Denmark is in favor of abolishing its reservation on EU defense issues by a clear majority. The result is clearer than expected – and is a commitment to the EU.

The Danish people have clearly spoken out in favor of the abolition of their country’s so-called EU defense reservation.

In a referendum on Wednesday, almost 67 percent of voters voted to get rid of the reservation that has existed for almost 30 years. After counting almost all the votes cast, the opposing side came to around 33 percent. An overwhelming majority of Danes had voted to abolish the reservation, Social Democrat Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen stated to party friends in Copenhagen that evening.

Denmark can now take part in military missions

This means that Denmark will be able to take part in European security and defense cooperation in the future and thus, for example, in EU military missions. So far, the special regulation, which is unique in the EU, meant that the country could take part in civilian but not in EU military missions or in the joint development of weapons systems, for example.

Against the background of the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine and the resulting change in the security situation in Europe, almost 4.3 million Danes were called on Wednesday to vote on the reservation. Voter turnout was around 66 percent. Most of the Danish parties, including the governing Social Democrats, had spoken out in favor of abolition.

Frederiksen: A clear signal also to Putin

Denmark has sent a very clear signal to its allies in NATO and Europe, but also to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Frederiksen said. “We show that if Putin invades a free and independent country and threatens the stability of Europe, then the rest of us move closer together,” said the head of government.

The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, was among the first to congratulate her. “I am convinced that both Denmark and the EU will benefit from this decision,” she said on Twitter. EU Council President Charles Michel wrote: “The people of Denmark have made a historic decision.”

Only EU country with special status

Denmark is the only EU country with such a special status on defense issues. It has existed since 1993. A year earlier, the Danes had voted against the Maastricht Treaty. The Scandinavian country then negotiated four reservations on EU cooperation in order to stay out of defense issues, among other things. At the second attempt, the people then approved the Maastricht Treaty.

The result now means that Germany’s northernmost neighbor for the first time gets rid of one of its special regulations in a referendum. In 2000, the people voted against the euro, and in 2015 also against EU judicial cooperation.

A few weeks until the special regulation is abolished

The abolition of the defense reservation applies from the day on which the other EU countries have been informed in writing by the Scandinavian country. After the vote, however, it will probably be a few more weeks due to formalities before the special regulation is finally a thing of the past. The Danish parliament in Copenhagen will then take a position on various parts of EU defense cooperation, such as which military operations Denmark would ultimately like to join.

Because of the reservation, Denmark has not yet been part of the Pesco cooperation platform, through which joint military projects are organized by EU countries. Military cooperation in the EU focuses primarily on peacekeeping missions, stability and the training of soldiers from other countries.