Jan Peter Balkenende threw a hissy fit on Monday night at being called undemocratic and being likened to Robert Mugabe just because he refuses to hold a referendum on the new European treaty.
But his discomfort is not so much righteous outrage, more shame-faced pouting. The man is not an idiot. He is all too aware that the Dutch would quite probably vote against the treaty if he did hold a referendum.
He also knows we know he is being economical with the truth when he says in mitigation that the treaty is not the constitution under a different name. Perhaps he has not actually read the thing.
After all, there are enough people who have read it and who say, apart from the removal of references to flags and anthems, that there is a remarkable similarity to the constitution – which the Dutch rejected in 2005.
And Balkenende is not the only European leader who seems determined to give away most of his powers for the dubious honour of being treated like a statesman by the likes of George W Bush and Dimitri Medvedev.
Those photos of a grinning Balkenende supping with Nicholas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel or being back-slapped by the American and Russian presidents have a high price: the slippage of power from The Hague to Brussels.
If Balkenende wants to retain any relevance, he really should hold that referendum. Then he can blame his people for saying no, while holding on to real power over his country.
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