Referendum roundup: 13 days and counting

19th May 2005, Comments 0 comments

19 May 2005, AMSTERDAM — Here is a round up of the latest news about the Dutch referendum on 1 June on the proposal to adopt the EU Constitution.

19 May 2005

AMSTERDAM — Here is a round up of the latest news about the Dutch referendum on 1 June on the proposal to adopt the EU Constitution.

Although the referendum result is officially non-binding, the Dutch government in The Hague has indicated it will be guided by the public's decision. 

MPs back referendum funds

A majority in the Lower House of Parliament, Tweede Kamer, has backed the government's allocation of EUR 3.5 million in support of the EU Constitution.

The money will be used to pay for a new brochure and radio and television advertisements in the run-up to the referendum on 1 June.

When the referendum date was announced earlier this year, Atzo Nicolai, the junior minister responsible for European Affairs, vowed the government would not spend "one cent" on the yes campaign, unless the constitution's opponents mounted a media offensive.

In recent days, however, government ministers have been worried by the possibility the public will vote no.

Finance Minister Gerrit Zalm said more people would vote yes if they had more information about what the constitution entails.

The three parties that make up the centre-right coalition government in the Netherlands have a majority in parliament.

Minister opposes letting people decide

With the 'no' campaign maintaining a one point lead over the government-backed 'yes' campaign, a senior Dutch minister has branded the EU referendum as an unsuitable subject for a referendum.

Laurens Jan Brinkhorst — who is both economics affairs minister and one of the nation's two deputy prime ministers — said many people just don't understand what the Constitution is about. Brinkhorst's comments are noteworthy because he is a member of junior government party D66.

A D66 MP, Boris van der Ham, was of the parliamentarians who led calls for the referendum in the fist place.

The party has campaigned hard over the years for the introduction of referendums at all levels of the political process in the Netherlands.

However, Brinkhorst argues that his party supports corrective referendums in which the public can either force the local or the national government to alter a law. The minister said the current referendum, which is only consultative, is not a useful tool.

His D66 colleague, Democratic Reform and Kingdom Affairs Minister Alexander Pechtold has expressed annoyance at Brinkhorst's comments.

Half of 'no vote' a protest against euro, Turkey

Half of the people who plan to vote against the EU Constitution will do so as a protest against the introduction of the euro currency or the possible entry of Turkey into the European Union, according a new opinion poll in the Netherlands.

One in four of the 1,300 people questioned also said they are being influenced by a lack of confidence in the coalition government led by Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende.

The survey was carried out by the regional press service GPD and Tilburg University's CentERdata research bureau.

D66: Don't panic!

The Dutch Cabinet must not panic now that it is uncertain whether the public will vote in favour of the EU Constitution, an MP for junior coalition government party D66, Bert Bakker, said on Thursday.

Speaking during the parliamentary debate on the report of the government's performance in 2004, Bakker also said: "Voting no is allowed. You won't be sent to the gallows, hell or damnation".

Bakker echoed criticism from the opposition to the constitution in relation to government claims a 'no vote' could leave open the return to traditional rivalries and war in Europe and drive up unemployment.

"It is just like the drugs policy, the more repressive you are in relation to something, the more attractive it becomes," Bakker said.

Wilders: 'No' vote won't damage economy

Independent conservative MP Geert Wilders has dismissed a government claim that rejection of the European Constitution in the referendum on 1 June will damage the Dutch economy.

Instead, he argues, a 'no' by the Dutch public would be a good thing as the constitution itself would damage the economy by increasing the EU's bureaucracy.

Earlier, Foreign Minister Ben Bot claimed rejection of the treaty would make the Netherlands less attractive as a base for foreign companies.

Kok calls for a 'yes vote'

Former Dutch prime minister Wim Kok has stepped back into the limelight to call on the public to vote 'yes' in the referendum on the EU Constitution on 1 June.

During an interview with current affairs television programme Nova on Tuesday night, Kok said the constitution offered the Netherlands many benefits, particularly in relation to tackling international crime, a joint asylum policy, economic wellbeing and in relation to social policies.

He also argued that the constitution actually strengthens the position of national governments in relation to the EU's administration in Brussels rather than weakening it as some opponents of the constitution claim.

Kok, the former leader of the Labour PvdA party, said he understood some of the concerns expressed by the citizens of Europe.

He said many people are afraid the constitution will erode the Netherlands' political position in Europe and will only widen the gulf between ordinary people and Europe's political leaders.

However, Kok claimed the constitution would actually address some of these concerns in a positive way.

[Copyright Expatica News 2005]

Subject: Dutch news, EU constitution, EU referendum

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