Tuesday 22 August 2017

Denmark set to reject greater EU ties as exit polls suggest 'No' victory on security referendum

Danes voted on Thursday in a referendum and decide whether the Danish opt-out on EU Justice and Home Affairs should be replaced by an opt-in model Credit: Lasse Kofod/Polfoto (AP)
Danes voted on Thursday in a referendum and decide whether the Danish opt-out on EU Justice and Home Affairs should be replaced by an opt-in model Credit: Lasse Kofod/Polfoto (AP)

Sabina Zawadzki

Denmark is on course to reject closer ties with the European Union after the majority of Danes voted against a referendum on giving over a number of security related issues to the 28-member bloc.

Exit polls, released minutes after voting finished at 7 pm (GMT), show 52.8 pc voted against the country disregarding its decades-old opt-out on justice issues, including terrorism and cross-border crime.

Denmark, Britain and Ireland all won various concessions from the EU in the early 1990s when the modern foundation for the now 28-member bloc was laid, including exemptions from rules governing EU justice and home affairs policies.

In a vote watched by British politicians, who are locked in battle concerning the future of that country's own ties to the EU, Danes were asked to entrust parliament to opt in to some justice and home affairs rules to help fight cross-border crime.

The populist Danish People's Party (DF), now the second-largest faction in parliament, urged Danes to vote "No" to retain its hard-fought-for exemption won in 1993 and avoid giving away sovereignty over security to eurocrats in Brussels.

Analysts said the "Yes" campaign has been lacklustre while the "No" side had a much simpler message of rejection.

"I think it's important we don't give up our sovereignty," said 25-year-old "No" voter Lea Sommer Holmberg at Copenhagen's city hall. "It's important power stays with the people so politicians cannot just do what they want."

Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen casts his ballot for the EU referendum at Nyboder School in Copenhagen Credit: Nils Meilvang/Scanpix (REUTERS)
Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen casts his ballot for the EU referendum at Nyboder School in Copenhagen Credit: Nils Meilvang/Scanpix (REUTERS)

Others point to the size of the Nordic country of 5.5 million people, meaning it needs the shelter of Europe.

"Denmark is a small and lovely country and we need to take care of its best interests. And because we are a small country, we need some bigger friends," said Steen Boring, a man in his 60s who voted "Yes" as polls opened at Copenhagen's city hall.

The vote comes amid heightened security fears across Europe after after 130 people were killed in Paris in attacks claimed by Islamic State militants, and as Europe struggles with a huge influx of refugees from Syria and other countries.

Denmark needs to adopt some EU rules because of reform of Europol will change the way it receives and analyses data.

The ruling centre-right Liberals, ex-ruling Social Democrats, and several other parties agreed on 22 EU laws that Denmark would opt into if the vote is "Yes".

All have stressed the acts do not concern immigration, another part of the justice and home affairs policy from which Denmark is exempt.

That means it does not, for example, have to participate in schemes to resettle refugees.

Reuters

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