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Cablegate: Cautious Dutch Reaction to Ec Report On Turkey

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 THE HAGUE 002735

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV TU NL EUN
SUBJECT: CAUTIOUS DUTCH REACTION TO EC REPORT ON TURKEY

THIS CABLE IS SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED. PLEASE HANDLE
ACCORDINGLY.

1...



21950,10/22/2004 15:09,04THEHAGUE2735,"Embassy The Hague",UNCLASSIFIED//FOR
OFFICIAL USE ONLY,,"This record is a partial extract of the original cable.
The full text of the original cable is not available.
","UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 THE HAGUE 002735
SIPDIS
SENSITIVE
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV TU NL EUN
SUBJECT: CAUTIOUS DUTCH REACTION TO EC REPORT ON TURKEY
THIS CABLE IS SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED. PLEASE HANDLE
ACCORDINGLY.
1. (SBU) Summary: The Dutch government has officially
characterized the October 6 European Commission report on
Turkey, including its recommendation that a date be set for
accession negotiations, as ""a good basis for decision making
by the European Council in December."" Parliament also
received the report favorably, with all major parties in
favor of starting negotiations -- albeit disagreeing on
when. The Dutch public, however, remains skeptical about
Turkey's European credentials, although calls for a
referendum on Turkish accession have so far gained no
momentum. The government will continue to tread cautiously
on Turkey, seeking to balance its EU Presidency obligations
against the mixed feelings of Dutch citizens while trying to
avoid divisions within the ruling coalition. End summary.
Government's public reaction
----------------------------
2. (SBU) Immediately following the October 6 publication of
the EC report on Turkey, acting Dutch Prime Minister Gerrit
Zalm described the report as ""thorough and balanced"" and ""a
good basis"" for decision making in December."" Zalm, who had
formerly been highly critical of Turkish accession to the
EU, stopped short of endorsing beginning negotiations, but
stressed that Dutch citizens should be ""reassured"" by
Commission proposals for an extended transition period for
Turkish migrants after accession and the condition that
accession not drain the EU budget. He also stressed that
""positive developments"" in the areas of human rights,
freedom of speech, and religious freedom ""must continue.""
Perhaps anticipating domestic criticism of the government's
response to the report, Zalm emphasized that the
Netherlands' ""mouth is gagged"" while it holds the EU
Presidency as other member states monitor Dutch comments
closely.
3. (SBU) A few days later on October 15, the GONL sent a
letter to parliament reiterating Zalm's earlier comments.
Again finding the Report to be ""a good basis for decision
making in December,"" the letter stated that ""The decision on
whether or not to open negotiations will have to take into
account the suggestions and issues raised by the Commission""
-- again stopping short of an outright endorsement of
beginning negotiations.
4. (SBU) Explaining the government's letter to the press,
acting Prime Minister Zalm hinted that the Dutch cabinet was
itself divided on how soon negotiations with Turkey should
begin. He was confident, however, that the cabinet would
have a clear position on the matter by the time of the
December European Council. Zalm described Foreign Minister
Bot's public speculation that negotiations could probably
start in the second half of 2005 (and could not be put off
until 2008, as some suggested) as premature.
Parliament's reaction
---------------------
5. (SBU) The Commission report was well received in the
Dutch parliament. All the main political parties supported
starting negotiations with Turkey on the conditions proposed
by the Commission. They remain divided, however, as to when
these negotiations should begin. Spokesmen for the
coalition Christian Democratic (CDA) and Liberal (VVD)
parties urged caution; CDA floorleader Verhagen, for
example, argued against setting a date until Turkey is in
full compliance with the Copenhagen criteria on respect for
human rights and the rule of law. Verhagen and the
spokesmen for the other major parties, however, also made
clear that they would not bind the government's hands, and
that they would support an EU consensus decision.
Public opinion skeptical but can be won over
--------------------------------------------
6. (SBU) Large elements of public, and some smaller parties
in parliament, remain skeptical about the benefits of
Turkish accession. Geert Wilders, the former VVD (Liberal)
party member who recently split with the party leadership on
this issue, continues to attract followers from those
worried about inflows of Turkish workers. Several recent
polls indicate that if a referendum on Turkish accession (as
proposed in France) were held today, a majority would
oppose. On the other hand, although some politicians,
including VVD leader van Aartsen, have called for a such a
referendum, so far there has been no obvious momentum for
it.
7. (SBU) While skeptical, the Dutch public does not come out
strongly opposed to starting negotiations on Turkish
accession. According to an October 5 poll, 53 percent
support starting negotiations, and 61 percent support future
accession if Turkey has complied with a clear set of
criteria. Supporters list among Turkey's advantages that it
would be a bridge to the Arab world, that membership would
enhance European security, and that Turkey would benefit to
the Union's economy.
COMMENT:
-------
8. (SBU) Although skeptical, the pragmatic Dutch seem
prepared, in the main, to go along with an EU consensus
decision to begin negotiations on Turkish accession on a
date to be determined by the European Council in December.
That said, underlying doubts about Turkish accession -- and
suspicions about the EU in general -- still have the
potential to create domestic political challenges for the
coalition, especially if Wilders or others are able to
mobilize this dissatisfaction into an effective political
force. For now, the government is treading cautiously
rather than aggressively preparing the population for a
positive decision in December.
Russel

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