Dutch ‘no comment’ on competition deal

Prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende had 30 minutes of face-to-face talks with German chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday, as efforts continued to break the deadlock over a new European treaty.

Balkenende again emphasised Dutch demands – a treaty to revise existing treaties rather than a constitution and more power for national governments – a spokesman for the prime minister said.
Poland, the Czech Republic and UK – all of which have concrete wishes for changes to the draft document – also had private talks with Merkel.
Dutch ministers later refused to comment on the decision to drop a reference to ‘free and undistorted competition’ from the draft treaty after French pressure. The new text refers instead to a ‘social market economy aiming at full employment’.
Balkenende said he would not comment until the draft treaty had been finalised later in the day. That final document will only come into force if all twenty-seven heads of government are prepared to agree to the text. The European competition commissioner is former Dutch businesswoman, Neelie Kroes.
Balkenende said earlier that the talks were ‘extremely business-like’. And
Holland’s European affairs minister Frans Timmermans told ANP this morning he welcomed the optimism expressed by French president Nicolaas Sarkozy. But ‘we are not there yet by a long way,’ Timmermans said

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