21st Mar 2018

Dutch No looks irreversible

Less than two weeks before the Dutch referendum on the EU Constitution, pollsters see a rejection of the treaty as irreversible, with a row over the Eurovision song contest apparently boosting the "no" camp.

Over the weekend, three new polls indicated a huge leap forward made by the "no" campaign in the run-up to the referendum on 1 June.

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  • The Netherlands - Never made it to the Eurovision final (Photo: The Council of the European Union)

A poll by Interview/NSS for public television predicted that no less than 63 percent would oppose the constitution, while 37 percent of the Dutch would endorse the text.

Polls taking undecided voters into account show equally large gaps.

A TNS NIPO survey for RTL television showed opposition to the charter standing at 54 percent, compared to 27 percent in favour.

A TNS NIPO researcher told De Volkskrant on Saturday (21 May) that he saw "no reversal" of the trend, adding that a last-minute "yes" offensive by the government would only make people "suspicious".

A weekly poll conducted by the election researcher Maurice de Hond for public television indicated that over the past week, the "no" camp increased its support from 45 to 53 percent in one week, with the "yes" camp sticking at 36 percent.

Chances for an eventual "yes" are "very small", Mr de Hond stated.

The most recent gains for the opponents of the charter were attributed last Friday (19 May) by the country’s finance minister, Gerrit Zalm, to a row over the euro.

The row erupted on 30 April, when the director of the Dutch National Bank said that at the time of the introduction of the euro, the Dutch Guilder had been undervalued by 5 to 10 percent relative to the German D-Mark.

Many Dutch people associate the euro with high inflation.

\"Eastern European fake show\"

On top of this, further media rows put the "yes" camp on the defensive over the weekend - with one row focusing on the unusual topic of the Eurovision song contest.

Following the elimination of the Dutch contender Glennis Grace in the semi-final of the contest, Dutch popular media showed their dissatisfaction by blaming the lost race on "Eastern European" countries favoring each other.

The Netherlands’ largest newspaper, De Telegraaf, on Saturday (21 May) ran its main front-page story quoting some of the "thousands" of angry reactions by readers.

The headline of the story quotes one reaction, saying that the Netherlands should "never participate again in this Eastern European fake show".

According to the newspaper, "many compatriots" used the occasion of the song festival "to speak out against European unification and the future the EU constitution".

"The elimination of the Netherlands shows again who will have the largest say in Europe in the future", de Telegraaf quoted one reader as saying.

According to the pollster Maurice de Hond, a large majority of the Dutch interpret the Eurovision song contest in a similar political way. In a press release he stated:

"Seventy one percent think that the fact that substantially more Eastern European than Western European countries have reached the [Eurovision] final, is an example of how the power within the EU has shifted to the East of Europe".

World War II ad row

Another row dominating the media over the weekend concerns a television ad by the liberal VVD Member of the European Parliament, Jules Maaten, which was withdrawn just before broadcasting.

The ad showed images of the Holocaust, the Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia in 1995, and the Madrid train bombings of March 11 2004, highlighting the necessity of a "future of peace, security and prosperity" with "one European constitution".

The VVD leadership blocked the airing of the commercial, but Dutch public television obtained the spot and broadcast it anyway.

The "no" camp blamed Mr Maaten for suggesting that a "no" to the constitution would result in a return to war and terror.

Before the spot was vetoed by his party, Mr Maaten had said "with this [the ad] we would like to show that this is not just about anything. Europe was established not just for fun, but in order to bring peace, prosperity and security".

The row fits into a larger pattern of opponents of the constitution hitting hard at the "yes" camp’s allegedly inappropriate use of World War II and the Balkan wars as an argument in favour of the EU constitution.

Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende was attacked for explicitly referring to the EU constitution during a commemoration of World War II victims alongside US president Bush on 8 May.

Commission rejects ombudsman criticism over Barroso case

The European Commission repeated that it followed the rules when its former head joined Goldman Sachs - and suggested it will not follow the EU Ombudsman's demand to refer the case back to the ethics committee.

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