With Wednesday’s referendum looming, all eyes are turning to the Netherlands.Will the nation do as France did – and reject the European Union constitution? Opinion polls show Dutch opposition to the treaty had already reached a new high, even before the French rejection. One survey indicates 65 percent of people are now preparing to say No. “I heard it this morning and I find it very difficult” said one woman in Amsterdam, reacting to the French ballot. “I don’t know what to do. I think I need to study it more. “I don’t know if it will influence our turnout,” said another woman, adding that events in France would not change her vote. Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende has appealed to the people of the Netherlands to make up their own minds and not be led by events elsewhere. And, as he spoke out, some in the “yes” camp were arguing that the French rejection could strengthen their case. They say that France refused the constitution amid fears it would lose influence in an enlarged Europe. So, by the same argument, they go on, the Netherlands should back the treaty in a bid to benefit from some of the power now having to be shared by the bigger nations. As the argument rages, even farm animals here have been drawn into the debate – a herd of cattle was draped with the colours of the “no” camp in a publicity stunt. “No” supporters believe the French rejection has given their campaign a boost. After all, a No vote by two founding nations of European integration in the space of a few days would surely force Brussels to address widespread concerns, they argue. Dutch poll analyst Maurice De Hond understands their thinking. “What you see now is that there are more people saying ‘okay.’ France is No. Let us say no, too, because then we will form a power and that will mean that on Wednesday our results will be closer to 60 than 55,” he said. Tension is mounting in the Netherlands in the run-up to the referendum. It must surely be higher in Brussels however, where EU leaders are facing what for them is a nightmare scenario.
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