Denmark Gives 'clear Signal' With EU Defense Policy Vote

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) -- Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod said Thursday that he expects Denmark to join the European Union's common defense policy after two-thirds of voters who cast ballots in a referendum supported abandoning a 30-year-old waiver that kept the EU country out.

There are "a series of formal steps before Denmark can be admitted" to the defense agreement, Kofod said, including the Danish Parliament giving its approval of the referendum's result. The minister said he expects Denmark to be able to join as of July 1.

With 100% of the votes counted, 66.9% voted in favor of getting rid of the opt-out while 33.1% were against, according to figures from Statistics Denmark. Voter turnout was 65.76%.

Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said the results were "a clear signal" to Russian President Vladimir Putin. The referendum followed the decisions of fellow Nordic countries Sweden and Finland to seek join NATO membership.

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

But pundits have said that both moves reflected the same concerns and would strengthen military cooperation on a continent stunned by the war in Ukraine.

The main effect of abandoning the opt-out will be that Danish officials could stay in the room when EU colleagues discuss defense topics, and Danish forces can take part in EU military operations, such as those in Africa and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Kofod called the referendum "a good and important step."

"Cohesion in Europe is the best answer we can give in the situation we are in," he said in a statement.