Analysis: Post-election Dutch may be awkward EU partners
By Alan Wheatley, Global Economics Correspondent
THE HAGUE (Reuters) - The Dutch general election on Wednesday is likely to send a message of commitment to Europe diluted by grudging support for more integration and downright distaste for blank cheques to save the euro.
As such, the Netherlands finds itself in the new mainstream of north European creditor countries, led by Germany, where economic anxiety and resentment at the perceived fecklessness of Greece and other southern debtors is sapping support for the single currency.
As a trading nation that sends three-quarters of its exports to the European Union, the Netherlands, one of the EU's founding members, has good reason to be broadly pro-European, and there is no groundswell of agitation to quit the 17-member single currency bloc.
But the days of automatic, unquestioning Dutch backing for "more Europe" are long gone. As far back as 2005 the Netherlands, along with France, voted down a constitutional treaty for the EU in a referendum that was as much an eye-opener for the Dutch as it was for the rest of Europe.
"There is an emotional aversion on the part of some people in the Netherlands against the European integration process - its speed, its breadth, its all-encompassing nature," said Alexander Rinnooy Kan, who ended his term last week as chairman of the Social and Economic Council, an important government advisory body.
Rinnooy Kan said the sense of unease about Europe's direction had been compounded by irritation with the country's generally pro-European elite for their failure to get to grips with an economic crisis that shows no sign of ending.
Indeed Dutch voters are more concerned about the economy, healthcare and social security than about Europe as an issue, according to an opinion poll last week. Continued...