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Denmark gives ‘clear signal’ with vote on EU defense policy

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Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod has said he expects Denmark to join the European Union’s common defense policy after two-thirds of voters who voted in a referendum backed scrapping a 30-year-old waiver that barred the EU country from entering.

There are “a series of formal steps before Denmark can be admitted” to the defense agreement, Mr Kofod said, including the Danish parliament giving its consent on the referendum result.

The minister said he expects Denmark to be able to join from July 1.

With 100% of votes counted, 66.9% voted in favor of scrapping the opt-out while 33.1% were against, according to figures from Statistics Denmark. The participation rate was 65.76%.

Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said the results were “a clear signal” to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

People vote at the Rude Skov school in Birkeroed, Denmark (Ritzau Scanpix via AP)

The referendum followed the decisions of the other Nordic countries, Sweden and Finland, to apply for NATO membership.

For Denmark, a founding member of the 30-member defense alliance, joining the EU defense policy will have a relatively modest impact on Europe’s security architecture, especially compared to Sweden’s historic candidacies and Finland.

But experts said the two measures reflected the same concerns and would boost military cooperation on a continent stunned by war in Ukraine.

The main effect of dropping the opt-out will be that Danish officials will be able to remain in the room when their EU colleagues discuss defense matters, and that Danish forces will be able to participate in EU military operations , such as those in Africa and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Mr Kofod called the referendum “not good and important”, adding: “Cohesion in Europe is the best answer we can give in the situation in which we find ourselves”.