Denmark may be on its way out of Europol

Denmark may have to pull out of the European police agency unless Danes vote in a referendum to abolish their opt-out on co-operating with EU legal affairs

A reform of the EU’s supranational police agency, Europol, may end up harming Danish policing interests unless Denmark chooses to abolish its opt-out on co-operating with EU legal affairs.

According to the European Commission (EC), the goal of the reform is to make Europol better at collecting, analysing and sharing information among EU member states in order to increase cross-border co-operation and investigations.

But if the reform is agreed upon following negotiations within the European Parliament, Denmark will not reap its benefits. On the contrary, it may have to pull out of Europol altogether.

“Denmark is not taking part in the adoption of this regulation and is not bound by it or subject to its application,” the EC’s proposal states.

The reform falls under the jurisdiction of Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) which is one of four areas of EU co-operation that Denmark chose to opt-out of in 1993 in order to stay within the EU.

While Denmark initially demanded the opt-outs in order to maintain a degree of sovereignty over its legal, military and economic policies, the opt-outs are increasingly being regarded as obstacle that harm Danish interests in the EU.

As a result, the government promised to hold a referendum on abolishing the JHA and defence opt-outs during its current term, a move that is supported by Lykke Friis, the EU spokesperson for the government’s main opposition party, Venstre.

“We are going to start to notice the consequence of our opt-out on legal affairs,” Friis told Politiken newspaper. “In practicer, it would mean that Denmark would no longer be a member of Europol and therefore not able to participate in the fight against cross-border crime such as child porn, narcotics and cybercrime.”

Friis argues that Denmark should replace the opt-out with an opt-in model which would allow Denmark to selectively choose which parts of police co-operation it wants to participate in. The UK and Ireland both have this model.

In an email to Politiken, the justice minister, Morten Bødskov (Socialdemokraterne), recognised the importance of Denmark’s continued participation in Europol.

“Cross-border crime means that it is essential that Denmark participates in close international co-operation,” Bødskov wrote. “Europol has shown itself to be an important co-operation forum. That’s why it’s hard to believe that Denmark won’t be a part of Europol co-operation in the future.”