Straitjacket or Sovereignty Shield? The Danish Opt-Out on Justice and Home Affairs and Prospects after the Treaty of Lisbon

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Rebecca Adler-Nissen, Thomas Gammeltoft-Hansen

How are we to understand the perplexing and sometimes even counter-intuitive position of Denmark in relation to Justice and Home Affairs (JHA)? In this article, we attempt to go behind the many myths and misunderstandings involved and analyse the consequences of the Danish opt-out from EU cooperation in Justice and Home Affairs. Symbolically, the opt-out plays a major role for large parts of the Danish population as a sort of sovereignty guarantee in the face of European integration. While shifting Danish governments may point out the detrimental effects of opt-outs on Denmark's position in the EU, they still have to guarantee to the Danish public that they respect the protocols. In Denmark, the opt-outs are seen to constitute a bulwark against European integration; underpinning an image of the state with full political and legal authority over people, territory and money. This gives them an almost sacred character. In addition to their dramatic origins, the extremely controversial nature of the opt-outs is displayed in how they are debated. The opt-outs from the basic treaties of the EU are highly politicised. Most recently, politicians have exaggerated or downplayed the importance of opt-outs. Eurosceptic politicians and media claim that protocols protect national sovereignty and may serve as an example to other member states, whereas British and Danish pro-European ministers argue that they lose political influence when they ‘are sent outside'.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDanish Foreign Policy Yearbook 2010
EditorsNanna Hvidt, Hans Mouritzen
Number of pages25
Place of PublicationCopenhagen
PublisherInstitut for Internationale Studier / Dansk Center for Internationale Studier og Menneskerettigheder
Publication date2010
Pages137-161
Publication statusPublished - 2010

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