On the first of June Dutch citizens will have the opportunity to vote the European constitution in a referendum. Not unimportant to make a proper decision is the answer to the following question:
“Will the Dutch soft drugs policy really be safe under this new constitution?'
“I will not touch the Netherlands drugs policy', promised Commissioner of Justice, Freedom and Safety, Mr Frattini, to several Dutch newspapers on may 6. “And the European constitution will not change that.'
However, the police and justice paragraph in the new constitution makes clear that the adoption will not be without risks. Even if the content will not change, the process of decision-making definitely will.
The member states lose their right of veto. A majority of member states can, supported by a majority in the European Parliament, undermine the Dutch soft drugs policy without our government or parliament being able to do something about it.
However, the emergency break can be pulled if the Netherlands find that a European justice proposal ‘detracts from the fundamental aspects of its criminal law system’. In that case our Prime Minister Balkenende can carry over the decision to the Council of European leaders, in which case a decision can only be made in unanimity.
But even this will not bring us much relief. Three weeks ago Krista van Velzen of the Socialist Party asked Minister Donner (Justice) whether he considers the Dutch soft drugs policy (which is a policy of tolerance) as a ‘fundamental aspect of the Dutch criminal law system’. “No', Donner replied. “As minister of Justice I refuse to determine that non-maintaining one’s own laws is a fundamental aspect of the Dutch criminal law system'.
Either way, minister Donner is the one who loses in this part. In Europe he has to defend a drug policy that is not his own, and on police and justice grounds he loses power to the Prime Minister.
Donner wanted to introduce a completely different system, which would not turn the Dutch criminal law system up-side down due to the increasing influence of Brussels. But Foreign Affairs and General Affairs refused to bring this as an important argument during the negotiations for the constitution. After that, the idea has been ignored by the forum that conducted the negotiations. Perhaps this becomes a standard for what happens to ideas that make sense in the field of justice, if the European constitution is adopted.
Buro Jansen & Janssen is a research office and a collective of journalists that publishes about expanding powers and repressive legislation, in media, in independent publications and on the internet.