Dutch Voters Reject EU Treaty
As expected, Dutch voters delivered a second blow to the European Union constitution. Proponents had hoped to narrow the gap, but exit polls suggested that it was still rather significant:
Dutch Deliver a Huge ‘No’ on EU Constitution (NYT | IHT)
Dutch voters on Wednesday overwhelmingly rejected a constitution for Europe, following France in undermining the region’s ambitions to play a stronger role on the world scene and deepening a crisis for the 25-member European Union.
Initial exit polls showed that 63 percent voted against the constitution, a stronger rejection even than in France, where 55 percent said no to the treaty on Sunday. Thirty-seven percent of voters approved. The double blow could prove fatal to the European charter, which was drafted in an attempt to streamline decision-making in an expanded union.
“The Dutch people won against this crazy constitution,” said Tiny Kox, a member of the small Socialist party, which was pivotal in the no campaign.
Voter turnout was extremely strong at 62 percent. The referendum was not binding, but there was a consensus in Parliament that lawmakers would respect the outcome if more than 30 percent of those eligible cast a vote.
The resounding “No” is the latest sign of Dutch anger with the political elite since the 2002 murder of anti-immigration populist Pim Fortuyn, with unease stoked by last year’s killing of a filmmaker critical of Islam.
The rejection of the charter by the Netherlands, like France one of the six countries that founded the bloc in the 1950s, could deliver a fatal blow to the treaty designed to make the EU run better following its enlargement from 15 to 25 states.
It also casts doubt on the EU’s hopes for a more muscular foreign policy and its plans to expand further to the Western Balkans, Turkey and Ukraine, and raises questions about its appetite for economic reform amid mounting global competition.
The euro fell to its lowest level against the dollar for more than seven months on Wednesday and has lost almost 10 percent since March when polls turned negative on the treaty, which needs the approval of all members to go into force.
Most EU leaders have said ratification of the charter should continue as planned until late 2006 to allow all countries to have had their say, but diplomats say that is just a holding position until an EU summit on June 16-17.
The Dutch veto reflects concern that the Netherlands, the biggest donor to the EU’s budget on a per capita basis, is losing sovereignty and influence in the newly-enlarged 25-member bloc, said Jan Rood, a professor at the Dutch Institute of International Relations in the Hague.
“There is a strong impression that Europe is not giving people what they expected,” Rood said in a telephone interview.
The Dutch rejection will probably kill the treaty, which requires the assent of all 25 EU members to take effect. On the day after the French vote, U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair signaled he may abandon plans for a British referendum. Foreign Minister Jack Straw said Britain won’t announce its position until after the Dutch vote.
“After the French vote, the constitution was already dead legally,” said Otto Holman, a political scientist at the University of Amsterdam, in a telephone interview. “The Dutch vote means it’s now dead and buried politically.”
Additional commentary will surely follow throughout the media.