SP calls for emergency debate on blocking of EU referendum

24 September 2007

SP calls for emergency debate on blocking of EU referendum

SP Member of Parliament and European Affairs spokesman Harry van Bommel is trying to discover whether the government would block a proposal from parliament to hold a referendum on the revised EU treaty. Although the government has decided a referendum on the European Reform Treaty is unnecessary - despite it being almost identical to the Constitutional Treaty overwhelmingly rejected by the Dutch people just over two years ago - this does not close off all of the options. Under the Dutch political system referenda are rare, but parliament as well as the government has the right to call them. Van Bommel wants to know if the present government would reject a democratic decision by parliament to go ahead with such a referendum, and will call tomorrow for an emergency debate with Premier Jan-Peter Balkenende to settle the matter. However, because the prime minister is travelling abroad, a debate could probably not take place before next week.

Harry van Bommel Van Bommel was reacting to the announcement that the government – a coalition of Christian Democrats (CDA), Labour (PvdA) and the small Christian Union – had decided not to call a new referendum. Despite this decision, Prime Minister Balkenende was unwilling on Friday, when the announcement was made, to state what his government's attitude would be should parliament come forward with its own proposal.

The SP is currently working on just such a proposal, a move which has won backing from supporters as well as opponents of the new treaty. Crucial in deciding whether a majority will support the move will be the attitude of the Labour Party's parliamentary group, which, although PvdA ministers have accepted the government's refusal to call a referendum, will meet on Tuesday to decide whether to support a referendum nevertheless. Labour supported the calling of the 2005 vote, but may claim, as others have done, that the new treaty is sufficiently revised, a claim rejected not only by opponents of the treaty but by independent experts.

Commenting on the situation, Van Bommel said that "it would be highly unusual were the government to refuse to cooperate with a demand from parliament for a referendum. This would put parliament, and therefore the people whom we represent, entirely out of the game. I expect a clear answer on this."

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