Martijn van Dam, a Dutch member of parliament for the pro-Europe
Social Democrats party, has a simple reason for why the European
common currency has to prevail. The Netherlands is a small country.
If we want to compete with China, India, the US, and Brazil, we will
have to work together with other European states, he said at a
recent debate in Amsterdam.
But despite being one of the six founding countries of what is
now the European Union, The Netherlands have become increasingly
skeptical about the bloc and its currency as the eurocrisis has
spread across Europe. Now, the Dutch parliamentary elections look
set to be an unofficial referendum on the Netherlands' commitment to
the future of European integration.
Dutch voters will go to the polls on Sept. 12 to elect a new
parliament, five months after the collapse of the coalition
government led by Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the center-right
Liberal party. And while The Netherlands face an array of concerns,
including rising unemployment (6.5 percent of the Dutch are now
without a job) and increasing healthcare costs, it is the eurozone
that is drawing the most attention in the campaign.
In fact, it is debate over the eurozone that led to the election
in the first place. Mr. Rutte's government collapsed in April when
coalition partner Geert Wilders of the right-wing populist Freedom
Party withdrew his support to protest an austerity budget,
necessitated by the euro debt crisis and pushed by the EU, that cut
14 billion euros in government spending and hiked taxes. Rutte was
able to assemble enough opposition support to pass the budget
without Freedom Party support.
But with the economic crisis, The Netherlands are feeling the
pinch. Consumers are being more careful, opting to save instead of
spend, and companies are increasingly shy of giving new employees a
permanent contract. And as the Dutch tighten their own belts and as
southern European nations like Greece and Spain struggle to do the
same some have been having second thoughts about the wisdom of
joining the euro.
A single European currency should have been the crowning of
European integration, said Emile Roemer, leader of the left-wing
Socialist Party, in an interview in Arnhem recently. But the
differences in culture and economy between the northern and southern
member states are far too large, said Mr. Roemer, who hopes to
become prime minister.
But parliamentarian Jesse Klaver of the GreenLeft party, speaking
at the same debate Mr. van Dam was attending in Amsterdam, pointed
out that European integration has brought peace and stability to the