63 percent of Dutch voters say "nee"

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

63 percent of the Dutch voted "no" on the EU constitution, according to TV station Euronews. Voter turnout was 65 percent. The treaty which would have been a milestone on Europe's way to a political union can be seen dead ultimately. With the second major country rejecting it Europe now stands at crossroads and I think the whole continent is shaken. One thing is clear though, the fear of a Europe governed by remote powers in Brussels' EU headquarters was a major factor in the decision of the people. The big majority has not read the proposed constitution but have voted on their fear of a distant government, too distant to be protested but so close that it influences daily life.
The rejection of the constitution is not a vote against integration, but can be interpreted as a wake-up call for EU politicians to do something against zooming unemployment that outsourcing has resulted in, despite a wave of record corporate profits in 2004. Fears of a future Europe ridding itself of the social standards it has achieved in the last 60 years have certainly contributed to the negative sentiment. Austria's ruling politicians have therefore decided not to hold a referendum. It would have resulted in a "nein" as well, I assume. Britain's course will be most interesting to follow, given the age old distrust the EU faces on the island.
Every EU citizen can tell a story of a maybe well-meant but badly executed EU law that does not respect regional differences. Ask a Portuguese what he has in common with a Greek and there won't be much more than a taste for olive oil. Or a Brit about his stance towards Germany. Politicians might see themselves as Europeans first, the majority of people certainly has a different opinion.
An initial speechlessness on the side of politicians regarding the future was encountered when zapping through European TV stations. It is understandable. After a decade of haggling about the text of the constitution it's back to field one.
The problem with the national referendums was also that voters took them as an opportunity to protest national policies that have done too little to reduce unemployment. If there would have been an EU-wide referendum on the same day it would have lead to a "yes" vote as people would have stood together. Such a referendum would have been seen as a chance to further integration instead of an opportunity to protest against national policies. The idea of a common Europe is well received, but not the idea of a EU government interfering too much into national matters.
After first news on the Dutch referendum the Euro plummeted further in late trading to a 9-month low of 1.2160 dollars. Another three cents and all gains of the last 12 months will have been wiped out, leading to a further burdening of the struggling Eurozone economy through higher import prices for energy and raw materials. The Czech government recently voiced its concerns about entering the Eurozone, stating that this might be disadvantageous to the economy. If this trend gets continued the Euro might lose the favourable position it has enjoyed since it's introduction, despite a wave of higher prices that have not been reflected in official inflation figures but are felt in everybody's wallet.
The Netherlands was like France a founding member of the former 6-member European Economic Community (EEC) that evolved into the 25-member EU.
UPDATE: The official count resulted in a 61.6-percent no-vote. Voter turnout was 62.8 percent.
SPOTTED IN BLOGOSPHERE: Macroblog has compiled worldwide media opinion in two parts, here and here. The road to eu-serfdom provides politican's statements. A Fistful of Euros brings the reasons why the Dutch voted as they did.

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