Citizens forum: Give us a referendum on Europe

There are two options: either we stop handing over more powers to Brussels or we let the people speak via a referendum, says the citizens’ forum’s Joost Niemöller et al.

 

Today, the citizens’ forum presents parliament with more than 56,000 signatures, amassed in only six weeks’ time. Our petition calls for a referendum on a further transfer of sovereignty to Brussels.

From the moment we launched our initiative we have been criticised severely by supporters of the European project. We were told we only wanted to be ‘against something’. We were also told there is no viable alternative and that further European integration is simply a necessity: an ever closer union, without a thought of where it may all end. ‘Not wanting to jump any farther than the length of the pole’, is how foreign minister Frans Timmermans put it.

Exit

Pretending there is no alternative is just a cowardly strategy adopted by the pro-Europeans to avoid criticism of their own policies. Realistic alternatives are being developed all the time. In all parts of Europe eurosceptics are suggesting credible ways to exit the present crisis which involve not more but fewer powers for Brussels.

German economist Thilo Sarrazin, whose book Europa braucht den Euro nicht (Europe doesn’t need the euro, DN) was published last year, thinks the solution lies with good neighbourliness. It’s important to have a good relationship with your neighbour, Sarrazin says. You behave according to certain codes when you meet in the street and you don’t make too much noise. You look after plants and pets in each other’s absence. But if your neighbour is unable to pay his mortgage, you are not liable for it.

Good neighbourliness is distorted when an external organisation takes on the responsibility. When the euro was introduced, neighbourliness was replaced with collective risk, which not only caused the irresponsible behaviour of, for instance, Greece and Cyprus but also fired wide-spread nationalist protests. Too much collectivism breeds a desire for independence.

According to Sarrazin, the treaty of Maastricht lies at the root of our present problems. The EC as it was then looked after the basic order on the continent but didn’t take away the individual countries’ own responsibility where monetary matters were concerned. Why not return to the EC model? The economic regulatory law governing close European neighbours will be kept in place but we do away with all the other political, monetary and bureaucratic fal de ral. More realism, less ideology. More good neighbourliness, fewer collective risks. Free trade based on certification regulations, not harmonisation across the board.

Back door

Sarrazin’s is only one of many realistic and viable scenarios for the present EU which would entail fewer, not more, powers for Brussels. Unfortunately, when 61% of the Dutch voted against a European federation via the European constitution in 2005, those scenarios were largely ignored. Brussel’s powers have only increased and the supporters of the European project are that much closer to realising their dream of a federal Europe.

Today, however, more than 56,000 Dutch citizens are saying yes to a change in course and no to the insidious transfer of sovereignty to Brussels. They want to put a stop to the back door federalisation of Europe. The handing over of new powers to Brussels needs the explicit support of the population. That leaves us with only two options: a halt to the transfer of sovereignty or a referendum.

 

Thierry Baudet is a historian and teaches at Tilburg University, Jan Bennink is a columnist, Paul Cliteur is professor of Jurisprudence at the University of Leiden, René Cuperus works for the Wiardi Beckmanstichting, Ewald Engelen is professor of Economic Geography at Erasmus University in Rotterdam, Piet Moerman is professor of Economy (emeritus), Joost Niemöller is a journalist, Alex Sassen van Elsloo is a columnist for the Financiële Telegraaf, Twan Tak is a professor of Constitutional Law (emeritus), Jos Teunissen is professor of Constitutional Law at the Open University, Ad Verbrugge is a philosopher, Tom Zwart is professor of Human Rights at Utrecht University.

 

This article appeared earlier in the Volkskrant

 

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