MPs back cabinet on European strategy

The cabinet’s plan to restart talks on a new European treaty – and strategy of emphasising the difference between national and European issues – received broad support in parliament on Wednesday evening. Only a handful of MPs were opposed to it.

The cabinet wants to develop a new treaty to replace the European Constitution, which the Dutch rejected in a referendum two years ago. Eighteen member states have ratified the constitution and Germany is keen to kick-start the negotiations.
Prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende said breaking the deadlock would be ‘a tough struggle and not easy’.
Commentators said the mild tone of the Socialist Party, which has been the most Eurosceptic of the Dutch parties, was notable. SP Europe spokesman Jasper van Dijk said he wanted to know how the cabinet planned to regulate which areas were out-of-bounds to Brussels. Healthcare, education and housing were three, he suggested.
Balkendende declined to go into much detail. ‘The most stupid thing you can do is put all your cards on the table at the start,’ he said. European affairs minister Frans Timmermans noted that the Netherlands was now the only EU country with a negotiation strategy.
Meanwhile, a straw poll of those who attended a string of debates on Europe showed a majority said there should be a new referendum if a second constitution was drawn up.

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