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The Road Not Taken: Why the Dutch Referendum on the Constitutional Treaty ‘Made All The Difference’ for Europe. EIPA Working Paper 08/W/2005

Mazzucelli, Colette. (2005) The Road Not Taken: Why the Dutch Referendum on the Constitutional Treaty ‘Made All The Difference’ for Europe. EIPA Working Paper 08/W/2005. [Working Paper]

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    [Introduction]. The Dutch referendum on the European Constitutional Treaty was the first one in over a hundred years in a country that has no political culture of referendums to decide issues of national importance. The idea to call a consultative referendum originated in the country’s parliament, which, unlike the Dutch executive, wanted to consult the population about the latest developments in the history of European integration. (Crum, 2005) This is in contrast to the debate concerning the Treaty on European Union 13 years ago, for which the call to conduct a consultative referendum lacked a consensus among Dutch parliamentarians (Hartog, 1994). The Netherlands is a founding member state of the original European Communities, created in the 1950s with the goal to assure security, prosperity and stability on the Continent. Why did this small country, whose people are still very strong advocates of European integration, reject the latest step in that project’s evolution? This is a question that requires a period of time to answer. The Dutch Prime Minister, Mr. Jan Peter Balkenende, has called for us to ‘think about how to make the most of this opportunity for reflection and reform.’ (Balkenende, 2005) The remarks in this article reflect the thoughts of someone who acknowledges just how far the countries of Europe have travelled in the 60 years since the end of World War II. In the midst of the destruction of a civilization, there were decisive choices to make about how to learn from the past so as to live in peace. This fact can never be taken for granted: in the aftermath of rivalries that caused generations to be lost, Europe’s leaders started to write a new chapter in their shared history. Physical survival was at stake. Inherent in the journey on the road ‘less travelled by’ was a calculated risk, that in time a part of Europe would distinguish its project from that of the American and Soviet empires. The fundamental choice the leaders in Europe made at that time was to reject war among countries whose history for centuries had been ‘painted in blood.’ The European Coal and Steel Community set those founding member states, France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, The Netherlands and Luxembourg on a different course. By rejecting the egoism that had led to incessant strife, The Netherlands chose to join its larger neighbours in a quest: to discover through steps in time no ordinary community. Europe’s project for peace had as a goal to speak truth to power by placing the equality of peoples before that of balances among states. Through the years the Dutch remained faithful to that initial choice. The Europe in which they also thrived was one with which they could identify because the Communities fulfilled a promised goal: security, prosperity and stability provided a port in an otherwise stormy ocean. Once the world’s traders with an empire that included my birthplace, Brooklyn, the Dutch in this new millennium seek the assurance of a Europe in which their voice is not only recognized, but listened to, by the states The Netherlands traditionally fears will dominate the Continent – France and Germany. (Harryvan and Harst, 2005)

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    Item Type: Working Paper
    Subjects for non-EU documents: EU policies and themes > Treaty reform > Constitution for Europe
    EU policies and themes > Policies & related activities > political affairs > European elections/voting behavior
    Countries > Netherlands
    EU policies and themes > EU institutions & developments > institutional development/policy > historical development of EC (pre-1986)
    Subjects for EU documents: UNSPECIFIED
    EU Series and Periodicals: UNSPECIFIED
    EU Annual Reports: UNSPECIFIED
    Series: Series > European Institute of Public Adminstration (Maastricht) > Working Papers
    Depositing User: Phil Wilkin
    Official EU Document: No
    Language: English
    Date Deposited: 23 Mar 2006
    Page Range: p. 21
    Last Modified: 15 Feb 2011 17:39

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