Government still doesn't get it

15 June 2005

Government still doesn't get it

“The government still thinks that the massive No to the European Constitution proves that the voters didn’t understand what was going on. In reality, however, it’s the government that doesn’t understand. The Constitution was weighed and found lacking. It was found to be a step too far, too quickly, and once more in the wrong direction.” So said SP Senator Tiny Kox during today’s policy debate with the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and development Cooperation.

Tiny KoxThe Eerste Kamer (Senate) debate covered, amongst other things, the result of the referendum of June 1st. The SP Senate Group, led by Senator Kox, argued that the government must recognise the reality of what has occurred. “Millions of Dutch citizens have said no to the government's call for support for a measure which would have handed over more powers from national democratic institutions to the Brussels bureaucracy, given more power to big countries at the expense of smaller states, and deepened the neoliberal and militaristic tendencies of the European Union. We should rejoice in the intelligent decision taken by almost two-thirds of voters, and prepare for a broad national debate on the future of European cooperation. What's needed is a form of European cooperation which doesn't just brush people aside, which doesn't frustrate them, but instead motivates and stimulates them,” said Senator Kox. He also noted how the Dutch No-voters had clearly inspired people elsewhere in Europe to resist the 'megalomaniac' Constitution. “A majority for the No side has come into existence in Denmark, the Czech Republic, Poland, Purtugal, Britain and perhaps even in Luxemburg. The Netherlands is at last exercising leadership!”

During the debate the SP called for more attention to be paid to those European countries which remain outside the European Union and to the initiatives taken by governments striving for progress in Africa and Latin America. In addition, the Netherlands should stop trailing quite so much after the United States. “According to the law of Moses slaves should be freed after seven years. We've been on the American leash for much longer than that,” said Kox.

Foreign Minister Bernard Bot defended this obliging attitude by noting that the American government was much more inclined to talk to the Netherlands than it was to the Belgians, French or Spaniards. Senator Kox responded to this by asking “What's the point in talking if nobody listens to you?” He pointed, for example, to the persistent flouting of international law by the US government and the unwillingness to meet the agreed target for contributions to development cooperation and aid. Because of this, he argued, there is a threat that nothing will come of the international agreement that the number of people living in poverty should be halved by 2015. The American government is also obstructing the much-needed reforms of, amongst other things, the United Nations, the World Trade Organisation and the World Bank, to the last of which the Bush administration crony and hardliner Paul Wolfowitz had been appointed, which was, Kox said, “like sending a cat to an aquarium”. This threatened a new level of moral bankruptcy for the World Bank, following on its earlier failures during the 1980s.

In September the United Nations will discuss the state of play in relation to the so-called Millennium Goals, which include the above-mentioned having of the rate of poverty by 2015, as well as education for all children and the availability to all who need it of medicine offering effective treatment for HIV/Aids. Minister for Development Cooperation Agnes Van Ardenne recognised that the signs were not good, but said that she remained nonetheless optimistic. She agreed with the SP that failure to achieve the stated goals would represent a certificate of total incompetence for the world's leaders.

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