Denmark cannot remain full Europol member after referendum

Lars Løkke Rasmussen [Venstre/Flickr]

Denmark will not be able to stay in the European police cooperation organisation, Europol, after the country voted ‘No’ last week to a flexible opt-in arrangement under EU Justice and Home Affairs laws, Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen confirmed on Friday (11 December).

Rasmussen was in Brussels to meet with both Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Council President Donald Tusk to discuss how Denmark can obtain a parallel agreement on Europol. As Europol is currently being reformed and given more powers, Denmark will be kicked out of the cooperation as the country has an opt-out on EU Justice matters.

The Danes voted against adopting the opt-in arrangement on 22 legislative acts related to cross-border crime last Thursday (3 December). 

53.1% of Danes voted against scrapping the country’s opt-out on Justice matters, but Rasmussen believes the referendum result was not a ‘No’ to the Europol cooperation and is now seeking an agreement that can allow his country to continue as a member.

“The message for me was quite clear; that Denmark can’t participate fully in the Europol cooperation when we don’t have the opt-in arrangement that we had the opportunity of getting. The question is now what other kind of link to Europol we can get instead,” Rasmussen said after the meetings.

This means that Denmark can obtain a parallel agreement, but this will not cover all parts of the cooperation.

“I still experience that there is some kind of understanding of the situation that we are in and therefore, we have also agreed that we will use the coming months to find out what the legislative possibilities are,” the prime minister continued.

The Commission’s chief spokesperson Margaritis Schinas wrote in a text message to the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten the EU’s executive’s position and that “The Commission President informed the prime minister that with this result in the referendum, it will be impossible for Denmark to cooperate fully as part of Europol. They will ask experts to look into a limited cooperation that is politically and legally possible. They underlined that this will be a difficult proces which will take a lot of time.”

Rasmussen now wants to establish a formalised statement among all the six pro-EU parties in the Danish parliament to make clear to the EU what the position of a majority of the Danish parliament is.

The decision to hold the referendum on 3 December was taken by former Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, after a terrorist attack in Copenhagen in February 2015, where three people were killed. She stressed the increasing importance of being part of cross-border police cooperation.

Thorning-Schmidt initially said that the referendum should be held 'before April 2016.' But the new Prime Minister, Lars Løkke Rasmussen, moved the referendum to 2015, apparently to avoid holding a vote close to the EU summit on 17-18 December in Brussels, where the British EU referendum will be discussed.

Rasmussen was afraid that the British discussion wouldhave a negative impact on the Danish referendum, where he is hoping for a 'Yes'. He expects that British Prime Minister David Cameron will leak documents during the weeks ahead of the Brussels summit to jumpstart the debate and set the agenda.

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