No referendum - a motion of no confidence in the people

21 September 2007

No referendum - a motion of no confidence in the people

“The fact that the government does not want to hold a referendum on the amended European Constitution represents a motion of no confidence in the people of their own country," says SP European Affairs spokesman Harry van Bommel. “The public's ability to form judgements isn't trusted, which is why the government has been aiming for some time to dodge a new referendum.” Van Bommel will be taking the initiative, despite the government's decision, in attempting to organise a referendum via Parliament. “If the Labour Party in Parliament keeps its word and doesn't do a U-turn, then we will have a majority in favour," he says.

Harry van BommelThe SP was unsurprised by the government's decision, as Van Bommel explains. Referring to advice from the influential Council of State, a body appointed by the Queen to advise both parliament and government, he said that "It quickly became clear that the Council of State was being used as a screen to hide behind. If the European Constitution can't be brought into the Netherlands by the front door, then they'll bring it in round the back, which was the reaction also of many other countries to the result of the referendum. The government is yielding to this, which not only means that they are treating those people who voted 'no' with contempt, it also sends a signal that any real involvement of the public in the European project is regarded as undesirable. Swallow your medicine and nod in agreement, that is obviously as far as the people's role in this goes."

According to the British thinktank Open Europe, 96% of the rejected Constitutional Treaty remains intact. “One thing which has changed is that the Charter of Fundamental Rights will no longer be integral to the treaty, but simply the subject of a declaration that it is legally binding," said Van Bommel. "The Council of State saw these fundamental rights as 'an essential element of a Constitution in a democratic state under the rule of law' and compared acceptance of the Constitutional Treaty with an amendment to our own Constitution. That analysis remains valid."

In the opinion of the SP, the changes to the Constitutional Treaty evident in the new text are indeed greatly outweighed by those parts of the treaty which have been left intact. Unanimity is required in far fewer policy areas, while a range of new powers will be transferred from democratically elected national institutions to centralised, largely unaccountable bodies. There will be a sort of European Minister of Foreign Affairs and a 'President' of the European Council elected every two-and-a-half years, renewable once. In these and other ways, the EU will be moved closer to the status of a fully federal state, in place of a group of independent nations freely cooperating. National parliaments will not be in a position to resist bad EU legislation, while our social housing and health care will continue to be in danger from EU competition law. As. Van Bommel sees it, “There is only one way to ascertain whether the government has done justice to the Dutch 'no'. And that is by putting the new treaty, after a renewed open debate, to a referendum in which all Dutch citizens can have their say.”

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