March 17, 2015 / 11:19 AM / in 3 years

Danish parties agree to hold EU referendum by March 2016

Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt speaks during a news conference to announce anti-terror initiatives, in Christiansborg February 19, 2015. REUTERS/Simon Skipper/Scanpix

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Danish parties representing 75 percent of parliament agreed on Tuesday to hold a referendum on whether to adopt EU justice rules no later than March 2016, with a yes vote necessary for the country to remain in cross-border crime agency Europol.

Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt’s Social Democrats and the opposition Liberals have both said Danes should ‘opt in’ to some European Union rules to maintain cooperation with Europol, which is undergoing reform.

The EU is about to change the way countries cooperate on criminal investigations into a system in which Europol would sit in the center from the present system of unilateral collaboration between states.

Such matters fall under the European Union’s justice and home affairs rules from which Denmark has been exempt since the 1990s.

“Changing the Danish opt-out is a precondition for continued Danish participation in cooperation within Europol to fight cross-border criminal activities,” Thorning-Schmidt said.

As part of the political deal, the parties detailed 22 EU rules that the country should opt in to and 28 that it should remain outside of.

Three smaller political parties, among them the populist Danish People’s Party which is set to win a large portion of the vote in an election later this year, will recommend that voters say no at the referendum.

Reporting by Erik Matzen; editing by Sabina Zawadzki and Ralph Boulton

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