Wednesday 8 October 2014

Denmark and EU Justice and Home Affairs Law: Really Opting Back In?

Steve Peers

Yesterday, the Danish Prime Minister made an announcement that Denmark would hold another referendum on EU matters in 2015. This was widely reported as a vote on whether Denmark would opt back in to EU Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) law. In fact, the government’s intention is to hold a vote on whether to replace a complete opt out with a selective opt-out. This blog post explains the detail of the issue, including a complete list of the measures which Denmark might opt back into if the Danish public approves the referendum proposal.

The Danish opt-out effectively dates back to the Danish referendum on the Maastricht Treaty in 1992. Following the initial Danish ‘no’ vote to that treaty, the EU’s Heads of State of Government adopted a Decision, which states that Denmark fully participates in EU JHA law. This was accompanied by a declaration stating that any transfer of powers to the European Community (as it then was) would be subject to a referendum in Denmark. This is generally regarded as the basis for Denmark’s opt-out on JHA matters.

This Decision is also often described as an opt-out on EU citizenship, although it is no such thing: it simply clarifies the relationship between Danish and EU citizenship. In fact, despite a widespread belief to the contrary, Denmark has no opt-out on EU citizenship at all.

The JHA opt-out was formalised as a Protocol to the Treaties at the time of the Treaty of Amsterdam (in force 1999), and was then revised at the time of the Treaty of Lisbon (in force 2009). It currently appears as Protocol 22 to the Treaties.

In a nutshell, the legal position is as follows.

First of all, Denmark is bound by the ‘Schengen’ rules abolishing border controls between most Member States, and measures building upon them, such as the Schengen Borders Code, the EU’s visa code, the Schengen Information System and the EU’s border control agency, Frontex. However, it is bound by these measures only as a matter of international law, not EU law. It could choose to opt out of new measures in this area, but there would be some unspecified retaliation if it did. It hasn’t done so in practice.

Secondly, Denmark is not bound by any other EU measures on immigration and asylum law, or civil cooperation, except for the measures on a standardised list of countries whose nationals do and don’t need visas to enter the EU. However,  for a few of these measures,  Denmark is bound instead by means of a treaty with the EU: the Dublin rules on asylum applications; the Brussels Regulation on civil and commercial jurisdiction; and the Regulation on service of documents. It’s also bound by the initial Rome Convention on conflicts of law in contract, but not by the Regulation replacing it.

Thirdly, Denmark is bound by EU measures on policing and criminal law adopted before the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon. This includes (as matters stand) the EU measures establishing Europol (the EU police agency), Eurojust (the EU prosecutors’ agency) and the European Arrest Warrant.

Fourthly, Denmark is conversely not bound by EU measures on policing and criminal law adopted after the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon. This includes particularly EU legislation on suspects’ rights, victims’ rights, and the European Investigation Order. In the near future, it will also not be bound by legislation re-establishing Europol, which will soon be the subject of final negotiations between the European Parliament and the Council (on the details of that negotiation, see the previous blog post). According to the Prime Minister, this is a particular reason for considering whether to exercise the opt-out.

The assumption behind her argument is that the pre-Lisbon measure establishing Europol will not be applicable to Denmark any longer once a new measure is adopted. In fact, Article 2 of Protocol 22 says as follows:

acts of the Union in the field of police cooperation and judicial cooperation in criminal matters adopted before the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon which are amended shall continue to be binding upon and applicable to Denmark unchanged.

However, in the specific case of EU agencies, it is hard to see in practice how Denmark could continue to be part of Europol as it was set up subject to a pre-Lisbon measure, while all of the other Member States (presuming that the UK and Ireland opt-in) are part of Europol as it was set up afresh by a post-Lisbon Regulation.

In fact, the same issue is likely to arise as regards Eurojust (the EU prosecutors’ agency) in the next year or so, since there is also a proposal to replace the pre-Lisbon Decision setting up that body with a post-Lisbon Regulation.

What are the consequences of the opt-in? Denmark has the power to denounce ‘all or part’ of the Protocol, which also includes an opt-out relating to EU defence policy, without a need for a Treaty amendment. (Note that Denmark’s opt-out from the obligation to adopt the EU’s single currency is set out in a separate Protocol).

However, Denmark also has another option available to it: to replace the current complete opt-out for post-Lisbon JHA measures not linked to the Schengen acquis with a selective opt-out, ie the power to opt in to JHA measures on a case-by-case basis. According to press reports, this is what the Prime Minister proposes. In light of this, it simply isn’t accurate to say that Denmark would be voting to ‘give up its JHA opt-out’.

If the public vote in favour, Denmark would have the same power that the UK and Ireland have to opt in to JHA measures on a case-by-case basis, either within three months after those measures are proposed or at any time after they are finally adopted. However, unlike the UK and Ireland, Denmark will continue to be fully bound by EU measures on visa lists (ie with no-opt-out possibility), and will also continue to participate in the Schengen rules (although those rules would then have the force of EU law, not international law, in Denmark).

