regarding the euro and a clear majority against repealing the citizenship opt-outs.[32] Following an increase in support for abolishing the opt-outs, support dropped in mid-May 2009; in January 2009, 49.8% were in favour of having the Euro as Danish currency, dropping to 45.2% against and 43.7% in favour in May 2009.[33] Support for abolishing opt-outs on legal and defence cooperation has also dwindled to equal numbers pro and against.[33]

Afterwards support for abolishing the opt-outs increased again. As of October 2009, there was a majority in favour of abolishing each one of the four opt-outs, the only difference being in the size of majority: Absolute majorities were in favour of entering the Eurozone (50% in favour, 43% opposed) and of a Common European Defence (66% in favour, 21% opposed). There were relative majorities in favour of judicial cooperation (47% in favour, 35% opposed) and European Citizenship (40% in favour, 30% opposed). When asked, how they would vote when they had to decide about all four opt-outs in a package, a relative majority of 42% would vote in favour of abolishing the opt-outs and 37% would vote in favour of keeping the opt-outs.[34]

Following the European sovereign debt crisis, particularly the financial market turmoil of 2011, support for the euro dropped dramatically.[35]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Brand, Constant (13 October 2011). "Denmark scraps border-control plans". European Voice. Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  2. ^ "Danish prime minister skips referendum commitments". EU Observer. 26 June 2012. Retrieved 26 June 2012. 
  3. ^ Olsen, Jan M. (22 November 2007). "Denmark to Hold New Referendum on Euro". Associated Press. Retrieved 2007-11-22. [dead link]
  4. ^ Charter, David (30 October 2008). "Denmark currency crisis prompts euro re-think – Times Online". London: Business.timesonline.co.uk. Retrieved 2009-01-22. 
  5. ^ Parker, George; Eaglesham, Jean and Benoit, Betrand (1 January 2003). "Danes face second referendum on joining euro". Financial Times. Retrieved 2007-10-17. 
  6. ^ Danish PM says possible autumn referendum on EU opt-outs — EUbusiness.com – business, legal and economic news and information from the European Union[dead link]
  7. ^ "Europa – Nachrichten – Kopenhagen strebt in die Euro-Zone". FTD.de. 17 March 2008. Retrieved 2010-12-17. 
  8. ^ Lisbeth Kirk. "EUobserver.com". EUobserver.com. Retrieved 2010-12-17. 
  9. ^ "Besked om EU-afstemning efter sommer" (in Danish). Politiken. 11 June 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-11. 
  10. ^ "Fogh aflyser EU-afstemninger" (in Danish). Politiken. 7 August 2008. Retrieved 2008-08-07. 
  11. ^ "Fogh klar til eurovalg næste år" (in Danish). Politiken. 22 January 2009. Retrieved 2009-01-22. 
  12. ^ "S og R raser over Løkkes EU-nøl" (in Danish). DR. 14 April 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-15. 
  13. ^ "Løkke R.: Euro-vote this term?". Politiken. 13 May 2009. Retrieved 2009-05-19. 
  14. ^ "Løkke: Vi skal stemme om euroen" (in Danish). Politiken. 13 May 2009. Retrieved 2009-05-24. 
  15. ^ "Oppositionen vil stemme om EU-forbehold" (in Danish). Politiken. 24 November 2009. Retrieved 2009-11-25. 
  16. ^ http://euobserver.com/9/31912/?rk=1
  17. ^ [1]
  18. ^ http://politiken.dk/politik/ECE1211676/ekspert-loekkes-varslede-eu-afstemning-er-daarlig-timing/
  19. ^ http://politiken.dk/politik/ECE1212057/pia-kjaersgaard-loekke-taler-sort/
  20. ^ Pop, Valentina (4 October 2011). "New Danish government rolls back border controls". EUObserver.com. Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  21. ^ Lauritzen, Thomas; Jens Bostrup (26 June 2012). "Thorning udskyder afstemning om EU-forbehold". Politiken (in Danish). Retrieved 26 June 2012. 
  22. ^ "Danish opposition agrees to quick EU referendum". 2013-08-12. Retrieved 2013-09-26. 
  23. ^ "PM rejects opposition call for swift EU referendum". Copenhagen Post. 2013-08-13. Retrieved 2013-09-26. 
  24. ^ Steensbeck, Bjarne (2014-10-07). "Regeringen gør klar til opgør med retsforbeholdet". DR. Retrieved 2014-10-08. 
  25. ^ "Danish PM postpones EU referendum". EurActive. 2014-10-08. Retrieved 2014-10-08. 
  26. ^ "Denmark moves closer to EU referendum on justice rules". Reuters. 2014-12-10. Retrieved 2014-12-10. 
  27. ^ Motivations and consequences of the Danish CSDP opt-out (Revue Stratégique n. 91–92): http://www.stratisc.org/Strategique_91-92_TDM.htm
  28. ^ Europolitics (7 November 2007). "Treaty of Lisbon – Here is what changes!". Europolitics № 3407. Archived from the original on 27 November 2007. Retrieved 2007-11-22. 
  29. ^ Politiken mener » Blog Arkiv » Hvornår & hvordan - EU à la carte[dead link]
  30. ^ Courrier internati onal, eurotopics : the european press in 3 languages[dead link]
  31. ^ sp?langue=uk&publication=16/01/2008&cat=POLITICS&pi=2#2 Courrier international, eurotopics : the european press in 3 languages[dead link]
  32. ^ "Danes Assess Reversion of EU Exemptions: Angus Reid Global Monitor". Retrieved 2008-08-07. 
  33. ^ a b "Poll: Danes say no to euro". Politiken. 19 May 2009. Retrieved 2009-05-19. 
  34. ^ The above mentioned percentages do not sum up to 100%; the option "doesn't know / doesn't want to answer" accounts for the difference. In a vote however (as opposed to a poll) only "yes" and "no" answers are counted, which means all the above questions would get an absolute majority of "yes" in favour of repealing the opt-outs. |url=http://img.borsen.dk/img/cms/cmsmedia/857_content_2_3900.pdf
  35. ^ Wienberg, Christian (27 September 2011). "Debt Crisis Pushes Danish Euro Opposition to Record, Poll Shows". Bloomberg. Retrieved 18 October 2011.