EU mulls action over release of Dutch vote results

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The European Commission is considering action against the Netherlands for publishing provisional election results as soon as they are counted.

Brussels – The European Commission is considering action against the Netherlands if EU vote results are released there Thursday, days before some member states go to the polls, an informed source said.

"It seems that this time the commission services are going to open an infringement procedure," unlike in 2004 when the Dutch EU votes were released early without sanction, the official said.

Dutch and British voters on Thursday kicked off four days of voting across Europe to choose the 736 members of the European Parliament, the only directly elected EU institution.

While the British vote results will not be released until all 27 EU nations have completed voting on Sunday, the results in the Netherlands are set to be published as soon as they are counted late Thursday.

Under EU rules, member states are not obliged to vote on the same day due to differing national practices -- but they can only publish the results after polls close across the bloc, which will happen at 2000 GMT on Sunday.

EU commission spokesman Johannes Laitenberger refused to be drawn on any possible action but underlined the EU nations' obligations.

"It is not for member states to publicly announce the results of elections prior to the completion of voting in all member states. That will be at 10 pm on Sunday and not before. This is an obligation of the member states," he said.

"The legal provisions are perfectly clear," he said, adding however that the media are free to publish exit polls and to predict results.

Asked about prior infractions of the rule, Laitenberger replied: "I will have to check before answering that question."

As at the previous EU parliamentary elections five years ago, a first estimation of the Dutch results will be made public at 9 pm (1900 GMT) Thursday based on results provided by the Dutch municipalities and exit polls.

These will be "provisional results" with the definitive version to be released on Sunday.

However the European Commission is not convinced that the distinction in terminology is enough to let the Dutch off the hook.

The EU executive reminded member states of the rules by mail in May. But it will not be able to take any action, which could result in a fine, before a rule infringement has occurred.

AFP / Expatica

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