Is Europe awakening to how severely it is threatened? “Dutch Voters Seen Losing Interest in EU,” from the Washington Post, with thanks to JS:
AMSTERDAM, Netherlands — Are the Dutch tired of Europe? That will be the real question on June 1, when the Netherlands holds its referendum on the European constitution, just three days after a crucial vote on the charter in France.
Polls show voters who reject the constitution have the edge over those likely to vote “yes,” and the gap is growing. But they also show a majority either won’t vote or are confused by the paperback-sized document and haven’t made up their minds.
“Holland is in a very inward mood. It’s hiding behind the dikes,” said historian Han van der Horst.
The constitution, a compilation of rules and procedures to make the 25-nation European Union easier to run after last year’s historic expansion, has a wide range of detractors.
Liberals worry a stronger federal structure could infringe on their tolerant attitudes toward euthanasia, soft drugs and gay marriage. Christians complain the constitution makes no mention of God. Animal rights groups object that it exempts religious rites and cultural traditions from protecting animals.
Whatever the particular reason, the underlying motive seems to be discontent with Europe itself.
“Dutch people are not interested in Europe,” said Daniel de Jongh, a volunteer for a committee campaigning against the referendum. “People felt they never really had a chance to speak out. But with this referendum, now I can say, ‘Stop. No. I don’t want it.'”
The government is spending $4.4 million on last-minute campaigning, saying it is confident it can still swing the vote. Government ministers have hit the streets to pass out leaflets and talk up the constitution. Mailboxes are stuffed with pro-Europe brochures, printed at taxpayer expense.
Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende even plugged the constitution during the May 8 World War II memorial attended by President Bush _ remarks many criticized as inappropriate at a graveyard ceremony eulogizing American dead.
Opponents have been equally energetic. Leading the most colorful “no” campaign is Geert Wilders, a maverick lawmaker who has received death threats because of his anti-Islamic views. Escorted by dozens of guards, Wilders is on a two-week bus tour warning that further European integration could cost the Netherlands control over its tough immigration policy.
Wilders has tapped into fears that last year’s admission of 10 mostly eastern European countries will undermine the Dutch standard of living. He has also capitalized on concern about Muslim Turkey’s bid to become a member and on widespread disapproval of the current government. He represents the far right, but opposition here spans the political spectrum.
Why does he represent the “far right”? Because he says what he says, and that’s how the media classifies people who say such things. But what he is saying is just as much in the interests of the Left to support, if the Left wishes to survive.