Danish voters went to the polls twice within two weeks this summer, casting their votes in first European and then national elections. The results of the contests mark a significant shift towards green and centre-left parties – at the expense of the political fringes, particularly right-wing nationalists. As such, trends in Denmark run counter to the surge in protest politics that has spread across Europe in recent years. This promises to affect Denmark´s cohesion with the rest of the European Union in several important ways.
Increasing EU cohesion
Following three weeks of intense negotiations, the Social Democratic Party announced a common “letter of understanding” with its Social Liberal and left-wing partners. This allowed it to form a one-party government, making Mette Frederiksen the second female prime minister of Denmark and the youngest person to hold the office. The letter, which sets out the objectives of the administration, reflects the government’s high socially progressive and green ambitions for Denmark. The government commits to limiting economic and gender inequality, as well as to strengthening the welfare state. Most strikingly, it sets the goal of cutting greenhouse-gas emissions by 70 percent compared to 1990 levels before 2030, one of the most demanding such targets in the world.
But does this turn towards socially progressive and green policy suggest that Denmark will adopt a more positive attitude towards the EU? The country is widely regarded as hesitant about its membership of the EU, as symbolised by its four opt-outs on significant aspects of EU cooperation, including home and justice affairs, economic governance, citizenship, and defence. These Eurosceptic sentiments affected Denmark’s rankings in the European Council on Foreign Relations’ EU Cohesion Monitor in 2017 (the latest available data in the study): 22nd place in individual cohesion, and 23rd place in structural cohesion, among the EU28. However, since the election of Donald Trump to the US presidency and the United Kingdom’s vote to leave the EU in 2016, Denmark has developed a tendency towards greater individual and structural cohesion.