Denmark has held eight European Union (EU) referenda.

Referendum  Yes %   No %   Result 
Denmark’s Accession to the EEC (1972)  63.4%  36.6%   Passed 
The Single European Act (1986)  56.2%  43.8%  Passed
The Maastricht Treaty (1992)  49.3%  50.7%  Failed
The Edinburgh Agreement (1993)
 56.7%  43.3%   Passed
The Amsterdam Treaty (1998)
 55.1%  44.9%  Passed
Denmark’s Accession to the Single European Currency (2000)
 46.8%   53.2%  Failed
The Unified Patent Court (2014)  62.5%  37.5%  Passed
JHA Opt-Out (2015)
 46.9%  53.1%  Failed
 

Denmark’s Accession to the EEC (1972) 

The European Economic Community, which started as a regional organization with the goal to lead economic integration amongst its members, was initially created through the Treaty of Rome of 1957. Denmark applied to join the European Economic Community on 10 August 1961, wanting to secure its agricultural exports to the United Kingdom. Because Denmark, along with Ireland, were so economically tied to the UK, joining the EEC was deemed necessary if the UK joined. The first time the UK tried joining the EEC, their attempt was vetoed by French President Charles de Gaulle in 1961. The UK was officially granted EC membership on 1 January 1973 as a result of the Treaty of Accession. 

Once the European Union was founded in 1993, the EEC was renamed to the European Community (EC). The idea of the EEC was to bring economic integration in the forms of a common market to its members. 

Denmark was initially hesitant in becoming a member of the European Community. Worried that joining would cause harm to the Scandinavian democratic and social pattern, Denmark voted on whether to join the European Economic Community (EEC) or not in October 1972. The referenda passed, with 63.4% of voters voting ‘yes’, and 36.6% voting ‘no’ with a turnout of 90.1%.

 

The Single European Act (1986) 

The Single European Act (SEA) of 1986 was approved by 56.2% of votes, with a voter turnout of 75.4%. Under the SEA, member states were accountable for completing the Common Market, currently referred to as the Single Market (or Internal Market) by protecting a free movement of goods, persons, services and capital (the ‘four freedoms’).  To reach this goal, initiatives were negotiated in the Council and passed with qualified majority voting. The goal of the SEA was to establish a single market within the European Community. In order to accomplish this, the SEA reformed legislation from the Treaty of Rome by proposing cooperation procedures as well as stretching the qualified majority voting to new areas. The SEA expected to abolish barriers and boost consensus and competitiveness among its countries.

The Maastricht Treaty (1992) 

The Maastricht Treaty, which is officially known as the Treaty of Europe, was established to bring ‘a new stage in the process of creating an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe’. The goal of the treaty was to create a single currency across European states, establish European citizenship, build a common foreign and security policy, and allow for closer assistance between the police and the judiciary in criminal matters. The treaty set the framework for the establishment of the European Union.  However, the referendum on the Maastricht Treaty was rejected by 50.7% of voters in Denmark, which was seen as a setback in the process of European integration, as the treaty could only pass if all members of the European Union ratified it. The lack of support for the referenda was seen as a shock to the Danish ‘establishment’ which included major interest groups such as Danish industry, Danish agriculture, and major parties. In the period immediately following the failed referendum, there was a sense of confusion as there was a lack of clear alternatives as well as the potential prospect of leaving the EC/EU.

 

The Edinburgh Agreement (1993)

In the months following the failed referendum, Denmark negotiated new terms in the Edinburgh Agreement, which provided Denmark with four exceptions to the treaty to appease some of the Eurosceptics. The new referendum included the major parties and a compromise led to the formation of a Danish EC/EU policy that both accepted the Maastricht Treaty as well as outlined four ‘reservations’ or ‘opt-outs’. This ratification of the Maastricht Treaty, known as the Edinburgh Agreement, was passed in a 1993 referendum (18 May 1993).  

The referendum states that Denmark receives four opt-outs which include the EMU, the Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP), Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) and citizenship of the European Union. With the opt-outs included, Denmark passed the amendment in a second referendum in 1993. 

Through these opt-outs, Denmark does not participate in the third phase of the economic and monetary union, which would have required Danish currency to switch from the Danish kroner to the euro. 

The second opt-out deals with common defense, and stipulates that Denmark does not participate in the discussion and implementation of decisions and actions that have defense implications.

The third opt-out that Denmark agreed to relates to Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) which states that Denmark is only involved in EU judicial cooperation at an intergovernmental level, exempting them from certain areas regarding home affairs.
Lastly, the third opt-out in the Edinburgh Agreement relates to union citizenship. Through this, Denmark stated that union citizenship is a supplement, not a replacement, to national citizenship. 

