Interview: Support for EU ‘quite low’ in the Netherlands

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Frans Timmermans, Dutch Minister for EU Affairs, is confident that Parliament will support the government’s decision to avoid a referendum on the new EU treaty. But at the same time, he concedes that more needs to be done to gain the support of the Dutch public, which he says is currently “quite low”. He shared his views on this and other EU topics with EURACTIV Slovakia.

“As far as we know now, there is a majority in parliament supporting our position,” Timmermans said in an interview. “It seems the majority will support us.”

The Dutch Parliament will decide today (4 October) whether to endorse the government’s decision not to hold a referendum on the EU’s new ‘Reform Treaty’. The decision, taken by Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende in September, followed an opinion by the Council of State, which ruled that the new Treaty would not affect the Dutch Constitution (EURACTIV 21/09/07).

“I think there is by-and-large support for the amendments to the Constitutional Treaty. There is a general feeling that we have negotiated well, and what came out is better for us,” Timmermans said.

But he is also quick to point out that Europe still has work to do if it wants to win over the hearts and minds of the Dutch people, especially after the shock caused by the rejection of the proposed EU Constitution in a referendum in 2005.

“We have to work on public support for Europe, because it is quite low right now,” he said.

Timmermans further suggests that the 2004 ‘big bang’ enlargement came at a high political price in terms of public perception of Europe. “In the old member states the enlargement went often too fast for them to keep pace with developments. This also played its role in the referendum campaigns in France and the Netherlands.”

“I also believe that globalisation is coming at us with such a speed and such a force that people see Europe as part of the problem rather than part of the solution.”

To read the full transcript of this interview, please click here.

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