Letter from Ambassador in May “National referendum after 7 years”


Dear Friends,   

  I hope that this letter would find you well as sprouts of all kinds of trees have been coloring the town in green.  Copenhagen in May has gone through fine and rainy days in turn, and that may be why we can see even clearer colors of green leaves, white, purple and other flowers than previous years.   

Swan’s family at Lake Emdrup in Copenhagen and Gentofte
    On 1 June in Denmark, there will be the national referendum for the first time in the past seven years (this letter is being written on 29 May).  The issue is whether or not Denmark should join the defense cooperation with the EU.  I have seen so many posters asking to vote yes or no almost everywhere in the town in May.  The Danish media has covered the issue including TV debate programs by the major national network.  At glance, it seems as if a small election would be taking place here. 

    Denmark joined the EC in 1973, and failed in the first round of the national referendum to ratify the Maastricht Treaty to establish the EU in 1992 by a narrow margin, and then succeeded in the second round of the national referendum in 1993 after opting out the four areas of cooperation with the EU, namely, defense, Euro currency, justice and home affairs and EU citizenship.  However, the two attempts to abolish such reservations on Euro in 2000 and justice and home affairs in 2015 through the national referendums resulted in failures by narrow margins again.

    Given such two successive defeats for Yes, you might think that it would repeat again.  However, now the invasion of Ukraine by Russia since February seems to have been changing Danish public sentiment.  Danish people are increasingly supporting the view expressed by both governing and opposition parties that Denmark should enhance security cooperation with Europe because the Russian invasion of Ukraine is an attack on the important Danish values such as freedom, peace and democracy.  Opinion polls in May indicate more Yes votes by certain margin.  Because of those who have responded “not yet decided” remain to a considerable degree, I could hardly predict the definite result until the end of voting on 1 June.  However, if the Yes vote would prevail, it is said to be a historic result. 
Posters claiming Yes or No 

    The Danish defense has attached importance to the collaboration with the US and the NATO, and thus not only defending Denmark but also actively contributing peace keeping in Middle East, Balkan, Africa among others.  If the EU defense opt-out would be lifted, it would enable Denmark to newly participate into EU military operations.  I am sure that Denmark will further consider in more specific terms about in which EU activities Denmark would like to participate.  Some political parties who support Yes votes have already indicated that operations to create stabilities in countries where many refugees emerge, a mission to de-mine Ukraine in the post conflict period, and so on. 

    Japan also firmly believes that any attempt to change the status-quo by unilateral use of force like the Russian invasion of Ukraine should never be accepted anywhere in the world.  Based on such position, Japan has assisted Ukraine and imposed sanctions on Russia in close collaborations with the EU which includes Denmark, the US and other G7 and like-minded countries.(*https://japan.kantei.go.jp/ongoingtopics/pdf/jp_stands_with_ukraine_eng.pdf)  Further enhancement of the EU solidarity would be welcomed as a result of the national referendum in Denmark.  H.E. Mr. Jeppe Kofod, Foreign Minister of Denmark visited Japan in November 2021 and met H.E. Mr. HAYASHI Yoshimasa, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan.  Both of us reaffirmed the importance of deepening cooperation to the free and open Indo Pacific together with like minded countries such as the EU among others.  That reaffirmation was an joint expression of our will to continue to cooperate each other for peace and stability in the world.  

    On a different note, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has provided another impetus to a rapid transformation of energy and climate strategies.  In May, Denmark hosted the North Sea Summit in Esbjerg, a western coastal city in Denmark.  The five leaders from Belgium, Germany, Netherland, the European Commission and Denmark gathered and declared that they would become much less dependent on Russian energy, replace it by providing the electricity from an offshore wind power system in the North Sea and cover the demand in Europe.  The Esbjerg Declaration states specific numerical targets for 2030 and 2050 to that end.  A following wind is blowing here, and there is an unequivocal will to do it.  Between Japan and Denmark, we have seen a fast increase of mutual investments and joint researches related to renewable energy, green transition in both public and business spheres.  There is much potential for such cooperation to further develop in future. 

    I look forward to seeing the readers of this letter next month either on this page or somewhere in Denmark, hoping there will be even more mutual visits between our countries from June onward.
Yours sincerely, 

Embassy of Japan in the Kingdom of Denmark 

In May with Ms. Connie Hedegaard, Chairman, CONCITO (Denmark Green Thinktank)