Fifty Years of Europe

22 March 2007

Fifty Years of Europe

This week marks the fiftieth anniversary of the European Union with extensive celebrations. This afternoon there will even be a celebration in the Ridderzaal, in the heart of the Dutch parliament. Harry van Bommel will be present, representing the SP. For my part, I will attend a forum with European Commissioner Neelie Kroes and Secretary of State Frans Timmermans.

by Jan Marijnissen, leader of the Socialist Party

In 1957 the Treaty of Rome was signed, and the Netherlands became one of the six participating countries of the European Economic Community (EEC). Cooperation has brought us many benefits - no-one can deny that. And the reasons for this are simple: cooperation means strengthening each other. The question, however, which was in 2005 at last, and for the first time before the Dutch people, put is whether this cooperation should take a turn in the direction of superstate Europe. The Dutch people voted decisively against.

The new government understood this message. The letter concerning the contribution of the Netherlands to the coming debate, published in today's NRC Handelsblad (a daily newspaper) on the constitution is summarised below:

“ The Dutch government is for a Europe in which political primacy lies clearly with the member states. The EU may not, any longer, become an autonomous organisation. (a ‘superstate’). In addition , the government wishes to prevent European regulation from erecting barriers to “our national social arrangements or the quality of public provisions.” In other areas also, which, according to the cabinet belong clearly to the national domain, such as pensions, fiscality, social security, education, culture and health care, a sharper dividing line must be drawn between national policy and those areas of policy which the EU can undertake.

“More European cooperation is indeed necessary around cross-border issues such as energy policy, asylum and immigration policies, the competitiveness of the European economy and transfrontier criminality. On these issues the government asserts the importance of improving decisiveness with regard to existing treaties.”

There's a great deal to be welcomed in this letter. But caution remains advisable, especially when it comes to the passage regarding the improving of “decisiveness”. It seems from this that the veto right well be given up.

Many of the member states approved the Constitution – almost all of them without putting it before the people. The Dutch and French 'no' ensured that, for the time being, account must be taken of people who would rather not see a European superstate. In the coming weeks and months a lively debate will emerge around the future of Europe and the constitution, and the Netherlands will certainly come under pressure.

It is up to us to show how a Europe based on cooperation is certainly possible without the countries participating being forced to give up their sovereignty. If Europe wants to succeed in its plans for cooperation, then it must refrain from taking more powers to itself, and rather demonstrate how cooperation in certain areas can offer benefits to the people. That can be achieved by the adoption of a more modest attitude, and by not introducing laws and regulations which have nothing to do with Europe and which play the citizens of the different member states off against each other.

The SP has described how its sees such cooperation in 'A Better Europe Begins Now'

You are here