Politics Life at 28

The Netherlands: Petition for a referendum on the EU

28 January 2013
Presseurop
NRC Handelsblad, De Volkskrant

Will the Dutch hold a referendum on their future in the EU? Only a few days after the British Prime Minister announced a referendum in 2017 on the UK’s place in the EU, nine Dutch Eurosceptic academics have launched a citizens' initiative to do the same thing in the Netherlands. If their proposal gathers 40,000 signatures, the Second Chamber must deal with their demand. In an article published by NRC Handelsblad the signatories, which include historian Thierry Baudet, jurist Paul Cliteur and economist Ewald Engelen, write that —

We are being forced unavoidably into a political union. We believe that the federal path indicated by [José Manuel] Barroso and [Herman] Van Rompuy is unwanted, that it cannot work, and that it is even dangerous. It should not be pushed through before a consultation with Dutch citizens. Do they want gradually to lose their democratic capabilities and to be absorbed into a federal European state? Or do they want a EU reformed into a more modest organisation that leaves room for diversity among member states and merely facilitates mutual trade without any political ambitions?

Critics of the initiative were quick to make themselves heard. In De Volkskrant journalist Bart Schut qualifies the initiative as “cowardly” and “hypocritical”, because deep down “[the originators] want [the Netherlands] to leave the EU.”

They dare not admit it, though, because they are not sure of winning a referendum on this much more fundamental issue. To attack the unpopular Barroso and Van Rompuy and their federal dreams is one thing. But to accept the ultimate consequences of asking voters if they want to turn the Netherlands into an island adrift off the coast of Britain is another.