August 5, 2015 / 12:17 PM / 4 years ago

Danish government plans referendum on EU defence opt-out

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Denmark plans to hold a referendum on ending its opt-out from the European Union’s Common Security and Defence Policy, Defence Minister Carl Holst was quoted on Wednesday as saying.

Ending the opt-out would enable Denmark to take part in joint EU military operations and to cooperate on development and acquisition of military capabilities within the EU framework. It would also allow Denmark, a NATO member, to participate in decisions and planning in this area.

“The government wants to end the defence opt-out. It was also the recommendation of the latest defence committee that we join in,” Holst told Wednesday’s edition of the Information daily.

Holst, from the centre-right, pro-EU Liberals who took power in June, was not available to comment further but a defence ministry spokeswoman confirmed the referendum plan.

Holst gave no date for the vote, but the Liberals’ political spokesman Peter Juel Jensen said it would take place shortly after another planned referendum on ending Denmark’s exemption from EU justice rules. That vote is expected before the end of 2015.

Denmark won exemptions from some EU policy areas, including the euro currency and defence policy, in a 1993 referendum on the Maastricht Treaty that laid the groundwork for the modern European Union.

Both votes will be closely watched across the EU, especially as a prelude to Britain’s attempt to renegotiate the terms of its membership and hold a referendum by the end of 2017 on whether to stay in the 28-nation bloc.

The right-wing Danish People’s Party (DF), which performed well in the June election but remains in opposition, had pushed for a British-style referendum on whether Denmark should remain in the EU.

Reporting by Ole Mikkelsen; Editing by Gareth Jones

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