PM admits EU Constitution is 'not ideal'

17th May 2005, Comments 0 comments

17 May 2005AMSTERDAM — Acknowledging the need to pay more attention to criticism about the workings of the European Union, Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende has again called on the Dutch public to back the EU Constitution.

17 May 2005

AMSTERDAM — Acknowledging the need to pay more attention to criticism about the workings of the European Union, Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende has again called on the Dutch public to back the EU Constitution.

Speaking on the fringes of the Council of Europe meeting in Poland on Tuesday, Balkenende appeared to try to reach out to the no camp in the advisory referendum on the constitution.

"We must have understanding for the things we can do better, but ultimately it is a question of what can bring us closer to that (objective).

"The European Constitution is perhaps not ideal, but will ultimately help us to advance. It is better than what we have now," the leader of the Dutch Christian Democrat Party (CDA) said.

Balkenende also suggested the adoption of the Constitution would help the EU operate more effectively in relation to combating terrorism and creating employment. "We need each other in Europe," he added.

His comments come days after a government-commissioned opinion poll indicated that the 'no' campaign is leading 40 percent to 39 percent against the pro-Constitution lobby in the Netherlands.

Another 15 percent of the total of 800 people who took part in the telephone poll said they did not know which way they might vote in the referendum on 1 June.

Opinion polls published in France have given the 'no' campaign there between 51 to 53 percent support.

Stung into action, the Dutch government plans to spend a total of EUR 3.5 million on ads in the media and on a glossy brochure to boost its lacklustre campaign in favour of the Constitution.

Acknowledging that the contest had become very tense, Finance Minister Gerrit Zalm said after a Cabinet meeting on Friday that more people would vote in favour as they received more information about it.

Both he and European Minister Atzo Nicolaï have claimed the Dutch public are confused about the issues and Zalm said that "all kinds of emotion" come into play during a referendum campaign.

"Many people can't see the wood for the trees — therefore there has to be more clarity," Nicolaï  said when defending the government's decision to spend the EUR 3.5 million promoting the Constitution.

[Copyright Expatica News + ANP 2005]

Subject: Dutch news

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