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Denmark votes to scrap EU defense opt-out

COPENHAGEN — Denmark voted overwhelmingly to scrap its opt-out from EU security and defense policy in a referendum triggered by Russia’s war in Ukraine. 

Around 69 percent voted in favor of the move while 31 percent were opposed, according to an exit poll published by public broadcaster DR after voting closed on Wednesday evening. Another exit poll published by broadcaster TV2 found that more than 67 percent of Danes voted in favor while 33 percent were against.

The move is a break from longstanding Danish skepticism over further European integration. The country chose in two previous referendums to keep opt-outs on the euro and on justice and home affairs.

The end of the opt-out, which has been in place for 30 years, means that Denmark will be able to take part in joint EU military operations and cooperate on the development and acquisition of military capabilities within the EU.

The move was supported by Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen’s Social Democratic government and nine other parties. Just three parties were in favor of keeping the opt-out, two on the far right and one on the far left.

In a debate Tuesday evening, Frederiksen said she would vote in favor of the move “because there is a war on our Continent, unity is the best response.” 

“When we one day have peace in Ukraine, can one then imagine that it will be necessary to have some kind of peacekeeping force? I think so. And I think it will be the EU that gets the task. If we have a reservation [opt-out], Denmark cannot participate. I think that is wrong,” she added.

The parties opposed to the change warned of additional costs and a loss of sovereignty that could result from integrating with the EU on security and defense. 

Mette Thiesen, an MP from the New Right party, told TV2 that the result was a “pity,” adding that “now it is our job to make sure that the EU-friendly parties are held accountable and don’t send Danish soldiers on dubious EU missions.” 

Official results are expected later on Wednesday night.

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