Referendum in the Netherlands in 2005 on the European Constitution

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On June 1, 2005 , a referendum took place in the Netherlands on the planned constitution for Europe . 61.5% of those who voted rejected the draft constitution. The turnout was 63.3%.


Planned ratifications:
  • by parliamentary resolution
  • after a referendum
  • The heads of state and government of the member states of the European Union signed the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe on October 29, 2004 in Rome. The aim of the agreement was to improve the cooperation between the European institutions in the EU, which had grown to 25 member states after the eastward expansion in 2004 . In the draft constitution, common goals and values ​​of the EU (human rights, democracy, rule of law ...) and a charter of fundamental rights of the citizens of the EU were formulated. The competences of the EU institutions should be better delimited and defined, and cooperation in the field of security and defense policy should be more institutionalized and improved. The changes should, however, continue to be based on the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality .

    After the contract was signed, it had to be ratified in the individual states. In part, this happened simply by a parliamentary resolution (e.g. in Germany and Austria). In other countries, the constitution made a referendum mandatory (e.g. in Ireland). Other states decided, even though a referendum was not mandatory, to hold one anyway. Various motives were decisive here. In part, this was done under the pressure of criticism of the contract or to increase the legitimacy of the conclusion of the contract, and in part also for political-tactical considerations.

    Situation in the Netherlands

    The Netherlands was also one of the states in which a referendum was to be held. The discussion in the Netherlands mixed with a more fundamental discussion whether general referendums should be included in the constitution as elements of direct democracy . The parties on the left, in particular, have been in favor for a long time.

    Jan Peter Balkenende (CDA), Dutch Prime Minister 2002–2010

    Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende ( Christen Democratisch Appèl , CDA), who led a bourgeois-liberal coalition government made up of the CDA, Volkspartij voor Vrijheid en Democratie (VVD) and Democrats 66 (D66), would have liked to avoid the vote, but he was able to comply with popular demand not withdraw from a referendum. After the three parliamentarians Farah Karimi ( GroenLinks ), Niesco Dubbelboer ( Partij van de Arbeid , PvdA) and Boris van der Ham (D66) introduced a draft law on May 22, 2003 to hold a consultative referendum, an extensive debate ensued possible referendum. Proponents of the referendum included the PvdA, the Socialist Partij (SP), GroenLinks and D66, as well as Lijst Pim Fortuyn (LPF), classified as right-wing populist . The CDA and the reformed Staatkundig Gereformeerde Partij (SGP) were fundamentally against a referendum. In the VVD there was a power struggle within the party, which was finally won by the faction of referendum supporters under Jozias van Aartsen . The State Council gave a largely positive opinion on the bill to hold a referendum, and opinion polls showed that around two-thirds of the population wanted such a referendum.

    On November 25, 2003, the Second Chamber of the States General voted against the votes of the CDA, CU and SGP by a majority in favor of holding a referendum. Following objections from the First Chamber , the amended referendum law was approved again by the Second Chamber on October 5, 2004. On January 25, 2005, the First Chamber also approved the referendum law.

    The referendum was a constitutional novelty in the Netherlands. The last referendum there took place 200 years ago, when a vote was taken on the adoption of the constitution of the Batavian Republic , a Napoleonic client state . This element of direct democracy was not provided for in the Dutch constitution . Therefore, the vote was formally only consultative .

    Date, question of the referendum, election campaign

    The target date for holding the referendum was originally June 14, 2004, as elections to the European Parliament were planned on that day . However, this date could not be kept due to the long discussion and delayed approval in Parliament, so that the voting date was finally set for June 1, 2005.

