The Danish opt-outs

Katrine Prytz Larsen

As a result of the Treaty of Lisbon entering into force, the Danish opt-outs were brought up. The opt-out regarding justice and home affairs and the opt-out regarding common defence were especially debated. According to these two opt-outs, Denmark only participates in EU judicial cooperation at an intergovernmental level and does not participate in the elaboration and implementation of decisions and actions which have defence implications.[1] All four opt-outs were maintained in the Treaty of Lisbon and thus Denmark was precluded from Europol cooperation, including the combating of international crime and terrorism. Furthermore, the opt-out regarding common defence meant that Denmark was unable to participate in the combating of piracy off the coast of Somalia – an issue which has been of great concern to the Danish shipping industry.[2]
The EU debate in Denmark focused mainly on the four Danish opt-outs and the possibility of an upcoming referendum. It was especially discussed how such a referendum ought to go about. The government parties have on a number of occasions argued that all four opt-outs should be voted on together as a full package so as to make it a final decision whether to become a full member of the EU.
The government party’s spokesperson on the EU, Michael Aastrup Jensen, said the next referendum on the Euro could be the last chance for Denmark to become a member of the Euro. Therefore, the Danish government should be careful while deciding on a referendum, since the Danish position might be drawn in a negative direction by the Greek economic crisis.[3] MEP Morten Messerschmidt stressed that Denmark must have the freedom to choose whether it wants to be a member of the Euro or not.

The opposition, on the other hand, argued that the opt-outs should be voted on separately. According to them, a full package referendum would only protract the process of giving up the opt-outs. The Danish European Movement welcomed the idea of a Danish referendum, stating that the opt-out regarding common defence was regarded as detrimental to Danish interests economically, politically, and culturally.[4] The referendum would be the way to find out whether Denmark is now finally willing to become a full member of the EU.[5] They pointed out the Socialist People’s Party as the single most important factor preventing a referendum from becoming a reality.[6]

[1] Folketingets EU-oplysning: The Danish Opt-Outs, available at: (last access: 20 April 2010).

[2] Ibid; Jyllands-Posten: Hvad venter du på, Lars Løkke?, 19 April 2010.

[3] Børsen: Græsk krise skubber dansk euro-afstemning, 8 February 2010.

[4] Jyllands-Posten: Hvad venter du på, Lars Løkke?, 19 April 2010.

[5] Kristeligt Dagblad: Afskaf EU-forbehold, 10 March 2010.

[6] Information: Sig nu ja, SF, 21 April 2010.