Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Holland rejects EU Constitution

It is official, besides France Holland has now rejected the European Constitution. Due to the high voter turn-out and the considerable margin the Dutch govenment will honour the outcome of the non-binding referendum and not ratify the proposed European Constitution in its current form. The main reasons why the Dutch voters have rejected the proposal are:
  • The lack of involvement in the European decision-making process
  • The cost of the extension of the Union with a number of former Eastern European, since Holland pays the most to Brussels per capita
  • The possible joining of Turkey while most of Holland is stronlgly against it
  • A possilbe loss of sovereignty on issues like the liberal stance on gay-rights, abortion, drug policy, etc
  • A general resentment towards politics in Holland
  • The effect of the Euro on the everyday life (read: prices)
  • Benefits the international companies rather than the everyday worker
Fortunately the high turn-out is a sign towards the current administration that things need to change and that the current direction is not in line with the expectations of the Dutch people.

On the other hand, quite a few of the arguments against the constitution are not really valid since the consititution does not govern those items (like the lack of sovereignty issue and the effect of the Euro), but this referendum was the first option for Dutch voters to effectivly voice their opinion on European policy. Besides the real issue (discussed below) this referendum has also been used as kind of a popularity question or general approval of Dutch policy towards Europe in the last decade.

Another major reason why Dutch voters said 'No' was the non-clearity of the true effect of the constitution. What would it really do, what would be the day-to-day effects? That did not come across with most voters. In fairness, the answer is not easy, otherwise everybody would know it. But in general the consitution would (among others) re-design the following items:
  • the day-to-day governing of the Union
  • the abandonment of the veto-rights on certain issues
  • a move towards an elected governing body rather than the rotating chairmanship of a country each 6 months
  • the appointment of an EU secretary of state to administer a common foreign policy
Sure, there will be other impacts and some will be felt by the voter, but it is mainly proposing a different, hopefully more effective way of 'running Europe'. That fact has been seriously underexposed in Holland however, to be honest, a lot people simply didn't care about that fact; they were more seseptable to the arguments against it.

In the end, the arguments against outweighed the arguments in favour for the majority of the Dutch voters. If some groups feel the Dutch used false reasons to make their decisions, that would reflect more on the capacity of those groups to explain their points rather than on the actual outcome. Or maybe the pros really didn't outweigh the cons. Anyway, it's democracy in action and I'm curious whats going to happen next.

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