Saturday

16th Feb 2019

Dutch MPs reject request to probe euro introduction

  • In 1997, then finance minister of the Netherlands Gerrit Zalm presented the euro coins in Amsterdam. (Photo: European Commission)

MPs representing a majority in the Lower House of the Dutch parliament rejected (1 February) a citizens' request on Wednesday to investigate why the Netherlands decided to join the euro.

They all complimented the people behind the citizens' initiative, whose 45,000 signatures forced the parliament to debate the idea.

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But MPs from the ruling centre-right Liberals and centre-left Labour party, and those from two pro-European opposition parties, opposed the suggestion to interrogate former prime ministers Wim Kok and Ruud Lubbers, and former finance minister Gerrit Zalm on why they decided to join the monetary union.

The citizens behind the request said they feared the risks of the euro's introduction were hidden from the public.

While the outcome was no huge surprise, the debate showcased the different attitudes in parliament towards European integration, exactly six weeks before the Dutch go to the polls to elect a new Lower House.

Labour MP Henk Nijboer said the decision to adopt the euro “was taken democratically” and with plenty of public debate.

He said that the negative risks - like very diverse economies being tied to each other without the option to devaluate their currencies - had been considered.

His colleague Wouter Koolmees, of the strongly pro-EU D66 centrist party, said an inquiry would be a “waste of time”.

He also noted that the two representatives of the citizens' initiative have in the meantime set up a political party and will try to get elected as MPs this March.

Their party, the Forum for Democracy, is opposed to Dutch membership of the EU and the eurozone.

“They have already reached their conclusion,” said Koolmees. “The parliament should not be abused for a political show.”

Forum for Democracy's frontman, Thierry Baudet, spoke to EUobserver ahead of the debate.

“In the 1990s, when the European currency was introduced, there was never a debate about the extreme costs that would be associated with it,” said Baudet.

“We are missing out on economic growth, we have lost our democratic control. That is a huge drama. If they [the Dutch political leaders at the time] knew this would happen, then they lied to us,” he added.

Baudet, who defended the idea in parliament on Wednesday, conceded to this website that the citizens' initiative was partly a desire to know the truth and partly a publicity vehicle for his party during the election campaign.

“It's both. Look, I will not deny that it will have an affect on our campaign. If we could convince more people of our political position by finding the truth, then that just means our political position is in line with the truth.”

During the debate, he received support from several opposition MPs who are sceptical of the European Union.

Tony van Dijck, of the far-right Party for Freedom, said the euro “never should have been adopted”.

Carola Schouten, of the socially conservative ChristianUnion, said the euro caused a “discord” between northern and southern European countries.

“The experiment with the euro has failed,” said the leader of the ecological Party for Animals Marianne Thieme.

Finance minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, a member of the Labour party and also head of the Eurogroup, also spoke.

He said that it was unfair to blame the euro for the past years' of economic and financial crisis.

He also noted that before the euro, the separate currencies of European countries were often victim of speculators trying to play them against each other. “Our memory is short,” he said.

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