Danes have rejected a government proposal to further their country's involvement in the EU. Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen announced the referendum had resulted in a "clear no."
Denmark voted to keep the country's relationship with the European Union the way it has been, according to projections based on 97 percent of all votes counted.
The "no" camp - which opposed introducing changes to Denmark's exemption from the EU's shared justice system - garnered 53 percent of the vote, while the "yes" side - which advocated assessing court cases on a case-to-case basis and referring them to EU law accordingly - got just under 47 percent.
Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen said at a press conference that he fully respected the result of the plebiscite. Rasmussen had earlier campaigned in favor of opening Denmark up to greater cooperation with the EU, arguing that it would help to curb crime and extremism.
"I don't consider this as a step back," he told journalists.
"The Danes have refused to take a step forward."
The new face of Danish politics
The "no" camp, led by the Danish People's Party (DPP), had a competitive edge still riding on a wave of success after its record surge in votes in the June 2015 election. The DPP had run on an anti-immigration platform, and is known for its anti-EU stance. The party campaigned against the change in law, saying that deeper cooperation with EU would lead to more immigration.
"The Danes know that when things are left to Brussels, they're left a long way away in a non-transparent system where we lose a lot of our democracy," said Kristian Thulesen-Dahl, head of the DPP.
"Danes are saying yes to cooperation but no to relinquishing more sovereignty to Brussels."
Denmark: an unusual EU member on the sidelines
Denmark's special status in the European Union consists of exclusions when it comes to EU justice and home affairs policies, since Danish voters rejected the Maastricht Treaty in 1992. When Denmark was offered opt-outs in those areas in 1993, Danes agreed to the treaty. Britain and Ireland have also long enjoyed similar exemptions from EU law.
The vote was in part invoked as the EU changed the role of the European police agency (EUROPOL) last week, including bans to opt-outs from EU justice policies for full members. Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen will now have to meet with leaders in Brussels to negotiate new deals for his nation.
ss/rc (AFP, AP, Reuters, dpa)