EU focus shifts to Dutch referendum
30 May 2005, AMSTERDAM — The European Union's focus shifted on Monday to the Netherlands in the unlikely hope the Dutch public will isolate the French and back the EU Constitution in Wednesday's referendum.
30 May 2005
AMSTERDAM — The European Union's focus shifted on Monday to the Netherlands in the unlikely hope the Dutch public will isolate the French and back the EU Constitution in Wednesday's referendum.
EU leaders called for a "pause for reflection" as opinion polls indicate Dutch voters will reject the constitution, as did 55 percent of French voters in that nation's referendum on Sunday.
The European Commission accepted the French result, but also appeared ready to weather this week's storm and wait for the EU leaders to meet in mid-June to discuss what went wrong, news agency AFP reported.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair said he hoped Dutch voters would approve of the treaty and said a more wide-ranging debate is necessary within the EU following the French no vote.
"We have to wait for what happens with the Dutch referendum," he said, adding it was too early to decide if Britain will hold a referendum.
Britain will take over the presidency of the EU on 1 July and European leaders will meet on 16 June to see if the constitution can be salvaged.
The Dutch government reacted with disappointment to the French 'non' vote and Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said "the Netherlands now plays an important role. We must be conscious of our own interest and say yes".
Balkenende's ruling Christian Democrat CDA also said it would accept the public's opinion if 55 percent vote 'nee' in the Netherlands' referendum.
The CDA initially said 60 percent needed to vote no for it accept the public's decision. However, party leader Maxime Verhagen said on Monday a similar result to the French poll would be binding for the CDA.
Officially, the Dutch plebiscite is only an advisory referendum. However, when they come to decide the issue in Parliament, the major political parties will accept the result of the referendum if the voter participation rate is above 30 percent.
Polls have regularly indicated Dutch voters will reject the constitution, but the gap between the yes and no camp is closing.
The constitution aims to streamline decision-making in the enlarged EU of 25 countries. It must to be ratified by all member states to become law. Besides the French no, nine countries have already approved the treaty.
[Copyright Expatica News + ANP 2005]
Subject: Dutch news