The Danish government and main opposition parties have agreed to hold a referendum on whether to adopt EU rules on justice by no later than 31 March 2016.
Denmark negotiated four opt-outs to the 1992 Maastricht treaty, which transformed the European Community into the European Union. The opt-outs were negotiated after the country narrowly rejected the treaty in a referendum. One of the opt-outs is on participating in EU matters relating to defence and justice.
But the Danes are concerned about being excluded from Europol, the EU’s judicial co-operation agency, which is undergoing reform. This, according to a statement by the Danish foreign ministry, is the main reason behind the referendum agreement.
The list of laws that Denmark could opt into include seven on criminal law and police co-operation, and 22 on civil, family and commercial law. Doing so would enable Denmark to continue to be part of the EU’s Schengen area of border-free travel and be part of measures to combat cross-border crime.
The Danish agreement stipulates that the referendum will be held no matter which party wins a general election scheduled for September.
It also gives each of the parties a right to veto any opt-ins.
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Thorning-Schmidt, who is strongly in favour of opting in to the EU rules, said that the deal made it “safer to be a Dane”, a reference to the shootings in Copenhagen earlier this year.
Three small opposition parties, including the far-right Danish People’s Party, oppose the agreement and will encourage people to keep the opt-outs.