It was one of six nations that forged fledgling European unity from the ashes of World War II, and was a force behind the treaty that created the euro currency.
Yet, along with France, it also put itself at the vanguard of the euro-skeptic tide by rejecting a proposed European constitution in a referendum.
The answer could be an indication of the very direction of Europe.
In 2005, Dutch voters deepened a major continental crisis by rejecting a historic EU constitution just three days after the French gave their historic “Non” — effectively killing the charter.
In the upcoming elections, the Dutch are pondering even greater existential questions for Europe — whether to stick with the union and its currency or try to fix both from the inside.
Not surprisingly, the most extreme view — ditch the European Union — comes from firebrand populist Geert Wilders, who first rose to prominence with strident anti-Islam rhetoric that resonated across Europe.
At the other end of the spectrum is outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte, a staunch believer in EU integration who also hews closely to the hard-line budgetary conservatism of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
In between are a slew of euro-skeptic parties that are also nonetheless conscious of the bloc’s importance to the Netherlands, a nation whose economy is built on exports.
The leader of one such party is Emile Roemer, who heads the left-wing Socialists. His campaign symbol is the tomato, after the rotten fruit his supporters believe to be the just deserts of the EU-loving political establishment.
At a recent campaign stop in his hometown of Boxmeer, a verdant town in the eastern Netherlands close to the German border, Mr. Roemer handed out tomato-flavored ice cream and said he wants “a more social Europe.”
His Socialists polled strongly throughout summer campaigning, before falling back to third place in a complicated race that likely will lead to long negotiations to form the next ruling coalition.View Entire Story
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