Twenty Twenty Vision

The press this morning are busily assimilating the result of yesterday’s Netherlands referendum. The FT reports on a survey by Dutch polling organisation Interview-NSS, which identified up to twenty different issues which influenced the no vote.

Top of the list the list was a fear that the Netherlands would lose influence in a Europe that would favour large countries.

Second in importance was the view that Dutch political leaders have failed to consult the public and have run a woeful campaign to encourage ratification. A quarter of No voters were against Turkey’s application for EU membership, and nearly as many feared a European super-state or were voting against Jan Peter Balkenende, Dutch prime minister. Then there is the euro: in the last weeks of the campaign, the argument that the Dutch guilder had been undervalued against the euro was a thorn in the government’s side. One-in-three No voters cited opposition to the euro as a reason for rejecting the treaty. (This seems to have some resonance with the fuss that the Stern article is causing in Germany, where the over-valuation of the Deutschmark on entry is one of the issues).

Participation was also high with turnout running at 62.8 percent, well above the 39 percent in last year’s European parliament election.

Frans writes from Utrecht:

First results suggest that the turn-out for the referendum on the constitutional treaty in the Netherlands will be well above the Dutch turnout for the last elections to the European Parliament and but below the French turn-out for the EU referendum.

I still find it hard to believe that so many of our political parties hold their own point of view so lightly that they have announced they will vote in parliament the way the majority of the votes will be cast. The Christian Democrats reached an even higher level of self-denial by announcing [b] only a few days before the referendum[/b] that they had changed their point of view on this issue: they will follow the majority of the vote not when the *NO* , is above [b]55%[/b] (previously their position had been they would do so if it was above [b]60%[/b]….. I personally feel embarrassed when I see this kind of decision coming from the most powerful political party in my country.

Many young people seem to be against: I heard yesterday of a school where the 16 and 17 year old students *voted* on the referendum: the *No* got more than 80% of the vote.

Also, if you happen to live in live in Utrecht, you had a [url=]second referendum today[/url] (link to Dutch post).

In the Netherlands there are still fairly strong regulations about shop opening hours. In recent years there have been a total of 18 Sundays a year when the shops in the inner-city are allowed to open. So our second referendum was on allowing the shops in the inner-city to open every Sunday. Today the local newspaper has an amazing story about our local IKEA, which in a way has been offering money to vote for extra opening hours on Sundays. They have been giving away 5 euro coupons which will be valid only if the outcome of the referendum is yes. Shameless…

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About Edward Hugh

Edward 'the bonobo is a Catalan economist of British extraction. After being born, brought-up and educated in the United Kingdom, Edward subsequently settled in Barcelona where he has now lived for over 15 years. As a consequence Edward considers himself to be "Catalan by adoption". He has also to some extent been "adopted by Catalonia", since throughout the current economic crisis he has been a constant voice on TV, radio and in the press arguing in favor of the need for some kind of internal devaluation if Spain wants to stay inside the Euro. By inclination he is a macro economist, but his obsession with trying to understand the economic impact of demographic changes has often taken him far from home, off and away from the more tranquil and placid pastures of the dismal science, into the bracken and thicket of demography, anthropology, biology, sociology and systems theory. All of which has lead him to ask himself whether Thomas Wolfe was not in fact right when he asserted that the fact of the matter is "you can never go home again".

16 thoughts on “Twenty Twenty Vision

  1. Many young people seem to be against: I heard yesterday of a school where the 16 and 17 year old students *voted* on the referendum: the *No* got more than 80% of the vote.

    Interresting. It seems to confirm the French pattern. Does anybody have statistical evidence?

  2. Talking about Turkey in Europe was really a bad mistake, it had shown that, for our politicians, the federalist dream was over and by consequences, the constitution was irrelevant. The syrian frontier was the step to far.

  3. No shopping on sunday! I live in the so called “4th largest city in the Netherlands” to experience big city life! I will now move to the country side! What’s the difference? Now Utrecht only got too many junkies and other forms of filth on the street!

    About the European Campaign: it’s more a vote against everything BUT the constitution. And our politicians proven again that they are too ignorant to rule. They were all talking about: The ?uro, Turkey, Eastern Europe… all non-issues as they didn’t deal with the consitution. And even the subjects which dealt with the consitution were covered poorly by them! Poor basterds, that they have been elected!

  4. “Interresting. It seems to confirm the French pattern.”

    I agree Oliver. This seems to be one of the most significant details. We await some explanation and interpretation.

    “No shopping on sunday!”

    Presumeably the vote was ‘no’

  5. Incidentally, I just heard a ‘young person’ interviewed on French radio. The complaints were about difficulties finding stable employment, labour market insecurity, difficulties affording having an independent home etc. Not especially and directly constitution focused issues.

  6. So, now the French and the Dutch have voted yes to keeping the present treaties for a while longer. They’ve worked pretty well so far, so what’s the big deal?

  7. A little bit of extra information on my hometown because it is not typical.
    Utrecht is the only bigger city whery the majority voted yes on the European referendum. The parts of the town with higher turn-out had a more definitive yes.
    Utrecht is a young town. Lots of students.

