European Political Union: The Danish No and Yes 20 Years Later

Copenhagen, 1-2 November 2012

Twenty years after the Danes' rejection of the Maastricht treaty, and also forty years after the Danes in 1972 voted in favour of membership of the EC, this event seeks to deliver insights into the significance of the Danish people's rejection and eventual acceptance of the Maastricht Treaty.

The Danish 'No' was about many things. Media and scholarly discourses argued that it was a reaction to an unpopular domestic government, to a desire to retain the specificity of the Danish democratic model, to issues of welfare, to protection of national labour markets from internationalising patterns of organisation. Not least of all, it was about the Danish people questioning the need for a political versus a purely economic European project. In respect of significant long-term effects on the EU, the 'No' was the start point for formal opt-outs, rather than long derogations.

The purpose of this event was to deliver insights into the significance of the Danish people's rejection and eventual acceptance of the Maastricht Treaty. The events of 1992 and 1993 in Denmark matter in both spatial and temporal terms. France and Ireland followed Denmark in sending signals of discontent in relation to the visions of Maastricht and of Nice. The Constitutional Treaty would also founder on the rocks of Dutch public opinion. In 2012, we are debating the future of European political union amidst a context of financial gloom and uncertainty and belief that the EU has failed to deliver for its citizens.

Denmark is treated as holding symbolic significance for the peoples of Europe. The European project is located in the spaces beyond Brussels and Strasbourg and impinges on the lives of everyday European citizens who have yet to feel the promised benefits of political union. The event brought together representatives from the policy-making, media, interest group and academic communities, including some of those who were responsible for crafting both the 'No' and 'Yes' campaigns in 1992. Within this context, we reflected on the events then and their impact on not only Denmark and other Member States but on the European Union itself and how it impacts on domestic politics, policy and polity. Moreover, the participants considered what this meant for how the EU was, and is, perceived externally.

Debate centred on the following key issues: What did Denmark gain in turning the 'No' vote to a 'Yes' and have there been contagion effects?; What insights can we draw from the National Compromise that followed on the heels of the 'No' vote?; Democratic deficit; Legitimacy; The use of referenda and the political scope of such tools; Understanding who the principals and agents are in European integration; European integration theory; The legacy of the opt-out for the EU.

Today, even the most fervent of EU supporters cannot deny that the EU is facing possibly the deepest crisis in its history. But how much of that crisis is of its own making? How much stems from the failure to read the signals the Danish people sent out back in 1992? It is time to revisit this moment in the history of the EU and to consider not only what we learned but also to understand our failures in respect of subsequent policy choices. In addition, we consider what we failed to learn altogether about the nature of the cohesive elements that necessarily must underpin the European integration project.



Abbreviated Programme

Thursday, 1 November 2012

  • Session 1: Denmark and Europe: Leader or Follower? Danish Politicians' Perspectives on 1992
  • Session 2: The EU Sceptic Danes?
  • Keynote by Sir Stephen Wall - 'Maastricht: Integration or Dis-integration?'
  • Reception

Friday, 2 November 2012

  • Session 3: Negotiating a Special Opt-Out Status
  • Session 4: What has Academia Learned from the Danish Opt-Outs?
  • Keynote by Hans Martens

Panel speakers include: Rebecca Adler-Nissen, Peter Biering, Jens-Peter Bonde, Poul Skytte Christoffersen, Drude Dahlerup, Uffe Ellemann-Jensen, Tim King, Per Lachmann, Bo Lidegaard, Holger Nielsen, Uffe Østergaard, Niels Helveg Petersen and Alex Warleigh-Lack.


Full Programme

Programme (PDF)



This UACES Re-EUnion event has been organised in partnership with:


Publications relevant to this event

Audio Recordings

Speech by Stephen Wall, 1 November 2012 (coming soon)

Speech by Hans Martens, 2 November 2012 (coming soon)


Adler-Nissen, R., 2014. Opting Out of the European Union: Diplomacy, Sovereignty and European Integration, Cambridge University Press. ISBN-13: 978-1107043213.

Branner, H. and Kelstrup, M. eds., 1992. European Integration and Denmark's Participation, Copenhagen Political Studies Press. ISBN-13: 978-8787749473.

Heurlin, B. ed., 1994. Danmark og den Europæiske Union, Copenhagen Political Studies Press.

Laursen, F. & Vanhoonacker, S. eds., 1994. The Ratification of the Maastricht Treaty: Issues, Debates and Future Implications, European Institute of Public Administration. ISBN-13: 978-0792331254.

Lyck, L. ed., 1992. Denmark and EC Membership Evaluated. Pinter.

Marcussen, M., Wivel, A. and Miles, L. eds., 2012. Denmark and the European Union. Routledge. ISBN: 978-0415611343.

Research Articles

Auken, S., Buksti, J. and Lehmann Sørensen, C., 1975. Denmark joins Europe: Patterns of Adaptation in the Danish Political and Administrative Processes as a Result of Membership of the European Communities. Journal of Common Market Studies, XIV(1).

Siune, K. and Svensson, P. 1993. The Danes and the Maastricht Treaty: The Danish EC Referendum of June 1992, Electoral Studies, 12(2).

Siune, K., Svensson, P. and Tonsgaard, O. 1994. The European Union: The Danes Said `No' in 1992 but `Yes' in 1993: How and Why?, Electoral Studies, 13(2).

Svensson, P. 1994. The Danish Yes to Maastricht and Edinburgh. The EC Referendum of May 1993, Scandinavian Political Studies, 17(1).

Worre, T., 1988. Denmark at the Crossroads: The Danish Referendum of 28 February 1986 on the EC Reform Package. Journal of Common Market Studies, XXVI(4).

Newspaper Articles

Danes Reject European Union Treaty by Slim Margin, The New York Times, 3 June 1992

Crisis Arms Denmark's Maastricht Supporters, The New York Times, 14 May 1993

Yes or no Britons rally the Danish, The Independent, 16 May 1993

20 år med forbehold - følger danskerne briterne ud af EU?, Politiken, 12 November 2012

Blog Posts

Danish design by Tim King

Danish naysayers: A catalyst of EU-scepticism by Mathias Baumann