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Dutch Voters Expected to Reject EU Constitution

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

If the pollsters are correct, the effort to unify Europe will suffer another blow today. The Netherlands holds a referendum on a European constitution which has already been rejected by France. That document was the latest part of the decades-long effort that grew out of the ashes of World War II. It was an effort to make sure that the European powers cooperated in a way they never had. That effort is in shambles now, and to find out why we'll begin by going to NPR's Anthony Kuhn, who is talking to Dutch voters.

And Anthony, what are you hearing as you speak to voters today?

ANTHONY KUHN reporting:

Well, I was just down at the central station here in The Hague and I have to say I didn't find anyone who is going to vote `yes' in favor of the constitution. One man I spoke to said actually he was in favor of European integration and for the EU, but within limits. He said that the EU was getting too big and people were losing control over matters that were important to them to the European Union government. A lot of Dutch people here are afraid that the bigger states in the EU will make all the rules, or obey only the ones that suit them, and the Dutch people are also very concerned about their social welfare system, their welfare benefits, and also their very liberal policies on a range of issues from marijuana use to euthanasia.

I also spoke to a teacher who said that jobs were hard to find and that the euro had brought inflation. She said the guilder was undervalued when they converted to the euro and she also complained that Dutch people make the biggest per capita contribution to the EU of any nation of Europe.

INSKEEP: Anthony, we've also heard that immigration is a real concern for the Dutch. Why more so there than elsewhere?

KUHN: Well, this is an issue that the Dutch people are in the process of reconsidering. They had a sort of consensus that they wanted to build a multicultural society, and then two major anti-immigration figures, the maverick politician Pim Fortuyn and the filmmaker Theo van Gogh, were assassinated, one of them by a suspected terrorist. People are very concerned about whether Turkey joins the EU and whether they will be swamped by immigrants and whether those will take away their jobs. So it's--you know, it's not just a protest vote against the government. There are very specific issues here and people are upset with the government about it.

INSKEEP: Thanks very much.

That's Anthony Kuhn in the Hague. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Anthony Kuhn is NPR's correspondent based in Seoul, South Korea, reporting on the Korean Peninsula, Japan, and the great diversity of Asia's countries and cultures. Before moving to Seoul in 2018, he traveled to the region to cover major stories including the North Korean nuclear crisis and the Fukushima earthquake and nuclear disaster.