Future prospects of Denmark’s participation in Europol following the recent “no” to abolishing the opt-out

Ch. Kvorning Lassen's follow-up blog about the three major obstacles that need to be overcome before a parallel agreement can be a reality, which seems highly unlikely, as he outlined in previous post.

  • The Danish referendum on the abolition of the opt-out on the 3rd of December resulted in a “no”, making the future prospects of Danish participation in Europol uncertain.
  • Following the “no”, Denmark's hope for Europol participation lies in a parallel agreement. However, the prospects of participation in a parallel agreement are uncertain at best.
  • There are three major obstacles that need to be overcome before a parallel agreement can be a reality, which seems highly unlikely, as outlined in my previous blog.

First and foremost, Denmark cannot initiate negotiations on a parallel agreement on Europol before the new supranational regulation has been passed, which happens in April 2016. Considering that negotiations would have to begin afterwards and that parallel agreements in the past on average have taken upwards of 5 years to pass, it is highly unlikely that a parallel agreement could materialize before April 2017 when the regulation comes into force.

Secondly, Great Britain’s upcoming referendum on EU membership will likely make the European Commission unwilling to begin negotiations with Denmark as it could set unwanted judicial precedents for a potential British arrangement.

Thirdly, there are simply more pressing concerns for the European Commission, namely the future of the Schengen and Dublin agreements following the mass migratory flows under which Europe is currently strugglin. Coupled with the fact that Denmark is essentially just reaping what it sowed by democratically discarding future participation in Europol, the Commission is unlikely to be forthcoming in alleviating Denmark’s self-inflicted plight.

Aside from these three obstacles, there are a host of judicial problems pertaining to the Lisbon Treaty that needs to be overcome due to Denmark’s hitherto special opt-out status. In sum, it seems highly unlikely that Denmark will be able to remain in Europol on equal terms with the remaining participating countries come April 2017.

Denmark’s “no” at the referendum is indicative of Denmark’s ability to exert pressure on the EU in order to accrue special conditions specifically tailored to Danish interests. However, while that may have been possible once, such as in 1992 when Denmark initially rejected the Maastricht Treaty, the contemporary EU is vastly different. Institutionally, the EU is more fully fledged following the Lisbon Treaty. Similarly, following several successful enlargement campaigns, convergence is more than ever desirable, making a slew of individual privileges to member states increasingly untenable by setting undesirable precedents.

Denmark is reaping what it has sown, yet the overall animosity towards the EU harbored by the majority of the electorate – which has only increased, as a parallel agreement seems more unlikely – belies a spoiled attitude bred by decades of special treatment. In a time where unity and cooperation is more relevant than ever, it is disturbing that Euroscepticism has blinded the majority of the Danish electorate to what is unequivocally a desirable agreement – optimizing authorities’ conditions to combat transnational and international crime – simply because Denmark would have to give up parts of its special treatments garnered in the past. Whether it is the case of the spoiled child having to give up its toys or the inability of the pro-European elites to properly convey the benefits of Europol membership is unclear, but what remains is yet another unfortunate nail in the coffin for strengthening European solutions and the culture of European cooperation.

#blog #Europol #Dánsko #Denmark

Christian Kvorning Lassen
Deputy Director & Head of Research

Expertise: Migration/European migration crisis, EU foreign policy, Scandinavian politics, populism, EU enlargement policy

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