In the wake of World War II and ensuing hunger, Sicco Mansholt, a Dutch farmer who became the fourth president of the European Commission, formed a vision of a united Europe in which nations would work together to stave off famine. He was the architect of a common European farm policy that eventually evolved into deeper economic union.
The Dutch government also was one of the driving forces behind the 1993 treaty that ushered in monetary union and, eventually, the euro currency. The treaty was signed in the picturesque southern Dutch city of Maastricht and still bears its name.
Certainly, the generosity that once accompanied the EU’s expansion into poorer nations largely has evaporated.
And the way the Dutch vote on Wednesday will be parsed for potential insights into the outcome of elections next year in a much more important rich Northern European country: Germany.