Dutch increasingly sceptical about EU
10 December 2003
AMSTERDAM — The Dutch public believes that membership of the EU is good because it gives access to a huge market, but support for further European integration has dropped significantly in the past six months, according to a new survey.
Last Spring, 73 percent of the Dutch population were in favour of the drive to deepen European integration, but the latest opinion poll conducted on behalf of the European Commission found that this had declined to 62 percent by October and November this year, newspaper NRC reported.
The Eurobarometer study result comes weeks after Dutch Foreign Minister Gerrit Zalm launched a highly-public call for Germany and France to be fined for breaching the Stability and Growth Pact which aims to support the value of the euro currency.
The poll indicated that across Europe enthusiasm for the EU among the citizens of all 15 member states has slipped badly, with only 48 percent acknowledging that the EU is a “good thing”. Last Spring, 54 percent answered the question positively.
The EU’s rating is now in danger of reaching or even passing the all-time low recorded in 1997 when only 46 percent were in favour of closer European ties.
The Netherlands used to be a strong supporter of the European project, but now finds itself among the middle group of countries, with Spain, Denmark, Greece and Portugal, when it comes to being enthusiastic about the EU, the NRC reported.
Britain, which has not adopted the euro currency, is the least enthusiastic, with just 28 percent of its citizens in favour of the EU.
Atzo Nicolai, the Dutch Staatssecretaris (Junior Minister) for European Affairs told the paper he was shocked, but not surprised by the fall of support in the Netherlands.
“The discussion about the Stability Pact played an important role in the outcome of the poll. People’s trust has been damaged that promises will be kept in Europe and that there is equality before the law for large and smaller states. This doubt is clear and understandable,” he said.
An earlier study conducted of the Dutch public, but only revealed this week by the NRC, gave similarly depressing indication of EU support in the Netherlands.
The poll of 1,015 Dutch people was conducted in April 2003 to gauge attitudes to the EU in light of the accession of 10 new states and the Dutch chairmanship of the EU in 2004.
Some 39 percent said the EU was too bureaucratic, while 27 percent said there was too much of a gap between the public and the EU bodies. The euro, the currency of 12 of the 15 states, was a bone of contention for 26 percent.
The fear of a “greater Europe” eclipsing the authority of nation states also worried 16 percent of Dutch nationals who said “the Netherlands was no longer the Netherlands”. Another 13 percent were unhappy about the 10 new states joining the union.
While admitting this was alarming in light of the referendum on the proposed constitution in 2004, Nicolai said there are still “several steps” to go before the public goes to the polls.
[Copyright Expatica News 2003]
Subject: Dutch News + EU