EU constitution referendum looms
19 November 2003 , AMSTERDAM — MPs have backed a proposal to hold a referendum assessing the Dutch public's view on the proposed European Union constitution.
19 November 2003
AMSTERDAM — MPs have backed a proposal to hold a referendum assessing the Dutch public's view on the proposed European Union constitution.
According to the proposal from the Democrat D66, green-left GroenLinks and Labour PvdA, the referendum will probably be held in June next year, when the European elections will also be held, NOS reported on Tuesday.
But the Christian Democrat CDA and small Christian party SGP are strongly opposed to the referendum. CDA spokeswoman Liesbeth Spies said the poll represented the "undermining of the responsibility of the Dutch Parliament".
VVD Finance Minister Zalm also has doubts about the referendum, fearing that people will focus too much attention on the European conflict over budgetary regulations and the inflationary euro. He said those frustrations alone will prompt people to vote against the proposed constitution.
But GroenLinks, D66 and the PvdA believe that the referendum is more important in light of the public's frustrations. They claim many people feel bypassed and at times cheated by the introduction of different European treaties and the euro itself.
Despite their support for the referendum though, many parties have not decided whether the outcome will determine their final stance over the proposed constitution, which has raised serious discussions around EU defence policy, the role of foreign ministers, voting procedures, the extension of majority voting and references to God.
For the D66 and GroenLinks, the result will be binding barring "extreme circumstances". The PvdA and VVD said the result would weigh heavy in their deliberations. Just how heavy though, is not yet certain.
But the PvdA and VVD have not demanded a minimum participation rate. Only the populist LPF dared to give a figure, indicating about a 50 percent voter turnout as being sufficient to respect the referendum's outcome. The LPF, like the Socialist Party (SP), is strongly opposed to the European constitution.
If the public votes en masse against the constitution, the Dutch Parliament can decide not to ratify the treaty. This would have massive consequences because Dutch ratification is necessary for the constitution to come into being.
The second round of the referendum debate will occur on Thursday when the parties which submitted the proposal respond to criticism from its opponents.
Meanwhile, it was hoped that the constitution could be determined by Christmas, but it has recently been suggested that talks could extend into the New Year, when Ireland will take over the EU rotating presidency from Italy.
[Copyright Expatica News 2003]
Subject: Dutch news