False start for Rutte at EU summit

29 October 2010

False start for Rutte at EU summit

During his first European Council – the regular meeting of EU heads of government – newly-elected Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte achieved precisely the opposite of what the coalition agreement between his party and the Christian Democrats - as well as the 'toleration agreement' with the far right PVV - committed him to: not less, but more money and more power will be transferred to Brussels. For SP Member of Parliament and European spokesman Harry van Bommel, this was indeed a 'false start'.

Harry van BommelThe European Council has reached agreement to increase EU spending by 2.9% - almost €3 in every hundred, adding €170 million to the Netherlands' contribution. "The new government was, according to the coalition agreement, supposed to want to see an additional reduction to our contribution of a billion euros, but now they've come home with an increase of €170 million instead," says Van Bommel.

The member states also agreed to impose sanctions on countries in the eurozone which fail to reduce their national debt or their deficits quickly enough. Van Bommel is not happy with such sanctions because, he says, "they are an important step on the way to a European economic government, which no-one has asked for. It will, moreover, make it impossible for member states to take account of national problems such as we have seen in the banking sector, which can make a higher level of debt temporarily necessary."

Lastly, the European Council decided to establish a permanent emergency fund for member states in financial difficulties, a move which will require an amendment to the Lisbon Treaty, giving as it would new powers to the EU. In Van Bommel's opinion, this would be an amendment of such importance that it should not be carried through without a referendum. "In the Netherlands we must hold a referendum on this. It would give the EU much more influence on our economy, and that should not be possible without the agreement of the citizens," he says.

On Tuesday the Dutch national parliament will debate the outcome of the European Council, and Van Bommel will use the occasion to propose to Premier Rutte that it should be made possible to hold a referendum in the Netherlands in the event of changes to the treaty.

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