Will Denmark be a leader or a follower in Europe?
Text: Narcis George Matache
February 2022, the world irreversibly changed. Russia invaded Ukraine in its attempt to rebuild the former Soviet empire and opened up Pandora's box. Words like "world war" and "nuclear weapons" dominated the headlines. Images of death, destruction and human barbarism fill our social media so that we become insensitive to them. In the minds of young people, the future picture is getting more and more distorted. For some, it's already pitch black and seemingly no hope ahead.
War brings poverty, hunger, disease, pain and hatred. It challenges the human condition; it makes us question our purpose in this world. The European Union was created never to experience war in Europe again. But unfortunately, some of the other global players don't seem to care much for our future vision.
We have relied on NATO for military protection for decades now. However, the USA is not infallible, e.g., the Trump episode. We simply cannot move forward depending on others to protect our way of life. The European states seem to have understood that crude reality, as they have started to invest heavily in our defence and military capabilities. In Denmark, we will invest 18 billion DKK yearly to raise our army's capacity.
The European Union states will have to coordinate more often in defence and military cooperation to protect our peace and defend our way of life. The different armies will have to know how to work together, and we should have the ability to act fast during a crisis. Luckily, we started doing that through PESCO, where we have 60 cooperation projects on joint procurement for defence and military training. But unfortunately, we have one EU state on the sideline. Yes, Denmark.
Denmark is the only EU state outside of the EU's cooperation on security and defence. Why? In a national compromise from 1993, Denmark conditioned their continued participation in the European Union with four reservations (no to euro, no to cooperation on police and justice, no to cooperation on security and defence and no to European citizenship).
However, for Denmark to continue being outside of the EU's security and defence cooperation is dangerous with the current world situation. These are facts understood by prime-minister Mette Frederiksen and most political parties who have made a new national compromise. They want to say "Yes to security and defence cooperation". However, the 1993 national compromise forces us to have a referendum on the matter. So ultimately, the people of Denmark will decide if the "NO" turns into a "YES".
On 1st June (this year), the citizens of Denmark (yes, unfortunately, this time, the non-citizens cannot vote) will go to the voting booths to decide on our shared future. This will show if Denmark will support Europe by joining the centre or remaining in the periphery. Since the exit of the United Kingdom, Denmark has had a historical chance to punch above its weight on the European stage. We can influence the future of the European Union and make sure we make it more Danish. However, we can only do that if we are fully committed to the project. We need a majority "YES" on the referendum.
So, what happens if we vote "YES"?
Denmark will be allowed to participate when European defence is discussed at the decision-making table.
Denmark will be able to participate in the EU's military missions. Also, Denmark will be able to participate in the decision to launch or not during a military mission and to provide troops, ships and aircraft for EU-led military missions.
Denmark will be able to purchase cheaper military equipment, as it will buy in bulk together with other EU states - and we would have access to newer technologies in the field.
Denmark will be able to participate in the European Defense Agency, cooperate on military research, share military technology, and procure defence equipment.
Denmark will be able to participate in response to a defence crisis.
If we vote "NO", we will continue to invest massively in our army (despite knowing that no matter how many investments we make, we cannot stop an invader without external support) and hope for the best. We will lose our chance to be a part of leading Europe and accept our provincial status.