21st Jan 2019

Dutch open to new-style EU constitution, poll shows

  • If the constitution remains unchanged, a clear majority of the Dutch would still vote "no" (Photo: EUobserver)

Dutch voters are increasingly open to the idea of a revised version of the EU constitution, but would still reject the current text of the charter, according to a fresh poll.

A survey conducted by polling firm TNS NIPO suggests that the Dutch people's overwhelming rejection of the EU constitution in a 2005 referendum does not mean they are against the general idea of a European constitution.

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The poll, released by Dutch RTL television on Wednesday (17 January), shows that 47 percent of the Dutch are "positive" about the idea of "a European constitution" - representing a surge of optimism compared to the eve of the June 2005 referendum, when this figure stood at 30 percent.

A minority of 18 percent today feels "negative" about the idea of "a constitution" whereas 33 percent are "neutral" and 8 percent do not know, according to the survey.

The Dutch poll comes just as Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, is pushing the revival of the constitutional process, planning to present a roadmap towards a new treaty at the end of the German EU presidency in June.

When asked by pollsters about Ms Merkel's efforts to "revive a [new] European treaty," almost half of the Dutch (47 percent) said they are "positive" about the German initiative, while 17 percent said they are "negative" and 36 percent "neutral."

But the survey is not all good news for Berlin, which wants to stick closely to the current text of the constitution in the upcoming re-negotiations on the charter, with German politicians highlighting that it has already been ratified by 18 member states.

If the document remains unchanged, a clear majority of 60 percent of the Dutch would still vote "no" if a new referendum were held, roughly the same figure as in 2005 (61.5%).

Pressure on The Hague

The poll results put pressure on the Dutch government to secure changes to the document that would tackle Dutch people's concerns about the EU - primarily focusing on European integration being too quick and the loss of Dutch sovereignty.

Outgoing Dutch foreign minister Bernard Bot said in November that a new EU treaty should include substantial safeguards against further Brussels powers and uncontrolled enlargement.

The Netherlands is currently engaged in talks on the formation of a new centre-left government involving the Christian Democrats, Labour and the protestant Christian Union, to be led by current prime minister Jan-Peter Balkenende.

The three parties are also discussing a future government's stance towards a new EU treaty, as well as the possibility to hold a new referendum once a new text is agreed at EU level.

A majority of 64 percent of the Dutch believe the EU constitution should play a role in the cabinet formation, according to Wednesday's poll, with Dutch media reporting that a new Balkenende cabinet could take office in March.

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