Cabinet survives to enter EU dialogue
3 June 2005, AMSTERDAM — The Cabinet wants to enter into dialogue with the Dutch public over the future of the European Union, Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said in a debate with MPs over the nation's 'no' vote against the EU Constitution.
3 June 2005
AMSTERDAM — The Cabinet wants to enter into dialogue with the Dutch public over the future of the European Union, Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said in a debate with MPs over the nation's 'no' vote against the EU Constitution.
The prime minister admitted on Thursday there was deep unrest about the pace of change in the EU and that the government needs to listen better to the public. Balkenende said a gulf has developed between politicians and voters.
He backed a motion from the Socialist Party calling for a "broad social discussion" over the future of the EU. A large majority of MPs — excluding those from the Liberal VVD — also backed the proposal.
VVD parliamentary leader Jozias van Aartsen was opposed, calling it "political tokenism". He said parliament should accept its responsibility and examine the EU legitimacy crisis itself
Both Balkenende and Foreign Affairs Minister Ben Bot refused to apologise for the government's hard stance in the lead-up to Wednesday's referendum, in which a massive 61.6 percent of voters rejected the constitution.
The government had warned about the possibility of war should the public vote no at the referendum, but both Balkenende and Bot said the 'no camp' had also used strong words.
Respecting the public's vote, the government withdrew its motion from parliament calling on MPs to approve the constitution. The drawing up of a new constitution is not considered likely in the short-term either.
And reports surfaced on Friday that EU leaders will agree at a crisis summit on 16-17 June to temporarily call of the ratification process. Newspaper 'Het Financieele Dagblad' quoted sources saying the EU wants a period of reflection, but is not yet ready to declare the constitution dead.
Meanwhile, Balkenende said the cabinet will take a tougher stance in Brussels on negotiations over EU policy, stressing that the union should limit itself to matters that member states cannot handle individually. The Dutch contribution to the EU budget must also be lowered, but European co-operation will continue.
"The voter has said no against the constitution, not against the European Union," Balkenende said.
A motion of no-confidence independent right-wing MP Geert Wilders lodged against the cabinet did not receive backing from any other MP on Thursday. Wilders is convinced the cabinet showed itself to be "completely unreliable" by its actions in the campaign.
The parliament — 85 percent of which supported the constitution — was critical of itself on Thursday. Labour PvdA, Liberal VVD, green-left GroenLinks, the Socialist SP and populist LPF are in favour of holding referendums more often to close the gap between the public and politicians.
However, Christian Democrat CDA parliamentary leader Maxime Verhagen cast doubt on the potential success of such a proposal. He said there was also a gulf between the public and unions and employer associations. Unions and employer groups were both in favour of the constitution.
The cabinet did not immediately reject staging referendums more often, but did not confirm its stance either. Government Reform Minister Alexander Pechtold will shortly draw up a proposal.
Nevertheless, Balkenende dismissed a call from the LPF and Wilders to stage a referendum over the accession of Turkey to the EU. Balkenende said negotiations with Turkey have not yet started and its possible entry to the EU cannot occur for at least 10 years.
[Copyright Expatica News 2005]
Subject: Dutch news