Dutch Vote Key to Future of EU Constitution

Alex Chadwick talks to Margreet Strijbosch of Radio Netherlands about Wednesday's vote on the European Union constitution. The Dutch vote could prove pivotal for the future of the EU after the French rejected the document at the polls on Sunday.

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

From NPR West and Slate magazine online, this is DAY TO DAY. I'm Alex Chadwick.

Coming up, the role of the FBI, Deep Throat's employer, in uncovering the Watergate scandal.

First, the lead. In the Netherlands today, voters have rejected the proposed European Union Constitution. Turnout was heavy; early results indicate that more than 60 percent of Dutch voters said no to the constitution, a resounding snub to the country's political elite that had argued for it. The Dutch vote mirrors one in France last weekend, where voters also turned down the constitution. Earlier, I spoke with Margreet Strijbosch. She's European editor for Radio Netherlands.

Margreet, welcome.

Ms. MARGREET STRIJBOSCH (European Editor, Radio Netherlands): Hello.

CHADWICK: How would you describe the mood of the voters there?

Ms. STRIJBOSCH: The general mood is negative around Europe, negative about politics. So that's the most simple explanation of the probable vote.

CHADWICK: Is it especially negative in the Netherlands? You've had the assassination of the anti-immigration Pim Fortuyn a couple of years ago, then controversial filmmaker Theo van Gogh was murdered by an Islamic fundamentalist. How has this political climate figured into today's vote?

Ms. STRIJBOSCH: It's one of the causes which has influenced the climate, of course. Already, before Pim Fortuyn was killed, it was clear that a big majority of Dutch voters were floating because they were dissatisfied with Dutch politics. So the distance between the elite of politicians and the people was too big. And that became clear when Pim Fortuyn suddenly became so popular, incredibly popular even. And the killing of Pim Fortuyn seemed to be forgotten more or less last year, but then there was this murder of Theo van Gogh, and he was killed by a person from Moroccan origin. So then there came again an anti-foreigners climate at the surface. And maybe this is also partly influencing now the generally anti-foreigners atmosphere and also anti-Europe atmosphere in the Netherlands. But it's only part of the problem, I would say.

CHADWICK: Isn't there a sense in Europe that Europeans are going to be much better off if they can function as a single entity because the--at least as people look ahead, they think, `Well, the United States is going to be a power in the world, China's going to be a power in the world,' and a lot of scattered countries in Europe--their voices will be lost unless they can speak as one. What happens to that argument?

Ms. STRIJBOSCH: I think you are right, but the people who are not informed--they were never asked their opinion about Europe, they were not asked their opinion about the enlargement, not about the introduction of the euro. This is the first time that the Dutch can say no in a general referendum or yes. But now they say no.

CHADWICK: Margreet Strijbosch is European editor for Radio Netherlands.

Margreet, thank you for being with us on DAY TO DAY.

Ms. STRIJBOSCH: OK. You're welcome.

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