When is a referendum required?
§20 of the Danish Constitution
(1) Powers vested in the authorities of the Realm under this Constitution Act
may, to such extent as shall be provided by Statute, be delegated to
international authorities set up by mutual agreement with other states for
the promotion of international rules of law and co-operation.
(2) For the passing of a Bill dealing with the above a majority of five-sixths
of the Members of the Parliament shall be required. If this majority is not
obtained, whereas the majority required for the passing of ordinary Bills is
obtained, and if the Government maintains it, the Bill shall be submitted to
the Electorate for approval or rejection in accordance with the rules for
Referenda laid down in Section 42.
Denmark’s Justice Ministry has determined that joining the European Patent
Court would involve devolution of sovereignty to the European Union and may
require a referendum under Paragraph 20 of the Constitution.
According to Ritzau’s information, the government is to table Danish
participation in the Patent Court during the next parliamentary session.
Passage would require a 5/6 majority under the Constitution.
Both the Danish People’s Party and the Red Greens have expressed reservations
and suggested that a referendum should be held. Without agreements with the
two parties, the 5/6 majority cannot be achieved and a referendum would
become mandatory if the government wanted Denmark to join.
Danish industry is in favour of the government’s proposal to join the Court.
Although Danish companies are able to win an EU patent that is binding in
other countries that have joined the European Patent Convention, there is no
single EU entity able to decide on infringements.
This has resulted in companies having to sue for patent infringements in each
separate country where they are alleged to occur.
A decision to set up an EU Patent Court, which was one of Denmark’s victories
during its EU Presidency, would enable cases to be heard in one place and
apply throughout the Union.
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