It would be up to the Danish government and parliament to determine what arrangements apply to opting in, as a matter of national law. If national law permits, it is open to Denmark to provide, if it wishes, that its national parliament must approve every opt-in decision, possibly by a higher majority in some or all cases. The Danish government could also announce in advance which measures it would (and would not) seek to opt in to.

To clarify the potential impact of the decision, the Annex to this post contains a complete list of all current measures or proposals which Denmark could opt to participate in if the public chose to vote for a selective JHA opt-out in place of the current complete opt-out. Again, though, Denmark could choose to participate in only a small number of these measures if it wished.

While it is sometimes claimed that EU opt-outs are not really genuine, because Member States will face undue pressure to opt-in to EU measures regardless, the evidence of the last 15 years clearly refutes this assertion. In practice, Denmark and the UK have not been forced to adopt the single currency, and the UK and Ireland have opted out of a growing number of JHA measures.

Barnard & Peers: chapter 2, chapter 25, chapter 26


JHA measures which Denmark could opt in to after adopting a selective opt-out

1) Adopted measures


1. Directive 2001/55 on temporary protection (OJ 2001 L 212/12)
2. Regulation 439/2010 establishing a European Asylum Support Office (OJ 2010 L 132/11)
3. Recast Directive 2011/95 on qualification and content of international protection (OJ 2011 L 337/9)
4. Directive 2013/33 on reception conditions for asylum-seekers (OJ 2013 L 180/96)
5. Regulation 604/2013 on responsibility for asylum applications (OJ 2013 L 180/31) – nb applies to Denmark by means of treaty already
6. Directive 2013/32 on international protection procedures (OJ 2013 L 180/60)
7. Regulation 603/2013 on Eurodac (OJ 2013 L 180/1) – nb applies to Denmark by means of treaty already
8. Regulation establishing the asylum and migration Fund (OJ 2014 L 150/168)
9. Regulation laying down general provisions on the Asylum and Migration Fund and on the instrument for financial support for police cooperation, preventing and combating crime, and crisis management ((OJ 2014 L 150/112)

Irregular migration

1. Directive 2004/82 on transmitting passenger information by carriers (OJ 2004 L 261/24)
2. Decision on joint expulsion flights (OJ 2004 L 261/28)
3. Directive 2004/81 on residence permits for victims of trafficking or facilitation of irregular migration (OJ 2004 L 261/19)
4. Decision on an information and coordination network for Member States’ migration management services (OJ 2005 L 83/48)
5. Directive 2008/115 on common rules for expulsion – Returns Directive (OJ 2008 L 348/98) – nb applies to Denmark in part already
6. Directive 2009/52 on sanctions for employers of irregular migrants (OJ 2009 L 168/24)

Legal Migration

1. Directive 2003/86 on family reunion (OJ 2003 L 251/12)
2. Directive 2003/109 on the status of long-term resident third-country nationals (OJ 2004 L 16/44)
3. Directive 2004/114 on entry and residence of students, volunteers and others (OJ 2004 L 375/12)
4. Directive 2005/71 on admission of researchers (OJ 2005 L 289/15)
5. Decision on exchange of asylum and immigration information (OJ 2006 L 283/40)
6. Decision establishing Migration Network (OJ 2008 L 131/7)
7. Directive 2009/50 on the conditions of entry and residence of third-country nationals for the purposes of highly qualified employment (‘Blue Card Directive’) (OJ 2009 L 155/17)
8. Regulation 1231/2010 extending Regulation 883/2004 on social security for EU citizens to third-country nationals who move within the EU (OJ 2010 L 344/1)
9. Directive 2011/51 applying long-term residents’ Directive to refugees and beneficiaries of subsidiary protection (OJ 2011 L 132/1)
10. Directive 2011/98 (single permit Directive) (OJ 2011 L 343/1)
11. Directive 2014/36 on admission of seasonal workers (OJ 2014 L 94/375)
12. Directive 2014/66 on admission of intra-corporate transferees (OJ 2014 L 157/1)

