‘Parliamentary ratification should continue’

Netherlands Institute of International Relations ‘Clingendael’

In line with the conclusions of the European Council meeting in June, just after the Irish ‘No’, the official reaction of the Dutch government to the referendum outcome has been that ratification should continue, whilst the Irish government should be invited to present an analysis of the reasons behind the vote. There is parallel to the studies that the government commissioned just after the Dutch ‘No’ vote to the Constitutional Treaty in 2005, the outcomes of which were subsequently used by the government to broker a package of demands for the re-negotiations of the text leading up to Lisbon.
 
In a first reaction, Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende expressed his disappointment,[1] whilst State Secretary of European Affairs Frans Timmermans spoke of a ‘déja-vu feeling’, referring to the negative outcome of the Dutch constitutional referendum in June 2005.
 
An editorial in De Volkskrant argued that the result of the Irish referendum should be regarded, in the first place, as an expression of the democratic deficit haunting Europe, calling into doubts the possible effects on public legitimacy of the EU, with the cabinet’s decision in fall 2007 not to organise a second referendum on the EU treaty. Interestingly, a representative countrywide opinion poll just after the outcome of the Irish referendum showed that 36 percent of the Dutch population supported the Irish ‘No’.[2] According to the same poll, 56 percent of the Dutch would still favour a (second) national referendum on the treaty, instead of parliamentary ratification.
 
PM: critique on parliamentary ratification ‘shameful’

 
In general, the cabinet has however, rejected the idea of a European ‘crisis’ and stressed that parliamentary ratification of the treaty in the Netherlands should proceed as foreseen. The second chamber of the Dutch parliament (“Tweede Kamer”) passed the Lisbon Treaty on June 6th by a wide majority. Following a political discussion in the fall, the two Dutch governing parties had argued it was not necessary to consult the population a second time, after the 2005 referendum on the Constitutional Treaty, as the new Lisbon Treaty should be regarded as a ‘classic’ modification treaty, stripped of its constitutional pretensions and safeguarding national competencies and interests. In Parliament, 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 Lisbon Treaty. With formal approval in the first chamber (“Eerste Kamer”) on July 8th, just before summer recess, the Netherlands became the 21st member state to ratify the Lisbon Treaty. Expressing his satisfaction with this result, Prime Minister Balkenende objected quite fiercely to suggestions from the opposition that the decision not to hold a second referendum would be non-democratic, calling the critique ‘a pity’ and ‘shameful’.[3]




[1] Balkenende: Nederland gaat door met ratificatie, Algemeen Nederlands Persbureau, 13 June 2008.

[2] 31 percent were neutral, 25 percent of the respondents said not to be happy with the Irish ‘No’. Source: public opinion poll by Peil.nl/Maurice de Hond, 14 June 2008.

[3] Elsevier: Kritiek op afblazen referendum beschamend, 7 July 2008.