    Attitudes of the major political parties
    Therefore CDA, PvdA, VVD, D66, GroenLinks
    On the other hand SP, LPF, ChristenUnie , SGP, Geert Wilders followers

    Most of the big parties (including many that had rejected the referendum) supported the “yes” vote, ie approval of the draft treaty. Of the 150 parliamentarians in the Second Chamber, 127 voted for a “Yes” and 22 for a “No”; in the Second Chamber the ratio was 65: 9. The election campaign before the vote was largely determined by the constitutional opponents who achieved a significantly higher presence in the public discussion than the advocates. The opponents led their campaign more emotionally, while the proponents more often used technical and formal arguments, were more on the defensive and wanted to rebut the arguments of the opponents. The government, which had only reluctantly decided to hold a referendum, was comparatively little involved in the election campaign, so that smaller interest groups received disproportionately large media coverage in the discussion. In addition, the Balkenende government found itself in a slump in popularity due to unpopular social cuts and unsatisfactory economic development.

    In the public opinion polls, the supporters of the treaty initially had a majority. In November 2004, 63% of those questioned supported the contract in an opinion poll. At the beginning of 2005, however, the situation was reversed and the supporters of the treaty were in the minority in various opinion polls. A large proportion of the electorate, however, was still undecided. A very important event was the referendum in France , which took place on May 29, 2005, three days before the Dutch vote, in which 56% of the voters rejected the draft constitution.

    The question posed on the ballot papers was:

    "Bent U voor of tegen instemming door Nederland met het verdrag tot vaststelling van een grondwet voor Europa?"

    “Are you for or against the Netherlands agreeing to the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe?”

    - Question of the referendum of June 1, 2005

    The question could be answered with voor (for) or tegen (against).


    The results of the referendum are shown in the tables below.

    Nationwide results

    Voter numbers and valid votes
    be right number percent
    Valid votes 7,646,415 99.23%
    Invalid votes / blank ballot papers 58,741 0.77%
    Voters 7,705,156 63.30%
    Eligible voters 12.172.740 100.0%
    Voting decision
    Against 4,705,685 61.54%
    For 2,940,730 38.46%

    Results in the provinces and municipalities

    province electoral
    Voters Participation For Against Invalid / blank
    ballot papers
    number % number % number %
    Drenthe 370.383 241,496 65.20 85,703 35.49 153,745 63.66 2,048 0.85
    Flevoland 254.680 164.354 64.53 52,764 32.10 110,708 67.36 882 0.54
    Friesland 487.188 321.992 66.09 121,866 37.85 198.076 61.52 2,050 0.64
    Gelderland 1481.154 957.814 64.67 361.130 37.70 589.205 61.52 7,479 0.78
    Groningen 446.315 288,482 64.64 98,518 34.15 186,817 64.76 3,147 1.09
    Limburg 865.047 525.886 60.79 200.291 38.09 322,386 61.30 3,209 0.61
    North Brabant 1,817,290 1,073,184 59.05 436,699 40.69 628.886 58.60 7,599 0.71
    North Holland 1,914,091 1,224,326 63.96 484.214 39.55 730.834 59.69 9,278 0.76
    Overijssel 827.928 533.156 64.40 193,690 36.33 335.986 63.02 3,480 0.65
    Utrecht 868,582 589,667 67.89 255.773 43.38 328.118 55.64 5,776 0.98
    Zeeland 283,816 185,801 65.47 60,077 32.33 124.711 67.12 1,013 0.55
    South Holland 2,556,266 1,599,038 62.55 590.005 36.90 996.213 62.30 12,820 0.80
    Netherlands 12.172.740 7,705,196 63.30 2,940,730 38.17 4,705,685 61.07 58,781 0.76

    The proponents of the draft treaty only had a majority in 26 of the 467 Dutch municipalities. These are listed in the table below. The municipality with the greatest opposition was Urk in Flevoland, where only 8.4% of the voters voted for the contract.

