And Now The Dutch

by Andrew Stuttaford

Via the Financial Times:

The Dutch governing coalition collapsed on Saturday when far-right politician Geert Wilders pulled out of budget cut talks, saying it was not in the Netherlands’ interest to meet the deficit limit of three per cent imposed by the new European fiscal pact.

EU-imposed austerity measures have cost leaders in southern European countries, including Greece, Italy and Spain, their jobs. With the fall of the conservative Dutch government, and the possibility that Nicolas Sarkozy may lose the French presidential election that begins on Sunday, the damage seems to have spread to Europe’s prosperous north.

Highlighting widespread voter anger over EU-imposed budget cuts, Mr Wilders said he could not allow Dutch citizens to “pay out of their pockets for the senseless demands of Brussels”.

These cuts may or may not be justified under current circumstances in the Netherlands (quite possibly, as it happens), but the significance of this story is something different: it is a reminder of how the fundamental lack of democratic accountability that was once a feature of the Brussels project has now become a bug.

Meanwhile, Dutch analysts said the inability of even the prosperous, deficit-averse Netherlands to generate voter support for Europe-directed budget cuts called the sustainability of the EU fiscal pact into question.

“Enforcing [the pact] would always be difficult. Punishing countries is a naive concept,” said Arnoud Boot, a professor of finance at the University of Amsterdam.

Just how many divisions does Brussels have?

The Corner

The one and only.