Dutch Courage!

When it comes to facing off against the autocratic bureaucrats in Brussels, who would have dreamed that it would be the Dutch leading the charge.

Of course, the Dutch citizens have not been directly challenging the EU regarding various aspects of proposed EU plans and decisions. Such public opposition or even opinion is not really welcomed by our “democratic” EU institutions. And don’t try to explain to me about what the European Parliament is there for. What a joke!

No, the Dutch are using one of the few ways left and available to the citizens to try to get their wishes heard. Their national parliament. By a remarkable stroke of luck, this avenue of dissent has not yet been closed off by our beloved democratic leaders. Not that they haven’t been trying to.

In the Netherlands, a non-binding referendum can be triggered on any subject after 300,000 signatures have been gathered. The law states that the referendum turnout must be above 30% before parliament will take the citizen’s wishes into account, and a majority rejection vote (above 50%) causes the issue in question to be automatically suspended.

The Netherlands is still a reasonably prosperous nation, compared to many of their cousins in Europe, but if things keep going the way that they have over the past few years, this may no longer be the case in the future. And the Dutch are quickly waking up to this fact.

And they are prepared to do something about it.

Now there are not a lot of current issues that can be used to mount a challenge on “head office” in Brussels. But the Dutch, to their enduring credit, seem to have decided to use whatever they can get their hands on. Bravo!

This is not the first time that the Dutch have come to our rescue in Europe.

In 2005, when the EU was trying to push through the “Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe” (TCE), which was a treaty that combined all previous EU treaties and sought to achieve a closer political union, 61% of Dutch voters in a 63% turnout rejected the new Treaty in a referendum. The Dutch parliament abided by the result and ratification of the treaty in the Netherlands failed. Coming so soon after the French rejection of the new treaty, the decision of the Dutch voters effectively crashed the whole project, although the sneaky bureaucrats then repackaged the whole thing and presented it some years later as the Treaty of Lisbon.

More recently, the Dutch electorate forced another Referendum to be held in their country regarding the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement. This was an almost unprecedented move, since the ratification of these sorts of agreements are usually just quietly slipped through each EU member state’s parliament, without the citizens really knowing what is going on. But not the Dutch. They were onto this one in a flash and guess what. The outcome of the Referendum was a resounding 61% “Against” with a 32% voter turnout. We will have to see what happens in the future, but ratification by the Netherlands is not likely to be obtained in the Dutch parliament.

If you were astute enough to have picked up on the propaganda barrage leveled at the Dutch voters prior to the Referendum, you would have thought that this was a plebiscite to go to war. Again, to their great credit, the Dutch voters that turned out to vote, voted with their heads and their hearts and were not intimidated.

After the referendum results were announced, all the Europhiles were then quick to point out that rejection in the Netherlands would make no difference to the Agreement being finally implemented by the EU. The European Commission is expected to propose in April that visa-free travel should be granted to Ukrainians despite the outcome of the Dutch referendum vote, arguing that “It may look as if we’re ignoring the Dutch voters, but we have to keep our word to Ukraine”.

What a bunch of hypocrites and what a sad indictment on the state of our democratic systems in Europe.

Not to be deterred, the Dutch are at it again.

This time they want to put the proposed Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) to the test to see what the voters think. So far, 100,000 people have already signed a petition demanding a referendum on the adoption of the TTIP.

So, our Dutch colleagues have had more success, so far, with their attempts to restore democractic principles in the affairs of the EU than Diem25 has.

Veel geluk, mijn vrienden, en heel erg bedankt.

Here is a bit more background to the TTIP issue, courtesy of EurActiv.com

Dutch voters now demanding referendum on TTIP

Some 100,000 Dutch citizens have already signed a petition demanding a referendum on TTIP. 300,000 names are needed to trigger a non-binding vote on the issue, as was the case with the Ukraine plebiscite.

The Socialist Party (Socialistische Partij) is pushing for the referendum. Founded in 1977 as the ‘Communist Party of the Netherlands/Marxist–Leninist’, it won 15 out of 150 seats (10%) in the Dutch Parliament elections in 2012, equivalent to just under 910,000 individual votes.

Spokesman Jasper Van Dijk told EurActiv that the EU-Ukraine referendum had given the campaign, which has lasted a matter of months, added impetus.

NGOs against TTIP were part of the drive, he said, which had excited popular imagination.

As soon as TTIP was finalised, everyone who signed the petition would be sent an e-mail making it easy for them to begin the process leading to the national vote on the deal.

“We want this to happen. We are in favour of a referendum on TTIP,” he said.

EU and US negotiators are racing to finalise the controversial TTIP before US President Barack Obama steps down in January 2017.

Potential successors such as Republican frontrunner Donald Trump and Democrat Bernie Sanders have serious reservations about Free Trade Agreements such as TTIP.

But even if a deal is struck after four years of tough talks, the treaty must be ratified by the European Parliament, and each of the parliaments of the 28 member states of the EU, to finally come into force.

Yet at that point a Dutch referendum, even if like the one on Ukraine it is ‘consultative’ and non-binding, could heap huge pressure on Dutch MPs to ultimately quash the pact.

TTIP, dogged by accusations of secrecy, and suspicions that it would drive down environmental standards, force Europeans to eat chlorine-washed chicken, and leave governments open to lawsuits from foreign multinational companies, would bring a higher turnout than the last poll, campaigners said.

If the conditions were right, moves could be made to scupper the ratification of the EU-Canada deal CETA, which is increasingly seen as a test case for TTIP.

But the TTIP talks have been beset with controversy, on both sides of the Atlantic but especially in the EU.

The Commission has launched transparency initiatives and communications offensives to try and calm fears, but opposition is vocal across the EU, including the UK, France and Germany.

In particular, the investor-state-dispute mechanism (ISDS) which allows corporations to sue governments in international tribunals, has become a cause celebre in the EU, and among MEPs who will vote on the pact.

Such was the furore that the European Commission was compelled to propose a public court to handle such investor cases.”

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About Peter Smith

A "foot-soldier" in the wider Post Capitalism Movement. First task - keep spreading the words of change, hope & inspiration.
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2 Responses to Dutch Courage!

  1. Pingback: Can a political leopard really change its spots? | Thoughts on European Politics & Economics

  2. Pingback: Precipice Ahead! – do we turn Left or Right? | Thoughts on European Politics & Economics

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