Referendum gives a strong message to allies and Russia, says PM Mette Frederiksen, as almost 67 percent of Danes vote for EU bloc's defence policy, 30 years after opting out.
An overwhelming majority of Danes, almost 67 percent, have voted in favour of joining the EU's common defence policy 30 years after opting out, results showed with 100 percent of ballots counted.
"Tonight Denmark has sent a very important signal. To our allies in Europe and NATO, and to (Russian President Vladimir) Putin. We're showing that when Putin invades a free country and threatens stability in Europe, we others pull together," Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen told cheering supporters on Wednesday.
"Denmark now can partake in the European cooperation on defence and security. And for that I'm very, very happy," she said.
Wednesday's vote comes on the heels of neighbouring Finland and Sweden's historic applications for NATO membership, as the assault on Ukraine forces countries in Europe to rethink their security policy.
Denmark's defence opt-out has meant that Copenhagen, a founding member of NATO, has since 1993 not participated in EU foreign policy where defence is concerned and does not contribute troops to EU military missions.
The people of Denmark have made a historic choice.— Charles Michel (@eucopresident) June 1, 2022
The world has changed since Russia invaded #Ukraine
This decision will benefit Europe and make both the EU and the Danish people safer and stronger.
I welcome the determined leadership shown by @Statsmin Mette Frederiksen. pic.twitter.com/Q9Ja0F5ce0
EU chiefs welcome Danish vote
EU chiefs Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel welcomed Denmark's "historic choice" to join the bloc's joint defence policy.
Denmark's decision was a "strong message of commitment to our common security", von der Leyen tweeted, saying Denmark and the European Union would benefit. Michel also hailed the country's "historic choice" on Twitter.
On Twitter, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock applauded the outcome of the Danish vote.
"Every step each of us takes, makes us stronger in the face of these tectonic shifts."
For Denmark, a founding member of the 30-member defence alliance, joining the EU's defence policy would have a relatively modest impact on Europe's security architecture, particularly compared to Sweden and Finland joining NATO.
But Christine Nissen, a researcher with the Danish Institute for International Studies, said both moves were "part of the same story," and would strengthen military cooperation on a continent stunned by the Russian offensive in Ukraine.
The main effect of abandoning the opt-out will be that Danish officials could stay in the room when EU colleagues discuss defence topics, and Danish forces can take part in EU military operations, such as those in Africa and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Opposition says Ukraine assault misused
It would be the first time that one of the four Danish opt-outs from the EU's Maastricht Treaty, which laid the foundation for political and economic union, is scrapped by voters in Denmark.
"I believe people have voted yes because of the war in Ukraine. The 'yes' side has tried to misuse the war in Ukraine to make the Danes feel that it is important that we stand together," said Morten Messerschmidt, the leader of the opposition Danish People's Party and a leading opponent of removing the defence opt-out.
One of the founding members of NATO, Denmark has stayed on the sidelines of the EU's efforts to build a common security and defense policy in parallel with the trans-Atlantic military alliance.
For decades, Europe's been a source of contention in Denmark. In 1992, voters set back plans to turn the European construction into a union by rejecting the Maastricht Treaty amid widespread opposition to a federal European government that could limit the sovereignty of individual nations.
At an EU summit in Edinburgh, Scotland, later that year, European leaders agreed on a text with tailor-made provisions allowing Danes to ratify a revised treaty with four provisions.