French ‘Non’ will have a major influence on Dutch referendum

15 April 2005

French ‘Non’ will have a major influence on Dutch referendum

“Thanks to PSV knocking Lyon out, you won’t be winning the European Champions’ League, but you can still pick up a fantastic European trophy on 29th May if you reject the European Constitution. A French ‘Non’ would certainly help us fo follow suit three days later with our own rejection of this neoliberal ‘constitution’.” That’s what SP Senator Tiny Kox told a packed referendum meeting in Paris yesterday evening.

Tiny KoxOn Thursday evening the progressives of the French “No” campaign demonstrated their growing strength as 6000 people packed “Le Zenith”, a huge meeting hall in Paris. To the dismay of the French government around 55% of the country's population now say they will vote against the Constitution. Disquiet over the omnipotence of Brussels, the threatened introduction of ex-Commissioner Bolkestein's so-called Services Directive and anger in the face of the hard right policies of President Chirac and his prime minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin are the main reasons for the rapid growth in support for a “No”.

The meeting was addressed by a large number of leading left “No” campaigners. Although the leaders of the social-democratic Parti Socialiste (PS), just like those of the Dutch Labour Party (PvdA) support the proposed Constitution, a large majority of their parties' members and voters is threatening to vote against. Other parties of the French left reject the proposal, pointing to what they term its ultraliberal character. As well as left politicians, speakers represented trade unions, youth organisations, Attac and the environmentalist movement. The progressive farmers' leader José Bové also spoke, drawing a link between current developments in Europe and the process of neoliberal globalisation, calling this an additional reason to ensure a solid “No”.

Also on Thursday evening, President Chirac appeared on television to issue an urgent call to his compatriots 'not to be afraid'. Doing all he could to attract left voters to the 'Yes' side, he even claimed that the European Constitution offered protection against ultraliberalism and the “Americanisation” of Europe, and, equally falsely, that Bolkestein's Services Directive, extremely unpopular in France, had been scrapped. This directive would open the vast majority of services, including health care and education, to 'free market' competition and has provoked massive protests throughout the country.

Chirac's cries of alarm were greeted in the Zenith with jeers and boos. Tiny Kox's offer to let the French keep Bolkestein permanently at the ex-VVD (right wing Dutch liberal party) leader's holiday home in the country was answered with a polite “thanks, but no thanks”. Senator Kox praised the French electricians who the previous day had, in response to complaints about the service in France, cut the power supply to Bolkestein's dacha. “Actually, by responding so quickly to his complaint they proved how good the service is!” The SP Senator noted how Bolkestein had emphatically contradicted his French kindred spirit Chirac's claims about the constitution: “The VVD's website says that the Dutch liberals are for the European Constitution because it is a liberalising constitution. That's exactly why we're against it!” Kox surprised his audience by announcing that the “No” side in the Netherlands also looked like being bigger than the “Yes” support, adding that he hoped that “at the end of May and beginning of June we can together go after the really big European prize!”

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