Pessimistic Dutch warily eye EU expansion
3 May 2004
AMSTERDAM — Despite the official European Union backslapping and high profile celebrations, two surveys have indicated that a large proportion of the Dutch population was not pleased by the 1 May expansion of the EU to include 10 extra nations.
One survey, conducted by research bureau De Vos & Jansen Marktonderzoek on behalf of newspaper Algemeen Dagblad (AD), found that 46 percent of respondents saw more negatives than positives in the EU expansion.
Another survey conducted on behalf of newspaper De Volkskrant gave a similar result. It indicated that 40 percent of the Dutch population did not consider the expansion a positive development, opposed to 34 percent who did.
Furthermore, the AD survey found that half of the respondents did not feel European and 18 percent gave the EU a clear thumbs down. Conversely, 64 percent of the Dutch population believes the Netherlands can not go it alone without the EU.
The research comes as the EU celebrated on Saturday the historic expansion to include 10 new member states — namely Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia. Eight of them are former Communist states.
The expansion means the EU has 74 million more residents and an extra 738,573sq km and now totals 455 million residents and 4,000,000sq km. The expansion has added EUR 444 billion in extra Gross Domestic Product (GDP), increasing it to EUR 9,613 billion.
The most high-profile festivities to celebrate the expansion took place in Ireland — which currently holds the six-month rotating EU presidency — where 25 national flags were raised alongside the EU flag at a ceremony in Dublin.
Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern hailed a “day of hope and opportunity” as the leaders of the new states were welcomed in the grounds of the Irish president’s official residence by their counterparts from the existing 15 members, BBC reported.
Dutch monarch Queen Beatrix sent a telegram offering her best wishes to the 10 new member states and referred to the importance the expansion symbolised on the road to the unification of Europe, Dutch news agency ANP reported.
Welcoming their leaders and citizens into the EU, the Queen said the Dutch government wanted to co-operate closely with the governments of the incoming member states to create a free, peaceful and prosperous Europe.
Meanwhile, the Volkskrant survey — conducted by IBT Marktonderzoek Amsterdam — revealed that British Prime Minister Tony Blair earns the most respect from the Dutch public. French President Jacques Chirac commands the least amount of respect.
A total of 36 percent of respondents found that Belgium was the most likeable foreign neighbour, while 49 percent said France was the least likeable.
[Copyright Expatica News 2004]
Subject: Dutch news + EU expansion