The Netherlands must give some thought to its role in Europe

4 June 2005

The Netherlands must give some thought to its role in Europe

The 'no' to the European Constitution is a clear signal that European co-operation is proceeding badly. Cooperation in this form is now finished. For this reason, the SP is calling for a national convention to debate the role of the EU in the Netherlands, writes Harry van Bommel, Member of Parliament for the SP.

The creation of a European single market, the introduction of the euro, the enlargement of the EU by a total of ten new members state and the subsequent European Constitution have together served to widen the gulf between the EU and ordinary citizens. The signal that Dutch citizens gave on 1st June cannot be ignored.

Most people are in favour of European cooperation where it is needed, but are unhappy about any further transfer of powers to Brussels. Of course there is an alternative to the Europe which we have at present. The role of the EU in the Netherlands must be renegotiated.

What we should be bringing to these negotiations must be determined in full cooperation with the Dutch people. The participation of citizens in 'Europe' is necessary if we are to arrive at a form of cooperation capable of gaining support. The SP is for this reason calling for a national convention on the future of Europe in the Netherlands, a convention in which social organisations, political parties and the citizens in general would take part. This convention would express its views on the question of just which policy areas Europe should concern itself with and with the direction that EU governance should take. .

The SP's view is that for the time being no further transfer of power to Brussels should occur. The idea of an European Minister of Foreign Affairs should be dropped, as should the plan to create a permanent president of the European Council. In addition, there should be a strict division between European concerns and those fully within the member states' autonomy. Public provision of such things as energy, health care, education and public transport should clearly remain in national hands. Brussels is already able to exercise considerable influence on these sectors.

An end must be put to the obligatory liberalisation of the public sector. The structural funds must be reformed so that the practice of moving millions of euros between rich member states is brought to an end. Competences, and the right of veto, must be returned to the member states. Social policy, education and defence are matters the direction of which should be in the Netherlands' power to determine independently.

The referendum must be grasped as an opportunity to close the gap between the EU and the citizens and move towards a democratic, transparent and socially progressive Europe. We have a duty to each other, now more than ever, to make this happen.

This is a translation of an article which appeared in the Utrechts Nieuwsblad of June 4, 2005

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