June 26, 2022

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Denmark votes to join the European Union's Common Defense Policy amid fears of Russia's war on Ukraine

Denmark votes to join the European Union’s Common Defense Policy amid fears of Russia’s war on Ukraine

Denmark is the only member of the 27 bloc that is not part of the Common Security and Defense Policy. The Scandinavian country of about 6 million people got exemptions from that policy in a 1993 referendum on the Treaty of Maastricht, which laid the foundation for the modern European Union.

If the Danes, who are known for their criticism of the European Union, vote to cancel the withdrawal, as polls suggest, it would be another important symbolic shift in the defense policy of European countries after Russia launched the invasion in February. After decades of perseverance, Finland and Sweden finally applied to join NATO In May, all of them cited the war in Ukraine as a motivating factor.

A few weeks after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Danish parliament struck a historic agreement to increase defense spending by 7 billion kroner ($1 billion) over the next two years. The same agreement called for the phase-out of Russian gas, as well as called for the current referendum on joining the European Union’s Common Defense Policy.

Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was an important factor that prompted the government to call a referendum, and that the vote was an important value-based decision and a way to signal stronger EU support. The government has spent several weeks campaigning “yes”.

“This is the right decision for our future. We are facing an era of greater uncertainty than we see now, and we have to stand together,” Frederiksen said.

Denmark is a founding member of NATO, but participation in the EU’s Common Security and Defense Policy will enable Denmark to participate in joint EU military operations, such as those in Somalia, Mali and Bosnia.

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“NATO will, of course, remain our most important tool, but the EU gives us another tool to secure our defense in the east,” said Mogens Jensen, a defense spokesman for the ruling Social Democrats.

While the EU would benefit from Denmark’s extensive experience in military operations as part of NATO and other alliances, a yes vote is often seen as a symbolic victory in Brussels, according to Kristian Sobe Christensen, senior researcher at the University of Copenhagen Center for the Army. studies.

“The political importance will outweigh the military contribution,” Christensen told Reuters.

A large majority in Parliament recommends canceling the withdrawal. Wednesday’s vote will be the third by Danish lawmakers to overturn one of the 1993 withdrawal decisions after the vote on the euro in 2000 and Justice and Home Affairs in 2015, both of which failed. This is the ninth vote on EU issues since Denmark voted for European Community membership in 1972.

Despite the serious issues at hand, the referendum generated little controversy among the general public, raising concerns about a low voter turnout.

Initial opinion polls released on Tuesday showed those in favor of withdrawing were in the lead. The opinion poll conducted by the national broadcaster TV2 estimated 65% in favor of 35% against it; Another poll by national radio DR and Altinget estimated 49% in favor, against 31% against. About 1 in 5 Danes were hesitant before the vote, and many expressed difficulties in assessing the consequences.

Among the main concerns expressed by political opponents and the public was the deployment of Danish soldiers, although any major decisions, including military involvement, would still need to be approved by the Danish Parliament.

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The European Union has no plans to create a supranational army within the bloc, but has decided to form a rapid deployment force consisting of up to 5,000 soldiers.

Polling stations close at 8 p.m. local time. The result is expected in the late evening.