People power

The new government has just spent 100 days doing it and now the new parliament is spending a week doing it: finding out what normal people think.

The government had a broad policy agenda as its goal, the MPs are only interested in what public opinion on Europe.
Having followed some of the debates, a cynic would doubt the point of sampling the views of Mr Average. According to reports on yesterday’s session, the only unanimous view was that a second referendum should be held, which is precisely what the government would like to avoid.
The first referendum two years ago rejected the new EU-constitution. A second ‘no’ to a watered down EU treaty would leave the Dutch in a right political mess.
To complicate matters, the government policy advisory body WRR yesterday published a study which – reading between the lines – concluded that a second referendum should be avoided at all costs.
Instead, the government should hold a ‘pre-referendum’, with more substantial alternative questions than a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ to the treaty!
The real point here is that this and previous governments have failed to translate the European story to a national level. Every day big decisions are taken in Brussels and should be at the heart of national politics. But they’re not. Brussels is still largely treated as a foreign policy matter.
Prime minister Jan-Peter Balkenende should be banging on about Europe everyday – not about Brussels but the Dutch Europe in The Hague.

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