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Monday, March 11, 2013

Is the Netherlands heading for a referendum on Europe?

In 2005, Dutch voters rejected the European Constitution
A Dutch citizens' campaign to make it mandatory to hold a referendum on any new transfer of powers to the EU - reminiscent of the UK's referendum lock - has mustered 40,000 signatures, the threshold needed to force Dutch MP's to debate the issue and decide whether they agree with the proposal or not.

A "Parliamentary Commission" still needs to decide whether the initiative meets the conditions for triggering a parliamentary debate. Even if it does, only the Socialist Party, Geert Wilders' populist Party for Freedom and a few smaller parties support the idea - so there's no majority for it in the Dutch parliament. Last week, the centre-right VVD - which governs alongside the Labour Party -  labelled the initiative "unhelpful".

Is this the end of it then? Not quite. The next threshold is 300,000 signatures - which could trigger a non-binding referendum, subject to a new law which still needs to be adopted by the Dutch Senate. The campaigners are already looking ahead to that. There are lots of hurdles to actually get to the stage where a non-binding referendum on whether to adopt a "referendum lock" can be held - let alone adopted - but there's definitely something stirring underneath the surface.

Diederik Samsom, the leader of the Labour Party, said last weekend that changes to EU treaties should indeed require referenda (which is why the Dutch government wants to avoid such changes for now). According to a new poll, 64% of Dutch voters want a referendum on any new transfers of power to the EU (not surprising). However, more surprisingly, 65% of voters actually oppose such transfers of power altogether. With this in mind, gaining 300,000 signatures in a country with almost 17 million citizens does not seem impossible.

As the Dutch government argued in its "State of the EU" report, "The EU's democratic deficit is [the Union's] Achilles heel." The concerns brewing under the surface in the Netherlands show that this shortcoming will need to be addressed sooner rather than later.


Rik said...

The problem all these countries have is that from one angle they are too scared to hold a referendum and from another angle they cannot avoid the issue.
The EU/Euro itself is an issue but as well is the fact that decisionmaking regarding the Euro/EU is simply undemocratic. Withoput asking the people properly the isue like in the UK will simply not be solved.
This is the point to start from.

1. For Holland the government is simply extremely weak. Not only do they have to push through unpopular measures, but also in that process they have messed everything imaginable up. The formation of the cabinet was a disaster, communication on major financial issues even more so. Estimate of how voters would react even more than that. They have no proper majority as they donot have one in the senate.
Anyway they are tanked in the polls (below 45 seats in a 150 house with something like 79 now). Rutte is heavily damaged. If there was proper replacement and his party would be ran in a proper way they would have sent him home already.
Samsong less than that, but his party has lost all strategic votes (10 or so seats of 38/39) plus are chasing away the elderly former worker (a backbone of their party now a former one) and are now at 18/19.

This makes the cabinet highly unstable. One side they cannot afford elections on the other nobody feels comfortable with the present situation and they simply might de facto be sent home in the Dutch Senate.

2. Rutte will have to do something if he wants to survive a next election. His party is traditionally against referenda, however seen the polls his potential voters have clearly other views. He doesnot get the economy running and messed everything else up with the moronic policies of his cabinet so needs something else to survive.
Now his part will be tanked in the next election and he will rightfuly so get the blame for that. So it will be bye bye Rutte.

3. Like the UK this issue will keep hanging over the market until it is properly solved. Either by:
-a referendum;
-the EU getting its house in order. Democratic; Euro crisis solved and not at high costs for the local voter (off the public agenda one way or another), well, that is not going to happen the next decade at least;
-thing falling apart other ways (and he will get the blame for that as well).

4. Their main problem is at the moment so called populist parties are at around 65 of 150 seats in the polls. And all are pro-referendum. The traditional parties have had their yellow card from the voters already (and next time it will be likley red or a second yellow). Which means that polls might actually be a good indication for election results. Plus the populists have the trend with them. And we havenot seen cuts for the costs of the Euro rescue yet as all is done via OBS financing (guarantees).

5. Anyway not only the number of seats but simply the fact they come up will influence the landscape. Traditional parties will have to adjust or pay the price. Simple as that. Fot the EU issue this means no referendum extra seats for the populists. For the economy austerity, extra seats for the populists etc.

6. That is probably more relevant than if 300 K (I think) people sign the petition.

jon livesey said...

Every time the question of the EU's "democratic deficit" comes up, I ask myself the same question.

If this has persisted for so long, can we seriously consider it an oversight or an inability to act?

To me, if the EU has a democratic deficit, it has to be because the big players - I mean financially - want it that way.

Do Germany and the other main net contributors really want an EU in which they could be out-voted?

It's hardly likely, and yet they have to mouth the politically correct pablum about democracy.

So that's how we get the current situation. An EU where all the members make the right noises about democracy, but which actually operates on the basis that he who plays the price can call the tune.

Ray said...

Perhaps we need some way of bringing all these factions together and create a Europe wide anti EU party. Other countries need to get people into the European party alongside UKIP, more voices, more noise.

Rollo said...

It will be the end of the project if voters are ever allowed a say.

AuntyEUnice said...

Nice one Rollo, they can't buy us all.

Rik said...

And by not asking voters as they are scared (for the realistic possibility of a NO, imho it is in no way a certainty), they shoot themselves in the other foot (with a Grillo, Wilders bullet).

There is a 15-20% gap between people who want a referendum or something like that (percentage look pretty stable around Northern Europe) and people who want OUT. This way they are pushing that 15-20% to the other camp and electorally they cannot afford that. You can be Eurogant if you deliver. However if you are Eurogant and make a mess of it the wolfs will have you for lunch.

Gosporttory said...

Rollo is absolutely right. This is why the Socialists, Liberal Socialists and a few arrogant Conservatives don't want to give us a referendum. The answer is a foregone conclusion!!