Sunday

25th Sep 2016

Dutch MPs vote in favour of Lisbon Treaty

The House of Commons in the Netherlands passed the Lisbon Treaty on Wednesday evening with a wide majority, some three years after the Dutch people rejected the constitutional treaty in a popular referendum.

With the governing Labour Party and Christian Democrats, together with the market-liberal People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) voting in favour of the ratification of the treaty, the legislation passed easily.

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Only the left-wing Socialist Party (SP), the Freedom Party of hard-right anti-Islam provocateur Geert Wilders and the Party for the Animals, an animal rights party with two seats in the chamber, voted against.

The Dutch Senate still has yet to approve the document, however. The upper house is expected to debate the treaty over the summer.

Three years ago, in June 2005, the European Union was dealt a body blow when the Netherlands voted heavily against the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe.

The win for the 'Nee', or 'No' side – a powerful 61.5 percent of voters on a turnout of 63.3 percent - together with a strong 'Non' from France the month before, effectively killed off the European Constitutional project.

This time around, European leaders have ensured that the new treaty has not been put before citizens in referenda, with the exception of Ireland, where one is constitutionally required. Instead, parliaments are simply ratifying it.

The two Dutch governing parties have said it was not necessary to consult the population a second time because what was now on the table was only a classic modification treaty, stripped of its constitutional trappings.

Additionally in the Lisbon Treaty, argued Dutch Prime Minister Jan-Peter Balkenende, national parliaments are to play a greater role in the European legislative process, with the ability to put a halt to legislation they object to.

However, the SP, whose support has soared since it took the lead in the 2005 campaign against the constitution, steadily eating away at the centre-left Labour Party's support base, argued that there was little difference between the two treaties.

SP Europe spokesperson Harry van Bommel presented a 42,000-signature petition against the Lisbon Treaty to the parliament ahead of the vote, but to no avail, with the chamber rejecting his proposal for a second referendum.

During the debate, Mr van Bommel said: "It is a disgrace that there is still no public version of the Treaty of Lisbon available.

"Obviously one does not want to inform the population," he added.

After the vote, VVD house leader Han Ten Broeke rubbished the idea that the treaties were the same. "Even if less than five per cent has changed, … your DNA differs by only two per cent from that of a monkey, but the difference is still fundamental," he said, according to Radio Netherlands.

The Dutch Green Left party had mixed feelings about the treaty, which in the end they supported. Green MP Mariko Peters said: "It is an great moment because we stand to ratify a new treaty concerning Europe. At the same time is a sad moment because democracy failed."

All eyes are now on Ireland, which has its say on the treaty on 12 June.

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