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Euro debt crisis top of mind as Dutch head to polls

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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 continent. “I am a European,” he proudly said.

In a recent survey, 64 percent of the Dutch said that having the euro was “a good thing," and 28 percent called it “a bad thing.” Only three of the 17 member states of the eurozone were less positive about the euro.

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