    Municipalities with majorities for the draft constitution
    local community Percent “for” votes
    Rozendaal 62.7
    Bloemendaal 60.6
    Heemstede 57.0
    Oegstgeest 56.0
    Bennebroek 55.3
    Naarden 55.0
    Laren 53.6
    Bunnik 52.8
    Wassenaar 52.6
    Wageningen 52.2
    Haren 52.1
    Warmond 52.1
    Abcoude 52.0
    Nuenen, Gerwen en Nederwetten 51.8
    Voorschoten 51.3
    Doorn 51.2
    Mook en Middelaar 51.1
    Utrecht 51.1
    Waalre 51.0
    Sevenum 50.9
    Maarn 50.7
    Heeze-Leende 50.6
    Son en Breugel 50.6
    Eersel 50.5
    Midden Delfland 50.3
    Margraten 50.2

    Voting cards

    Assessment and further development

    The rejection of the treaty was clear and even clearer than in the referendum in France. In none of the 16 provinces did the proponents of the draft constitution have a majority. Only in 26 (5.4%) out of 467 Dutch municipalities could supporters win a majority. A disproportionately large number of older voters took part in the vote (turnout 46% among those aged 18 to 24, 75% among those over 55). 51% of the non-voters stated that they did not feel adequately informed as the reason for not taking part, 23% cited disinterest in the European Constitution and 16% cited a general rejection of EU institutions. 67% of the respondents felt that the debate on the European Constitution in the Netherlands started too late. The majority no vote passed through all age groups, but was most pronounced among young voters (74% “No” among 18 to 24 year olds).

    An analysis of voting behavior showed that the supporters of the SP, CU and the “Gruppe Wilders”, the forerunner of the Partij voor de Vrijheid and ideological heir of the LPF, had voted more than 80–90% against the draft contract. Among the PvdA supporters there was a slim majority against the draft contract, while supporters of VVD, CDA, GroenLinks and D66 had voted in favor of it, most clearly with the CDA. The motives for a “no” vote were heterogeneous. The most frequent motives mentioned were: lack of information (32%), loss of national sovereignty (19%) and opposition to certain political parties / the government (14%). 8% of the “no” voters surveyed named general opposition to European integration as the reason. 82% of all respondents supported the Netherlands' membership in the EU. In contrast to the French voters, who had also rejected the draft treaty, the majority of the Dutch voters saw no need to introduce a European constitution.

    With the rejection by the Dutch voters, the original draft treaty for the European Constitution finally failed because two core countries of the EU, France and the Netherlands, had rejected it. The ratification process came to a standstill across Europe and, with the exception of Luxembourg on July 10, 2005 , no further referendums were held in other EU countries. Instead of the failed constitutional project, the governments of the EU member states worked out a modified draft treaty, the later Treaty of Lisbon , which, however, took over essential elements from the draft constitution of Rome. Here, too, there was a discussion in the Netherlands about whether a new referendum should be held. This time the State Council expressed its skepticism - also because referendums are not provided for in the constitution and should not be introduced in this way as a permanent institution in European treaties. The new treaty also does not have the character of a constitution. A key role was played by the PvdA, which this time was involved in the government and decided at its party congress on September 25, 2007 not to support a draft law for a new referendum. Overall, the general skepticism that direct democracy could be used to bring about rational political decisions on complex issues seemed to have grown. Therefore, the draft law for a second referendum did not get a majority and on June 5, 2008 the Lisbon Treaty was ratified in the Second Chamber. On December 1, 2009, the Lisbon Treaty came into force across Europe.

    Web links

    Individual evidence

    1. a b c d e The endless referendum debate in the Netherlands: VIII. Exception: Referendum on the European Constitutional Treaty. NetherlandsNet at the University of Münster, September 2010, accessed on April 2, 2016 .
    2. a b c d Referendum over EU-grondwet in Nederland. Europa Nu, accessed April 2, 2016 (Dutch).
    3. a b Referendum Europese Grondwet., accessed April 2, 2016 (Dutch).
    4. a b c d From constitutional to reform treaty: The Dutch referendum: an uninformed protest election? (PDF) Research Group EU Integration, July 8, 2007, accessed on April 2, 2016 .
    5. a b Verkiezingsuitlagen Referendum 2005 - Nederland. Retrieved April 2, 2016 (Dutch).
    6. a b The European Constitution: post-referendum survey in The Netherlands. (PDF) Eurobarometer, June 2005, accessed on April 2, 2016 (English).