On 26 May, Denmark will vote to elect 13 MEPs. In the last EU election in Denmark, turnout was 56,3%, well above the EU average of 42.6%. Turnout this year is also projected to be high, possibly even over 60%.
Eurosceptic before it was trendy
Denmark was the first of the Nordic countries to join the EU in 1973, after a referendum in which 63.3% of people voted in favour. At the time, the decision to join was mainly out of a practical necessity to maintain close trading relations with the UK who also joined the same year.
Denmark is no stranger to Euroscepticism. Over the years, the country has held eight EU referendums. Denmark has also decided to ‘opt-out’ from EU cooperation on several issues. After the Danes initially rejected the Maastricht Treaty in a referendum in 1992, the Danish opt-outs include the Monetary Union (EMU), Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) and EU citizenship.
The implications of Brexit for Denmark and the desire to hold a similar referendum on Denmark’s EU membership is expected to prominently feature in political campaigns this year- especially given the parallels between Denmark’s and the UK’s opt-outs from EU policies.
Move towards the mainstream
Historically, fringe parties often prove more popular in EU elections than in their national equivalents. However, as a national general election is scheduled to take place in Denmark on 5 June 2019, a little over a week after the EU elections, this is expected to shift the political debate to national rather than European topics.
Based on most recent polling, the traditional mainstream parties are expected to reclaim the seats they lost in the 2014 EU election as the far-right Danish People’s Party is expected to lose two of its current four seats to the Social Democrats and the liberal Venstre.
The far-right Danish People’s Party is currently the second-biggest party in the Danish parliament and provides parliamentary support to the country’s centre-right ruling coalition but is not part of the government, largely because of their opposing views on EU issues.
Both the socialist SF (Greens/EFA) and the Eurosceptic People’s Movement against the EU, part of the European United Left-Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL), are expected to keep their single seat.
What about Vestager?
The Danish Commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, has publicly stated that she wishes to continue in her role as European Commissioner for Competition. With the highest approval ratings of all the Commissioners, Vestager has in fact long been the clear favourite in Brussels to succeed Jean-Claude Juncker as the next President of the European Commission. However, this may prove difficult as Commissioners are sent to Brussels by their respective governments, and Vestager’s liberal party (Venstre) is currently in the opposition, making her nomination unlikely at this point.
Despite lacking the political backing in her home country, Vestager is currently topping the list of the liberal ALDE party candidates for the Presidency together with former Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt.
Maybe the national elections in June will tip the scale in Vestager’s favour?