Danish Citizens Vote to Join Common EU Defense Policy

A referendum held on Wednesday June 1, is brining Denmark into the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) of the European Union. For 30 years, Denmark had refused to join in fear that the CSDP may serve to undermine NATO and has expressed opposition to initiatives like a European army which could be seen as an alternative to transatlantic cooperation. However, in light of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and with the growing tolerance or even support by the US for EU-level security arrangements, Denmark has joined Finland and Sweden in rethinking traditional defense policy.

Danish soldiers in Estonia celebrate Estonian independence day alongside other NATO partners (Forsvaret)

Only about 2 in 3 Danes eligible to vote turned out for the referendum, a low number by Danish standards. However, the result was overwhelmingly in support of joining the CSDP. 67% of valid votes were in support of the motion – a supermajority.

Denmark has a long history of opting out of a number of key EU common policies. Denmark remains outside the Eurozone and has not committed itself to a number of key trans-EU policies related to EU citizenship, justice and policing. Support for joining the CSDP grew in the 2000s, a small majority supporting joining in 2008. After that year, however, support declined and the electorate ended up about evenly split on the matter for over a decade. It was the war in Ukraine which completely upended this balance.

Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen (News Øresund – Erik Ottosson © News Øresund – Erik Ottosson (CC BY 3.0))

Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen strongly supported joining the CSDP and the initiative managed to secure the support of 11 of the 14 parties represented in Denmark’s parliament. Following the passing of the referendum, Frederiksen addressed supporters:

“Tonight, Denmark has sent a very important signal. To our allies in Europe and NATO, and to Putin. […] We’re showing that when Putin invades a free country and threatens stability in Europe, we others pull together.”

Danish officials have assured that, with the change in policy, Denmark remains committed to NATO as the primary defense mechanism for Europe and sees the CSDP as a supplement to NATO. The Danish parliament has also voted recently to raise the defense budget to 2% of the GDP by 2033.