Dutch ‘no’ to EU Constitution meant what it said – and still does

28 October 2006

Dutch ‘no’ to EU Constitution meant what it said – and still does

The Dutch population's 'No' to the European Constitution clearly didn't get through to the leaders of Europe's governments. The Netherlands must distance itself from Commission President Jose Barroso's blackmail.

by Harry van Bommel, Member of Parliament and European and foreign affairs spokesman for the SP

European Commission President Jose Barroso has stated that, after the accession of Romania and Bulgaria scheduled for the beginning of next year, there is a danger that the EU will be unable to expand any further. Before it can do so, the situation regarding the European Constitution must be clarified. Accession by, for example, Croatia, will be put on hold. Although this attitude – the absence of an EU Constitution puts a break on enlargement – looks reasonable, it is in fact just the latest – the umpteenth – attempt to put the member states under pressure even now to embrace the European Constitution.

The would-be French presidential candidate and current interior minister, right-winger Nicolas Sarkozy has for some time been arguing in favour of a 'mini'-Constitution, a position which has found support from Italian premier and former Commission President Romano Prodi, who heads a centre-left coalition. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is also anxious to move quickly on the issue of the European Constitution. Clearly, the Dutch population's 'no' has failed to get through to the leaders of Europe's governments. Our own prime minister, Jan Peter Balkenende, ought, in meetings with his colleagues and counterparts, repeatedly to put the Dutch position: No means No.

Of course there is a need to work towards a new treaty, a treaty which tackles in a fundamental manner existing shortcomings, a treaty capable of counting on the support of the population of the European Union. But the European Constitution has been rejected by France and the Netherlands. The Netherlands must for this reason unambiguously remove itself from any association with Commission President Barroso's blackmail. Discussion of the European Constitution and any possible further enlargement of the EU should be completely separate. At the same time our country's political parties, which are about to fight an election, must make their plans concerning this European Constitution completely clear: two of the big three, the Christian Democrat CDA and right-wing liberal VVD, utter not a word on the matter in their election manifestos. They have both at the same time admitted that they have no intention of organising further referenda in the future. In this way they leave open the possibility that they will, after the elections, introduce the European Constitution by the back door. It would be a credit to these parties were they to show their colours before the people vote. This would give the voters, as they go to the polls on November 22nd, the last word.

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