On 1 June, Danes will be invited to the polls to vote on the abolition of the Danish defense reserve – a referendum that, if approved, will increase Danish military spending and give Denmark the opportunity to join EU-led conflicts.
Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen announced the referendum on Sunday flanked by the party leaders from the Liberal Party, Conservative, Radical and SF.
»European security is threatened, and Denmark must be equipped for the new situation. Russia’s aggression demands a historic response. Therefore, the government and the parliamentary majority have agreed to raise Denmark’s defense and security spending permanently to 2 percent of GDP by the end of 2033, ”says Minister of Defense Morten Bødskov.
What is the defense reservation?
The defense reservation states that Denmark does not have the right to vote in the EU’s foreign and security policy in the field of defense – although in part broader discussions about European defense policy.
This prevents Denmark from participating in or financing the EU’s military operations, as well as supplying troops and military supplies to EU-led conflict zones.
If the Defense reservation is scrapped, the defense budget will increase ‘significantly’ to support the armament of the Danish military and its contribution to the EU’s defense missions.
Historically, Denmark has maintained a lower defense spending than other NATO members due to its extensive welfare state, which it claims dominates the country’s domestic fiscal policy.
This has caused tensions for decades – but it has risen since 2014. Following the Russian annexation of Crimea, the Obama administration formalized an understanding that NATO members would “aim” to spend 2 percent of GDP on defense by 2024 – a call , which was listened to by most of Denmark’s neighbors in the Baltics and Scandinavia.
Nevertheless, Denmark’s defense spending in 2017 was just 1.17 percent. After tense negotiations with his American colleague James ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis, the then Danish Minister of Defense Claus Hjort Frederiksen agreed to raise it to 1.3 percent in 2024, but rejected a consumption of 2 percent as “unrealistic”.
The following year, Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen rejected US President Donald Trump’s renewed demand to raise spending and claimed that Denmark “paid its contingents in blood” as an ally in Afghanistan and Iraq.
But yesterday the Danish government changed its tone. “Over the last ten days, the world has changed,” Frederiksen said.
What will happen?
Denmark’s defense spending is currently DKK 36.3 billion a year – equivalent to 1.47 percent of GDP. The new budget will receive an extra NOK 18 billion for defense policy per year.
At the same time, DKK 7 billion will be allocated over the next two years “to the Armed Forces and to strengthen diplomatic and humanitarian efforts”, according to Frederiksen.
So far, the government has agreed to fund defense spending by allowing a larger budget deficit.
“It is a financially responsible move. The Danish economy is in good shape. The decision to draw on an increased government deficit means that the increased defense spending will not lead to a deterioration in welfare,” said Frederiksen.
Towards a united, militarized Europe
“Denmark must be fully involved in the development of European defense and security policy. That is what we need in NATO. That is what we in the European Union must do. Russia’s aggression against Ukraine threatens European peace and stability. That is why time calls for a gear change, ”said Bødskov.
Mette Frederiksen was not bothered to elaborate on the point: “On June 1, we strongly recommend that the Danes vote to abolish the defense reservation.”
Source: The Nordic Page