Dutch expect ‘tough talks’ at EU summit
The Dutch delegation to the Brussels summit aimed at kickstarting the process of developing an EU constitution is expecting two days of difficult discussions.
The Netherlands, which voted no to the EU constitution in 2005, has drawn up a string of proposals which it hopes will break the deadlock, and that have won support from other EU members such as the UK and France.
Describing claims that the new treaty only contains cosmetic changes as ‘rubbish’, Jan Peter Balkenende said he expected ‘tough talks’ with his fellow ministers. Foreign affairs minister Maxime Verhagen agreed, adding that he was ‘cautiously positive’ that there would be enough support for a compromise deal.
European affairs minister Frans Timmermans said the Dutch team would fight hard for a result which ‘did justice to the Dutch no vote’.
Last night MPs voted in favour of the Dutch approach to the talks. The Netherlands wants to amend existing treaties rather than draw up a new constitutional document.
Opposition MPs have called for a referendum on any eventual new treaty. Ministers and Labour (PvdA) MPs have said their position depends on the recommendations of the Council of State.
Brussels talks, the Dutch position:
The Netherlands does not support a European Constitution but wants a new treaty to amend existing ones.
Out: the word ‘constitution’ which is too reminiscent of a ‘super state’; the EU anthem and blue flag with 12 stars can remain but should not be explicitly mentioned in a new treaty; No EU minister of foreign affairs but a coordinator or representative (supported by the UK); the Charter of Fundamental Rights to go.
In: Copenhagen criteria, which stipulate entry conditions for new members; improved role for national parliaments with veto rights to block Commission laws; a commitment to no ‘creeping transfer of power to Brussels’ and no Brussels interference in typical Dutch institutions such as housing corporations and the health service.
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