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Against but in favour of European integration - The Dutch Paradox

November 29th, 2012 - Over the past few years The Netherlands seemed to have become the most "obstructive" EU member state. The Netherlands might not be the only one. Given the country's historical role as one of the EU's founding nations and long term supporter, it is important to know whether the Dutch are indeed turning their backs on the EU ­ and if so, why.

Adriaan Schout, a political analyst and expert, is visiting University of Victoria and available to media for interviews this Friday, November 30th. In his opinion

"The anti-European sentiments in The Netherlands were highly misread by journalists and politicians all over the world. The Netherlands has been, ­as always, pragmatically in favour of European integration and has been constructive in finding solutions for the EU crisis.

Yes, the Dutch have been highly critical of major developments in European integration. The Netherlands would like to cut back on the EU budget, it has single-handedly vetoed the accession of Bulgaria and Rumania to the EU¹s free movement of people zone ('Schengen¹), it vetoed the Constitutional Treaty and it has been 'blunt' about supporting problem countries such as Greece. Moreover, The Netherlands has been reluctant at first to enhance powers of the European Commission. All of this has been feeding the impression that the Dutch are changing their minds regarding their traditional position toward the open market and supranationalism.

However, all of this does not need to be seen as anti-European. Evidently there are major challenges facing the EU at present. As a result, there are major political battles going on in the EU. This does not mean that countries such as The Netherlands are turning their backs on European integration. In fact, The Netherlands have continued to be in favour of European integration from a pragmatic perspective. Indeed, it not only supported last year's deeper integration but also proposed independent oversight over national policies by the European Commission. This step was not only a critical element of Greece¹s abilities to manage cutbacks; it also initiated the debates about the haircut on private debts. The criticism on Bulgaria and Rumania was to ensure that failures of premature accessions would not be repeated. The elections of September also proved that voters were in favour of European integration.

Many Dutch positions can actually be regarded as constructive. European politics requires frank discussions. Fights over EU decisions should not be seen as anti-EU. Fights and debates are what politics is all about."

Catalonia’s parliamentary election: a mixed result for supporters of independence

November 26, 2012 - Sunday's parliamentary election in Catalonia has failed to clarify whether or not Catalans will be voting on independence from Spain in the near future. The election was precipitated by the recent economic crisis and by intergovernmental disputes between Madrid and Barcelona over Catalonia's debt and fiscal powers. The ongoing political impasse surrounding these issues, coupled with the recent increase in Catalan popular support for secession, prompted Artur Mas, Catalonia's president and leader of the centre-right nationalist party Convergència i Unió (CiU), to call an early election and to promise to hold a referendum on independence should the CiU win a majority of seats.

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