    And now that you mentioned it ( ) the referendum on shops in the inner city opening on every Sunday (as opposed to once a month) got a two-third NO!
    I had a relatively strong presence on the city-forum that was set up to debate the issue; opposing the extra openings but opposing the referendum itself much stronger. Nice to be in the winning camp as well…

  8. Frans,

    Never mind, I’m sure those people who could have been employed by shops on Sundays, don’t realise what how much poorer they are becuase of the sunday shopping referendum.

    Sunday is the best day to shop, come to the UK and find out.

  9. Has anyone considered that as the Dutch are on the whole a nation of high financial probity, and the EU, in view of their accounts being qualified ten years in succession are not, that this may be a “subliminal” reason for the Dutch NEE ?

    Why should one support an organisation which aims to “lay down the law” to everyone else while being unable to control it’s own internal affairs satisfactorily ?

  10. @Rob Read: I was in the UK last year but I forgot to shop on Sunday.
    I think the way you argue here offers a nice illustration of how people came to vote NO on the big referendum in such numbers. Your argument, although inspired by really caring for people who face problems finding a decent job or any job at all, is experienced as, -and actually is-, kind of a threat. “If you do not give more freedom to enterprises, big or small, employment will go down (or at least it will not rise if you don’t organize society the way we tell you to)”.
    Maybe you could convince me or others by supplying some numbers on the rise of employment thanks to the increased number of shopping hours in the UK; especially the ones on Sundays. The policy could well have negative employment effects too because part of the smaller shops will collapse under the extra competition.
    In the aforementioned forum I had kind of a discussion with the council-member responsible for the city-budget. At first he tried to avoid the subject but it turned out the city did not even make any quantitive guesses on the extra costs and benefits.
    I am exaggerating now but one could say that in this way an attempt is made to cast doubts not only on the credibility of every government policy but on society as well. Free-market-ideology above everything.

    And yes, even if you come up with credible numbers on the rise of employment thanks to the policies you endorse, I still have the right to consider other factors as well.
    In the case of my hometown that is air quality for example. On few places in North-West Europe the air is as bad (health-threatening for people with astma) as in the centre/west of the Netherlands. Extra opening hours attract extra traffic; by car mostly.
    Actually this could have had a positive influence on the big referendum too: a majority in the city council tries to evade the rules concerning the air quality. The European regulations support the case for people active on the environmental front.

  11. @Ferrand: “that this may be a “subliminal” reason for the Dutch NEE ?”
    Who can tell about subliminal reasons?
    “We” get away with it (the No-vote) very well but it should have been a reason open to everyone.
    But there again we face the lack of European politics and European politicians: I am afraid mr Zalm outside our country is considered a Don Quichotte for pointing the finger to Italy (before the introduction of the €) and to Germany and France (for not following the rules of the SGP). Part of the problem here in my opinion is that he does not directly communicate with the European public but only with the Dutch public and political leaders of the other EU-membercountries.

  12. @Frans G: You’re missing the point. You make it sound as the referendum was about forcing the shops to be open on Sundays and making people go out and shop. Not the case, Frans.

    Shop owners should in my opinion be allowed to keep their shops open whenever they want. If people don’t show up certain days of the week, say Sundays, it would simply be bad business to keep the shops open on Sundays. And if you don’t want to shop on Sundays, well don’t. But don’t control other peoples lives, please.

  13. Allowing shops to open on Sundays may seem like more freedom, but what it will actually mean to most small buisnesses and employees is less freedom. Large chains will open whenever they can and will force smaller shops to either open on Sundays or close, and employees will have to agree to work on Sundays if they want a job. It’s only a little more convenient for the shoppers (since everything is open Saturday and there are also evening hours one day a week in most places). I don’t see how it’s worth it.

  14. Free opening hours means flexibility for all; shop owners, shop employees, customers. My closest grocery store ICA is open 8-22 every day of the week and offers very good service and quality. Close by there are two Sevenelevens open around the clock and a Netto budget store open 8-20, of course every day. These places are within 200 meters from my home.

    More people work in these shops than if they were closed on evenings and Sundays, and I assume that the owners find it profitable to keep the opening hours that they’ve chosen. And I can buy my food whenever I find it convenient.

    There are things about the Swedish system I dislike, but in this area I think we’ve got it right.

  15. @Sredna. “You?re missing the point. You make it sound as the referendum was about forcing the shops to be open on Sundays and making people go out and shop. Not the case, Frans.”
    I miss point all the time. Our world is very complex these days and I am human.
    But of course I did not miss this specific point. Perhaps you should reread my comments towards Rob.
    I had the debate in Dutch with a few dozen people, remember and of course some used the same argument. I am a atheist. Really, one of those very few. So it is not that I want “control other peoples lives”. My objection to your line of reasoning is that you want to take one kind of interests (important: no to hinder entrepeneurs / enterprises too much) absolute. The freedom of one has effects on the freedom of others. Sometimes on a completely different issue. It can be hard to decide on those matters. But we should remain pragmatic.
    I liked the comments of the chairman of the organization of shops: he expressed his *condoleances* to the members of his organizations who did want shops open all sundays and he congratulated the other group of his members who opposed it!

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