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Friday, January 24, 2014

Is an EU referendum back on the Dutch agenda?

Thierry Baudet
This week, the Dutch Parliament held a debate on whether it is necessary to hold a referendum on transferring new powers to the European Union. The debate was triggered by a campaign, called "Citizen's forum - EU" which managed to gather over 63,000 signatures, above the threshold needed (40,000 signatures necessary) to force it on to the agenda of the Lower House.

The campaign demands:
1. An end to the creeping transfer of powers to the EU.

2.  If powers are transferred to the EU, a referendum must be held so the Dutch population can have a say on this transfer of powers.
Two of the campaigners, Dutch academic Thierry Baudet (photo), and economist Ewald Engelen said in a speech to MPs: 
"The Lower House is about to lose its core competences...You won’t be able to decide policy any more. You abolish yourself. But you don’t have the right at all to do this. Because the sovereignty is with us, the people. You are merely the representatives of the Dutch people."
As De Volkskrant reported, the reception was more positive than expected. It was not only the "usual suspects", like Geert Wilders' PVV, the Socialist Party and the Party for the Animals that welcomed the idea. These parties have expressed support for a Dutch-style "referendum lock" in the past,

More interestingly, the social-democrat PvdAalso  came out in support, with its EU-spokeswoman Marit Maij MP, saying: "the PvdA wants to proceed quickly with a possible referendum" - albeit with a lot of qualifications,The party is only in favour of a non-binding referendum, and wants it to be held according to new rules currently being negotiated in the Dutch Senate, which would make it necessary to first obtain 300,000 signatures, a high threshold in the Netherlands (but something which the EU referendum campaigners are considering).

The Christian Union, which sits with the Tories in the ECR Group in Brussels, support the idea, with its spokesman, Gert-Jan Segers MP, saying that "by means of exception we accept an advisory referendum".

Dutch PM Mark Rutte's governing VVD reiterated its support for strengthening national parliaments (something which the PvdA also wants), but is against referendums as a tool of policy.

Meanwhile, a new poll, by prominent pollster Maurice de Hond, reveals that 67% of Dutch citizens want a referendum in the event of new powers be transferred from the Netherlands to the EU:

Ja = Yes, Nee = No
This is against a tricky backdrop: current opinion polls show that Geert Wilders' PVV would have almost as many seats the governing VVD and PvdA combined, if an election was held today (though that goes far beyond Europe as an issue). With the Dutch government's campaign to set limits on the powers of the next European Commission shows, the European election campaign could prove interesting in the Netherlands.


Rik said...

1. Dutch politics has to move. It is as simple as that.
Whether they like it or not. Both government parties as you mention are butchered in the polls at the moment and it looks very structural.
Rutte is simply seen by half of the people who voted for him in last election and are now running away as: unreliable, untrustworthy and technically incompetent.
Something that looks impossible to repair. And the party has no appealing successor.
Dutch Labour is totally butchered in the polls as well and has all potential successors in the cabinet so little possibilities to plug the hole by kicking the current crew out.
People are moving to Wilders mainly from the VVD and to the socialists from Dutch Labour. From an EU perspective the worst possible move.
Cabinet still looks highly unstable as they donot have a majority in the Senate and need to horse trade. And anyway with such a loss parties it can always implode at any moment.

I expect like with IP in the UK that it will be yellow card time in Holland with the EP election. People showing their 'problems' with politics as it goes. Unlikely that there will be strategic voting here as well. Only strategic voting will be giving yellow cards to traditional parties. Simply not an important election in most people's eyes and the electorate has had a very bad experience last general election.
Likely the result will put more pressure on the kettle, both nationally in Holland (and several others) as in the EU.

2. Good to have Timmermans aboard. Probably the only one in their cabinet that can work towards an agenda. Rutte himself is simply too stupid for that (in a nutshell).
Timmermans is however a sort of Mandelson type. A Mandelson minus 10 points IQ, I would say. Still an intellectual giant between the usual midgets therefor. Also not appealing to the general voter (always difficult to grasp for me why Labour shouldnot have a Mandelson as candidate but has an idiot like Mr Ed as leader. Probably to do with the fact that they look to keep too much distance).
However also basically pro-EU. More likely that he has seen the signs on the wall than that he is really convinced that serious change is necessary.
Good guy to have aboard as said.
Same as btw for Holland the SP senator Cokx (or something like that) looks like the main strategic thinker there.

The advantage of bringing stuff back to national level simply means you can have many different sorts of allies. After it has been done all parties when in power at national level can restore their own pets. Unlike the other side that should basically agree on all policies that are supposed to come from Brussels in the future.

Anonymous said...

If the referendum is not binding, then it's useless.

Rik said...

It is hardly useless. The first party that goes against a clear not binding referendum result (with a proper turn out) should probably still be founded.