1. The Eastern Neighbours and Russia

Eagerness to Reengage, but Conditional on Good Behaviour

Russia’s recent aggressive actions towards Ukraine are of an unprecedented nature and scope in Europe since the end of the Cold War. Russia’s role in solving the Ukraine conflict should, therefore, remain decisive for the EU’s relations with Russia in the foreseeable future. If Russia plays a constructive role in achieving an acceptable solution to the Ukraine conflict, there is basis for re-establishing EU-Russia relations with a view to promoting mutual political and economic interests. Denmark wishes to follow the EU line when it comes to relations to Russia and is fully behind the common EU measures regarding Russia concerning its destabilizing measures towards Ukraine.

However, Denmark still seeks to balance pragmatic national interests (especially strong Danish interests in sustaining the Danish-Russian cooperation in the Artic) while then not diverting from the EU track. Denmark has supported all rounds of sanctions early but not been a driving force in the process.  Generally, the overall effect of sanctions on Danish GNP is very limited. However, there are certain sectors which are affected to a large extent, especially the food sector following the Russian food embargo. This is especially the Danish meat (pig) production.

The effects on the Danish economy resulting from the sanctions have been widely debated in Danish media, but the protests, including from the affected businesses sectors, has not been particularly harsh. Rather, the general line has been that this is a necessary evil of the sanctions which Denmark supports firmly.


Despite Conflict, Reason to Hope for Further European Integration

The dramatic events in Ukraine during the last year and a half (Maidan, Crimea, and conflict in Eastern Ukraine) have created instability, insecurity, armed conflict and challenged the European Security System – but have also led to an intensified and deeper engagement and cooperation with Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova in particular. Denmark has continuously supported the EU sanctions imposed on Russia and expressed its full support of the Minsk process.

Summit Successful, but in the Context of Lower Expectations

The Riga Summit was generally very positively received. Despite disagreements within the EU, between the EU and the partner states and among the partner states themselves in the run up to Riga, these were solved before it got underway and paved the path for a successful Summit. Denmark saw it as crucially important that the Eastern Partnership was kept united and together. Denmark evaluates the outcome of the summit by bearing in mind that from the outset it was clear that this summit wouldn’t be rich on new agreements like the Vilnius Summit. Riga consisted more of “stocktaking”. However, it is positive that the Riga Summit declaration contains strategic direction for the development of the Eastern Partnership beyond Riga in the form of differentiation: taking as the point of departure the ambitions and capabilities of each partner individually.

Rejection of EU Army, Strong Support for NATO

Due to the Danish opt-out of all defence-related aspects of the EU Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), Denmark has a unique perspective on European security and defence issues that sets it apart from the European mainstream. The opt-out on defence cooperation was established in 1992 with the Danish ‘No’ vote on the Maastricht Treaty. A central rationale behind the formation of the defence opt-out was the fear that the EU would gradually develop an EU army that could undermine NATO and the transatlantic relationship. Thus, Denmark would not be able to participate in any aspects of an EU army nor would it support the idea, which goes against the general public will.


2. EU Enlargement

Support for Reforms and Continued Partnership, but ‘Not Yet’ for Membership

The Ukraine crisis has not led to any changes of strategic direction in the Danish position on EU enlargement to the East. Denmark shares the view of a clear majority of EU member states that the question of possible EU-enlargement to the east is not on the table.

Denmark supports a deepening and strengthening of the present relation between the EU and the Eastern Partnership states – that is, that the partners concerned can achieve closer political and economic integration with the EU (through the implementation of the Association Agreement and the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area agreement). Thus, the Eastern Partners can help themselves move closer to the EU by implementing reforms and existing agreements. Political and economic reforms are essential to all six partner countries – regardless of their relations with the EU. The same goes for good governance, the fight against corruption, rule of law, and human rights.

The general Danish perspective is that conditionality with a firm focus on rule of law, economic governance, and public sector reform is a key to a viable enlargement policy. Thus, EU membership perspective is the most effective tool for stabilisation and economic development of the continent. For it to work, it is necessary to show credibility and honour progress, but also address shortcomings in aspiring countries head on. Denmark stands by its commitment to continuation of the enlargement process. Even though Russia exerts its influence in the Eastern neighbourhood, in particular in the Western Balkans, the enlargement process and the societal transformations of the countries involved are independent means and the pace will not be dictated by Russia but by the progress made in and by the states themselves.


This EU-28 Watch is part of the a project called ‘Eastern Neighbours and Russia: Close links with EU citizens’ (ENURC) in collaboration with TEPSA (Trans European Policy Studies Association). The project focuses on developing EU citizens’ understanding of the topic of the Eastern Neighbourhood and Russia and aims at encouraging their interest and involvement in this policy which has an impact on their daily lives.

The EU-28 Watch project is mapping out the discourses on these issues in European policies all over Europe. Research institutes from all 28 member states are invited to give overviews on the discourses in their respective countries.

This survey was conducted on the basis of a questionnaire that has been elaborated in March 2015. Most of the reports were delivered in June 2015. This issue and all previous issues are available on the recently relaunched EU-28 Watch website:

The EU-28 Watch No. 11 receives significant funding from the Otto Wolff-Foundation, Cologne, in the framework of the ‘Dialog Europa der Otto Wolff-Stiftung’, and financial support from the European Commission. The European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information contained therein.