Van Bommel: Irish 'No' is Europe's opportunity

13 June 2008

Van Bommel: Irish 'No' is Europe's opportunity

Irish rejection of the Treaty of Lisbon, in the view of SP Member of Parliament Harry van Bommel, presents Europe with a tremendous opportunity. “It offers all member states the chance to have a real discussion about the future of the EU,” he explains. “The Irish 'no' means that the Lisbon Treaty is as dead as a doornail. The ratification process, which here in the Netherlands is halfway through, should be halted.” Van Bommel, who is the SP's parliamentary spokesman on European affairs and who played a major role in the Netherlands' own 'No' campaign three years ago, twice travelled to Ireland at the invitation of opponents of the Treaty to offer his support. He called on the Dutch government to respect the Irish people's decision in an unequivocal fashion.

Harry van Bommel According to Van Bommel, the Irish had many reasons to vote against the treaty. The 'solidarity' clause would put the country's military neutrality in jeopardy. Changes to the Common Agricultural Policy as a result of the treaty would have been extremely disadvantageous for Ireland. In addition, the Irish feared that the treaty might lead to interference with the country's relatively low company taxes. “Whatever reasons people had makes little difference in a referendum,” Van Bommel, who proposed a law in parliament which was a necessary preliminary to a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, asserts. “There are only two flavours on offer, yes and no, and the latter won. That's terrific for Ireland but also for the Netherlands, given that we were refused a referendum ourselves.” Van Bommel's own proposal was defeated by a parliamentary majority which included the country's three other major parties, the governing Christian Democrats (CDA) and Labour Party (PvdA), and the right-wing VVD, the second biggest opposition party after the SP.

The SP is now demanding that the government calls an immediate halt to the Lisbon Treaty ratification process and withdraws the proposed law approving the treaty. In addition, the party wants the government to urge other countries to end their ratification procedures. As Van Bommel says, “That is the only way to show that the Irish people's verdict is being respected.”

Next week the national parliament is to organise meetings in four Dutch cities - Groningen, Eindhoven, Apeldoorn and The Hague – to give an account of the reasons for the Netherlands' approval of the treaty. Van Bommel's view is that these meetings should go ahead. “But they must be organised in a completely different manner,” he says. “They should now be the beginning of the discussion as to what side we want to take when it comes to the EU. The major problem of the EU is a lack of support. That problem is much more essential than any administrative issue.”

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