Civil Cooperation

1. Regulation 1346/2000 on jurisdiction over and enforcement of insolvency proceedings (OJ 2000 L 160/1)
2. Regulation 1347/2000 on jurisdiction over and enforcement of matrimonial and custody judgments (OJ 2000 L 160/19)
3. Regulation 1206/2001 on cross-border taking of evidence in civil and commercial matters (OJ 2001 L 174/1)
4. Decision 2001/470 on European Judicial Network on civil and commercial matters (OJ 2001 L 174/25)
5.  Directive 2003/8 on legal aid (OJ 2003 L 26/41)
6. Regulation 2201/2003 on parental responsibility (OJ 2003 L 338/1)
7. Regulation 805/2004 on European enforcement order (OJ 2004 L 143/15)
8. Regulation 1896/2006 creating a European order for payment procedure (OJ 2006 L 399/1)
9. Regulation 861/2007 establishing a European small claims procedure (OJ 2007 L 199/1)
10. Regulation 864/2007 on the law applicable to non-contractual obligations ('Rome II') (OJ 2007 L 199/40)
11. Directive 2008/52 on mediation (OJ 2008 L 136/3)
12. Regulation 593/2008 on 'Rome I' (choice of law for contractual obligations) (OJ 2008 L 177/6)
13. Decision amending Decision on judicial network (OJ 2009 L 168/35)
14. Regulation 662/2009 on Member States’ negotiation and conclusion of external treaties relating to maintenance, divorce and parental responsibility (OJ 2009 L 200/25)
15. Regulation 664/2009 on Member States’ negotiation and conclusion of external treaties relating to conflict of laws as regards contractual and non-contractual obligations (OJ 2009 L 200/46)
16. ‘Rome III’ Regulation 1259/2010 on choice of law in divorce proceedings (OJ 2010 L 343/10)
17. Regulation 650/2012 on choice of law and jurisdiction in succession proceedings (OJ 2012 L 201/107)
18. Regulation 1215/2012 on civil and commercial jurisdiction (OJ 2012 L 351/1) - – nb applies to Denmark by means of treaty already
19. Regulation 606/2013 on civil law enforcement of protection orders (OJ 2013 L 181/4)
20. Regulation 542/1014 amending civil jurisdiction Regulation (OJ 2014 L 163/1) – nb applies to Denmark by means of treaty already
21. Regulation on European account preservation orders

Criminal law and policing


1. Directive 2010/64 on the right to interpretation and translation in the framework of criminal proceedings (OJ 2010 L 280/1)
2. Directive 2011/36 on trafficking in persons (OJ 2011 L 101/1)
3. Directive 2011/82 on exchange of information on traffic offences (OJ 2011 L 288/1)
4. Directive 2011/92 on sexual exploitation of children (OJ 2011 L 335/1)
5. Directive 2011/99 on European protection order (OJ 2011 L 338/2)
6. Directive 2012/13 on the right to information on criminal proceedings (OJ 2012 L 142/1)
7. Directive 2012/29 on crime victims’ rights (OJ 2012 L 315/57)
8. Directive 2013/40 on attacks on information systems (OJ 2013 L 218/8)
9. Directive 2013/48 on access to lawyer and communication rights (OJ 2013 L 294/1)
10. Directive 2014/41 on European investigation order (OJ 2014 L 130/1)
11. Directive 2014/42 on freezing and confiscation of criminal proceeds (OJ 2014 L 127/39)
12. Directive 2014/57 on criminal sanctions against market abuse
13. Directive 2014/62 on counterfeiting currency (OJ 2014 L 151/1)


1. Regulation establishing a Justice Programme (OJ 2013 L 354/73)
2. Regulation on the instrument for financial support for police cooperation, preventing and combating crime, and crisis management (OJ 2014 L 150/93)
3. Regulation 543/2014 amending Decision on European Police College (OJ 2014 L 163/5)

2) Proposals

Immigration and asylum

1. Directive on admission of students, researchers and others (COM (2013) 151, 25 March 2013)
2. Regulation amending the Dublin III Regulation regarding unaccompanied minors (COM (2014) 382, 26 June 2014)

Civil cooperation

1. Commission invitation to Council to apply ‘co-decision’ procedure to the issue of maintenance obligations (COM (2005) 648, 15 Dec. 2005)
2. Commission proposal for Regulation on choice of law and jurisdiction on matrimonial property (COM (2011) 126, 16 Mar. 2011)
3. Commission proposal for Regulation on choice of law and jurisdiction on registered partnerships (COM (2011) 127, 16 Mar. 2011)
4. Commission proposal for Regulation amending insolvency Regulation (COM (2012) 744, 12 Dec. 2012)
5. Proposal for Regulation amending prior legislation regarding implementing measures (COM (2013) 452, 27 June 2013)
6. Proposal for Regulation amending small claims and order for payment Regulations (COM (2013) 794, 19 Nov. 2013)

Criminal law

1. Proposal for Directive on the right to interpretation and translation in the framework of criminal proceedings (COM (2010) 82, 9 March 2010)
2. Proposal for Directive on passenger name records (COM (2011) 32, 2 Feb. 2011)
3. Proposal for Directive on protection of EU financial interests (COM (2012) 363, 11 July 2012)
4. Proposal to amend Framework Decision on drug trafficking (COM (2013) 618, 17 Sep. 2013)
5. Proposal on presumption of innocence (COM (2013) 821, 27 Nov. 2013)
6. Proposal on childrens’ rights as suspects (COM (2013) 822, 27 Nov. 2013)
7. Proposal on provisional legal aid (COM (2013) 824, 27 Nov. 2013)
8. Regulation on Europol (COM (2013) 173, 27 March 2013)
9. Regulation on European Public Prosecutor’s Office (COM (2013) 534, 17 July 2013)
10. Regulation on Eurojust (COM (2013) 535, 17 July 2013)

Note: this list does not include measures which have expired or been replaced (or which will be replaced as of July 2015). It also does not include international treaties with third States, since at least in some cases, Denmark has parallel arrangements in place with the countries concerned. The most important treaties in question concern readmission, visa facilitation, the Hague Convention on maintenance and treaties on mutual assistance, extradition and exchange of police information.

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