Denmark and the EU
Denmark joined the European cooperation on security and defence on 1 July 2022 with the abolition of the Danish EU defence opt-out. As a result, Denmark can now choose to contribute to EU’s military missions and operations as well as apply for participation in the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) in the area of security and defence and the European Defence Agency (EDA).
EU Defense Ministers' meeting. Photo: European Union.
EU cooperation on security and defence
The EU cooperation on security and defence operates primarily within the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), which forms an integral part of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP). Through the CSDP, EU Member States can jointly launch civilian and military operations that contribute to crisis management, conflict prevention and peacekeeping missions outside the borders of the EU. The EU does not have its own military forces. It is up to each Member State to make civilian and military capabilities available to the EU for the implementation of the CSDP.
EU's cooperation on security and defence has developed significantly the past few years, not least as a reaction to the more complex and challenging security situation and the geopolitical developments. Therefore, the EU has been working on creating the conditions for Member States to collaborate more closely within the CSDP, including by establishing the Permanent Structured Defence Cooperation (PESCO) in 2017 and the European Peace Facility (EPF) in 2021.
On a more general level, the strategic interaction between EU defence policy and other EU policy areas has increased significantly. This includes not least the EU's policy on cyber and hybrid threats as well as the use of industrial and research policy instruments to promote capability development in the field of defence.
In March 2022, after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the EU's Foreign and Defence Ministers adopted a new strategical framework for the development of the EU security and defence cooperation for the coming decade - the so-called ‘Strategic Compass’. The compass focuses on four core sections: Crisis management, resilience, capabilities and partnerships. The most prominent elements of the Compass are the establishment of an EU rapid deployment capability of up to 5,000 soldiers to respond quickly to crises, as well as the creation of a hybrid toolbox. Thereto, the Compass focuses on strengthening the EU cooperation with partners, including the United States, the UN and NATO.
Since the Danish Defence opt-out was removed
In a referendum on 1 June 2022, the majority of the Danish voters supported Denmark fully joining all aspects of the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy by abolishing the Danish opt-out on defence.
In practice, the removal of the opt-out means that Denmark is now able to take part in joint EU military missions and operations. Member States' contribution to EU-led military missions and operations are voluntary. Any decision on deploying Danish soldiers will always require involvement of the Danish Parliament, ‘Folketinget’.
From October to December 2022, Denmark contributed to an EU military operation for the first time. This was a helicopter doctor to Operation ALTHEA in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The contribution will be redeployed for six months in the second half of 2023. Denmark is also contributing to the training activities of the EU’s Military Assistance Mission in support of Ukraine (EUMAM).
The Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) on Security and Defence
On the 23rd of March 2023, the Danish Parliament voted in favor of the proposal B 30 on Danish participation in PESCO and EDA. On the same day, Denmark became a member of EDA. Denmark was voted into PESCO at the meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council (Defence) for the EU Defence Ministers on the 23rd of May 2023.
PESCO particularly concerns the development of new defence capabilities through a number of projects within seven main areas: Training facilities, air systems, land systems, maritime, cyber and C4ISR, enabling and space.
There are currently 68 PESCO projects, driven by demands of Member States and often implemented in collaboration with companies and research institutes.
Initially, Denmark has requested participation in two PESCO projects, one on military mobility and one on cyber rapid response teams.
The project on military mobility aims to make it easier to move military personnel and assets within the borders of the EU. In close cooperation and coordination with NATO, EU can play a central role both when it comes to transport infrastructure and the legal procedures, for example tax regulation.
The project on cyber rapid response teams aims to help the EU Member States and partner countries with securing a higher level of resistance against cyber-attacks and react together in response to cyber incidents.
The European Defence Agency (EDA)
The EDA was established as an intergovernmental agency under the Council in 2004. The purpose of the EDA is to support its Member States in improving their defence capabilities in the field of crisis management, to develop and promote EU cooperation on defence material, to strengthen technology and research in the field of defence and to create a competitive market for European defence material. EU Member States can decide to be participate in the activities under the EDA on a voluntary basis. Costs are coveres by the participating member states.
The EDA has cooperation agreements with a number of countries outside the EU, including Norway, Serbia, Switzerland, Ukraine and the United States of America. Within the framework of the EU-NATO Joint Declaration of 2023, the EDA also cooperates with NATO.
EU missions and operations
The Common Security and Defence Policy has been operational since 2003. Since then, the EU has implemented and completed a total of more than 30 military and civilian crisis management operations.
Currently, the EU has nine military missions and operations – six military training missions in Ukraine, Mali, the Central African Republic, Somalia, Niger and Mozambique respectively, and three operations in the Mediterranean, Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as near the Horn of Africa respectively. Several of these missions and operations contribute with military capacities, for example, to secure stability in the European neighborhood and to work preventatively in relation to the foundational causes of migrant and refugee flows.
Today, the cooperation between EU and NATO is on a historical ambitious level. There have been established concrete working relationships between the two organisations and there is a common agreement that close and constructive cooperation is necessary in order to face the European security challenges. The cooperation has been formalised in three EU-NATO Joint Declarations from 2016, 2018 and 2023, and cover 74 common EU-NATO areas of cooperation, including cyber security, hybrid threats, climate security and new technologies.
The EU defence opt-out
The Danish EU defence opt-out stem from 1993, like the other Danish EU opt-outs from the EU cooperation. The opt-outs are outlined in the Edinburgh Agreement and were agreed amongst the then 12 Member States, after the Danish population initially rejected the Maastricht Treaty in a referendum in 1992. As a consequence of the defence opt-out, Denmark did not participate in the ‘elaboration and the implementation of decisions and actions of the Union which have defence implications’. Denmark joined the European cooperation on security and defence on 1 July 2022 after two-thirds of Danish voters in a referendum supported joining the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy.