After earning themselves the reputation of being the bad boys of Europe, the Dutch now seem to be on their way to re-inventing themselves as peacemakers. Yesterday’s endorsement of the Dutch stand on the EU constitution by the big-mouthed Brits is an important feather in Jan Peter Balkenende’s cap.

The Dutch want any new EU treaty to amend and supplement existing ones rather than replace them – a position Tony Blair was keen to support.
And the Dutch call for a clear division between national and European responsibilities is music to the ears of the British who fear European interference in their own cherished institutions.
After coming under considerable pressure for being too quiet on Europe – and indeed the silence has been deafening since the Dutch ‘no’ vote in 2005 – the new government seems to be determined to seize the initiative. It has come up with a typical Dutch compromise, designed to appease the opponents of a European constitution while allowing its supporters to move on.
Thanks to this unambigious position, the ‘no’ voters and the ‘don’t knows’ in Europe finally have something they can unite on when talks on the future of Europe resume under the German presidency in June.

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