Science - June 3, 2004

European elections

The Netherlands is increasingly confronted with European legislation on agriculture, environment and food, so you might think that Wageningen researchers would be more interested in making sure their voice is heard at the coming European parliamentary elections. Wb asked around.

Dr Anton Schuurman, Agrarian History:
“I watched the European candidates’ debate on television the other day, but I turned it off half way through. The MEPs talk about all sorts of technical hitches, like when Poles will be allowed to come here. It should be more about how the Netherlands and Europe are placed in the world. How much power should the European Parliament have? What about if you are against the EU? What are the alternatives? Elections are the right time to bring up these issues, but I don’t see it happening. I lecture on European history and I always say that the EU is the most important project we have. But it annoys me that there is no discussion on the fundamental issues here in the Netherlands. We should be talking about the constitution for Europe, like they are in France and Germany. The man in the street is not involved, it’s all too far away.”

Ab van Eldijk, of the Law and Governance Group:

“I’m a floating voter at the moment. It’s difficult to choose, because the campaigns are not up to much. The Dutch MEPs are not telling me anything that really moves me. It all sounds too much as though it comes from The Hague and not from Brussels. I suspect they don’t want to get to grips with the real issues, just like in the Netherlands, for instance with the debate on genetic modification. If a heated debate arises in your own country, the parties start to think in terms of vote counts and losing votes. We act as though we are very pro-Europe here in the Netherlands, but there is no real discussion on the issue, unlike in England. There they are critical, there is at least debate about how Europe should function. I dare to suggest that Tony Blair has contributed more to the shape of the EU than any other statesman. He understands that Europe is an extremely differentiated whole, that should therefore function like Germany with its different federal states. France and Germany have a very different opinion, and the Dutch MEPs say nothing at all. That’s a shame, and it makes it more difficult for me to decide what to vote.”

Professor Mart de Jong, Quantitative Veterinary Epidemiology:

“I am pro-Europe and will vote. I’ve read enough about the two world wars to know that the EU is vital to preventing this happening again. Many forget that the idea of the EU arose out of the bad experiences of the First and Second World Wars.”

Hugo Bouter

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