Today's the day

[UPDATE007] So, our PM Jan-Peter Balkenende said: "In the first place, it is important that the new treaty has been stripped of every constitutional characteristic."

Here is a response to that bald-faced lie. And here. What on earth did we do to deserve a political leader like this?

[UPDATE006]The BBC is very succinct about the reasons to not hold a referendum:
The Dutch cabinet has decided against holding a referendum on the EU's new Reform Treaty, amid fears the public would reject it at the polls.
You got that right!

[UPDATE005] And there it is: A referendum is unnecessary and undesirable (mirror).
Three arguments played a decisive role for the cabinet in deciding not to hold a referendum. "In the first place, it is important that the new treaty has been stripped of every constitutional characteristic."

[Secondly,] "A referendum, in which one of the two possible outcomes would lead to a commission for the cabinet that cannot be carried out, is not credible."

Thirdly, "the outcome of the last referendum showed that a non-binding referendum in practice quickly acquires a binding character." Here the cabinet, in the wake of the Council of State, follows a creative argument. "If the government or parties in a House indicate they will follow the result of a referendum whatever happens, then a non-binding referendum cannot in this sense be spoken of. And a binding referendum is not possible without amending the Dutch constitution."
[UPDATE004] An extensive report (in EN) on the Volkskrant op-ed by Bolkestein is up at EU referendum. Still no word from the cabinet (1400 hours local).

[UPDATE003] Ex EU-commissioner Frits Bolkestein: A second referendum would be consistent. The differences between the Constitution and the Turnip are too small.
If the government doesn't do this, people are bound to think: what the ladies and gentlemen politicians couldn't get through the front door, they are now pulling through the back door. It'll increase euro-cynicism

[UPDATE002] GeenStijl, anticipating the cabinet decision: "Mount your horses! We have been betrayed..."

[UPDATE001] The entire exchange between Second Chamber and prime minister regarding the Turnip and the possibillity of a referendum is now up on page II of KV. It is in Dutch, but I hope to be able to translate relevant portions later today.


Today is the day that the Dutch cabinet will discuss whether the Turnip will be the subject of a referendum or not. Things do not look all that bright. The Council of State has already advised the government that the Reform Treaty does not contain any constitutional elements and thus does not warrant a referendum. Or, so it is rumoured, since the actual advise is still confidential, for as long as the cabinet is studying it.

The Socialist Party is already preparing an 'initiative law' calling for a referendum, since the expectation is that the cabinet will come out against a referendum. But, as a Dutch 'letter to the editor' over at EU Referendum details, while this law may make it through Second Chamber (if the PvdA fraction keeps its word, which is always an uncertainty), in the senate, or First Chamber, the majority is held by CDA, VVD and Christian Union, who have all stated their opposition to a referendum.

Yesterday, during the second day of the 'General Considerations' after Budget Day (Prinsjesdag), there was a brief moment, where the PM, Jan-Peter Balkenende, saw his life made difficult by to opposites of the political spectrum: Jan Marijnissen of the SP and Geert Wilders from the PVV. The official accounts are nowhere to be found, so I have to go by memory here. When the official account is out, I will amend this post.

The PM started out with a pack of lies that should have made the blood boiling of everyone who watched. Maintaining that the Dutch 'No' had been done justice, the PM maintained that the new treaty will increase the power of national parliaments, the constitutional character had been abandoned (where did we hear that before) and that the power of the EU had been significantly curtailed.

Jan Marijnissen rather sardonically asked the PM how he had experienced the whole period leading up to and including the referendum of 2005. The PM, trying to put the best spin he could on the whole episode, stated he was glad the Dutch people had given off this clear signal and that the Dutch government had done the Dutch 'No' justice and <insert that tired europhile litany here>.... After which Marijnissen urged the PM, given the latters apparently positive experiences with a referendum, to come out in favour of a referendum.

At this point Geert Wilders interrupted, saying 'Let me put it more sharply: Don't you dare come out of the cabinet conference tomorrow with anything other then a referendum. Or you will have a big, big problem. And not only in this parliament' . Thus it seems that whatever the decision of the cabinet tomorrow, we will be in for a tumultuous period in political Netherlands.

The chances of a referendum are slim at best. Lately rumors as to the ambitions of our PM towards a high level EU job have become rather persistent, which would mean that he will do everything in his power to rescue his career prospects. The PvdA fraction is divided over the subject of a referendum, one part wanting to adhere to the coalition agreement (no referendum) while the other part wants to adhere to the PvdA manifesto (too, a referendum). This makes a majority in Second Chamber a rather iffy proposition.

On the other hand, the VVD seems to be somewhat wavering on the subject, especially since the noise from the great unwashed is getting more ominous with every day passing. With the turmoil that accompanied the Verdonk crisis in the VVD last week, this party will not want to be in a position where it will alienate even more voters. This might just yet become a close shave...

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