 

The Amsterdam Treaty (1997)

The Amsterdam Treaty was signed on 2 October 1997 and redefined certain aspects of the European Union that had been established in the Maastricht Treaty. The central concepts from this treaty were to increase the powers of the European Parliament in order to raise the democratic legitimacy of the EU institutions. The European Parliament’s legislative powers continued to develop through a significant extension of the co-decision procedure meaning that the European Parliament became a co-equal legislator with the Council in numerous areas.

The treaty included Security and Justice reforms such as the establishment of a common foreign and security policy. Since Denmark participated in the Schengen Agreement, it took an active role in the negotiations of the treaty. A 1998 referendum was held to determine Danish acceptance of the Amsterdam Treaty, with 55.1% of voters saying ‘yes’. 

The treaty also gave member states the ability to make decisions in regards to the integration of their asylum, immigration, border control and civil law policies. Through the treaty, parts of the Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) portfolio were moved to EC cooperation, leading to the Danish opt-out for border control. 

Under the Amsterdam Treaty, The European Parliament was also granted the ability to approve the appointment of the Commision President as a result of the treaty. The Commission’s powers grew as well, bolstered by the formation of new community competences, the ‘communitarisation’ of immigration, visa and asylum policies and the addition of a shared right of an initiative between member states and the Commission for other third-pillar (Justice of Home Affairs) policies.

Denmark’s accession to the Single European Currency (2000)

Denmark uses the Danish krone as its currency instead of the euro, as it negotiated the opt-out of the euro through the Maastricht Treaty. In 2000, the government held a referendum to introduce the euro, which was defeated with 48.6% of voters voting ‘yes’, and 53.2% of voters voting ‘no’. The Danish krone is part of the European Exchange Rate (ERM) II mechanism, and as a result, the krone is tied to within 2.25% of the euro.

 The Unified Patent Court (2015)
The Unified Patent Court is a court similar to the Contracting Member States and is thereby part of its judicial system. The Court has exclusive rights in regards to European patents and European patents with unitary effect. Rulings under the Court have effect in the Contracting Member States due to the UPC Agreement at the time. In regards to other national patents, the Court does not have any jurisdiction. The agreement was open to any member state of the European Union but is not available to states not part of the EU. 

Denmark signed the Agreement on a Unified Patent Court on 19 February 2013 with the other members of the European Union. The agreement had to be ratified by 13 states, including France, Germany and the U.K., as well as include an adaptation of the Brussels I regulation before the agreement could be enforced. The Court has not started its work since all of the member states have not yet ratified it.
 

The Unified Patent Court (2014)

The Unified Patent Court is a court similar to the Contracting Member States and is thereby part of its judicial system. The Court has exclusive rights in regards to European patents and European patents with unitary effect. Rulings under the Court have effect in the Contracting Member States due to the UPC Agreement at the time. In regards to other national patents, the Court does not have any jurisdiction. The agreement was open to any member state of the European Union but is not available to states not part of the EU. 

Denmark signed the Agreement on a Unified Patent Court on 19 February 2013 with the other members of the European Union. The agreement had to be ratified by 13 states, including France, Germany and the U.K., as well as include an adaptation of the Brussels I regulation before the agreement could be enforced. The Court has not started its work since all of the member states have not yet ratified it.
 

 

2015 Opt-Ins on Justice and Home Affairs (2015)

In a referendum on 3 December 2015, Denmark voted ‘no’ to joining the EU Justice and Home Affairs cooperation under similar terms as the United Kingdom had adopted following the Maastricht Treaty. After Denmark was granted four opt-outs as agreed in the Edinburgh Agreement, the Danish Parliament was concerned that these opt-outs were restrictive of Danish interests within the EU. Since the signing of the Amsterdam Treaty (or the Treaty of Amsterdam) from 1997, many issues related to JHA have been decided by qualified majority voting rather than being decided by unanimity. As a result of this, Denmark has been unable to participate in these decisions as a result of the opt-outs outlined in the Edinburgh Agreement. The political parties in Denmark were unhappy with having to concede with the drawn-out and intricate procedures of having to achieve parallel agreements with the EU on an individual basis. Furthermore, although Denmark is a participant of the European police cooperation (Europol), the rules surrounding Europol were shifting in 2015, and these changes were to be determined by qualified majority voting, which suggested that Denmark would not be a participant in Europol under the new terms. This, along with other problems Denmark was facing in regards to JHA cooperation, including anti-terrorism activity, established the circumstances that led to the calling for a referendum.

The goal of the referenda was to determine whether Denmark should agree to the JHA under the same terms as the United Kingdom, including the opportunity to join policy decisions that were advantageous without having to be forced to take part. All of Denmark’s political parties support ‘yes’ with the exception of the Danish People’s Party, the Red-Green alliance and the Liberal alliance. If the referendum passed, it was agreed that Denmark would opt-in to the 22 existing regulations on legal cooperation, which included Europol. However, no decisions regarding asylum or refugee policy were to be decided by this voting unless a new referendum that included these issues was put to vote.