The government seems to have boxed itself into a corner over calls for a referendum on the new European treaty. Prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende is determined to do all he can to stop a referendum taking place.
Not that he is afraid of another ‘no’ vote, he insists. Rather, he says, a referendum is not necessary because the EU constitution is no longer an issue.
Opposing Balkenende is a mixed bag of opposition MPs – some of whom support Europe, like GroenLinks, and some of whom oppose it, like the Socialist Party and the anti-Islam PVV.
The trump card is held by Labour MPs. Labour was strongly in favour of a referendum in its election campaign, but dropped the policy in the horse-trading surrounding the formation of a new government. The opposition needs Labour support to get a majority vote in favour of a referendum. The issue could split the coalition.
But if Balkenende is so sure the people of the Netherlands will support the treaty this time round, why does he not just let them have their say? Instead, he seems to be so determined not to allow the public to vote that it makes one ask what he has got to hide.
Is the new treaty so radically different from the constitution that the Dutch rejected in 2005? By refusing to allow the people to decide for themselves, Balkenende is putting the interests of Brussels above those of the Dutch, and suggesting that a European super state is still very much on the cards.
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