Auteur: Peter Teffer
UTRECHT - Barry Madlener i of the far-right party, PVV, yesterday asked his colleagues in the Dutch parliament: "Do you want more or less European Union?"
The answer was an awkward silence.
The phrasing Madlener used was loaded because his leader, Geert Wilders i, recently asked a crowd in the Hague if they wanted "more or fewer Moroccans" in their city and in the Netherlands.
The crowd's chanting of "Fewer! Fewer!" and Wilders' reply - "We'll take care of that" - have been widely criticised.
Madlener posed his question, which he said was not meant as a joke, during an annual day-long debate in national parliament on the state of the European Union. He was an MEP prior to becoming a member of the national parliament in 2012.
Madlener then proceeded to answer his own question.
"This house chooses more Europe, while most people in the country are done with Europe," he claimed. In his hands was a copy of yesterday's newspaper, De Volkskrant, which carried the poll showing that a majority want to curb European cooperation.
Of those polled, 21 percent wanted the Netherlands to leave the EU, while 47 percent wanted to curb EU powers.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte i acknowledged that EU reforms are necessary, but pointed out that the poll results can also be viewed positively.
"Eighty percent want the Netherlands to remain a member of the European Union," he said.
Members of the Dutch parliament debated this year's 'State of the European Union', an annual government document with a vision of European cooperation.
This is the third edition and it was published in February.
In it, the Dutch government write that EU cooperation has "shortcomings" which need to be addressed, but that European cooperation is "essential" for the Netherlands.
"Our country would be worse off outside of the EU," it says.