Former Danish prime minister and leader of the liberal Moderates Party Lars Loekke Rasmussen voted at a school in Copenhagen
With the war in Ukraine forcing countries in Europe to rethink their security policy, Denmark on Wednesday held a referendum on whether to join the EU’s common defense policy 30 years after opting out.
The vote in the traditionally Eurosceptic Scandinavian country of 5.5 million people comes on the heels of neighboring Finland’s and Sweden’s historic applications for NATO membership.
“Even if Denmark is a fantastic country — in my eyes the best country in the world — we are still a small country, and too small to stand alone in a very, very insecure world,” she said.
More than 65 percent of Denmark’s 4.3 million eligible voters were expected to vote to join the policy, according to an opinion poll published Sunday.
Polls were set to close at eight pm (1800 GMT) with final results due around 11 pm.
The capital’s city hall was busy in the early morning as Danes hurried to vote on their way to work.
Nikolaj Jonsson, a 28-year-old sociology student, was however unhappy with the timing of the referendum, saying it had been called “in times of unrest to emphasize a ‘yes'”.
Denmark has been an EU member since 1973, but it put the brakes on transferring more power to Brussels in 1992 when 50.7 percent of Danes rejected the Maastricht Treaty, the EU’s foundation treaty.
Since then, Denmark has remained outside the European single currency, the euro — which it rejected in a 2000 referendum — as well as the bloc’s common policies on justice, home affairs and defence.
Frederiksen announced the referendum just two weeks after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and after having reached an agreement with a majority of parties in Denmark’s parliament, the Folketing.
At the same time, it also announced plans to increase defense spending to two percent of gross domestic product, in line with NATO membership requirements, by 2033.
“Nobody thought that the government would put the defense opt-out to a national referendum”, she said.
Eleven of Denmark’s 14 parties have urged voters to say “yes” to dropping the opt-out, representing more than three-quarters of seats in parliament.
They have argued that joint European defense would come at the expense of NATO, which has been the cornerstone of its defense of Denmark’s creation in 1949.
Originally published as Danes vote on joining EU defense policy