Permanent rescue fund: Court finds Dutch parliament had right to ratify ESM

Sat, Jun 2, 2012, 01:00

THE DUTCH parliament was within its rights last week when it ratified the establishment of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), a permanent euro zone rescue fund due to come into effect in July, a court in The Hague ruled yesterday.

The court threw out a case taken by right-wing Freedom Party (PVV) leader Geert Wilders, who had argued that a decision on whether to ratify the ESM should properly have been delayed until public opinion was tested in a general election on September 12th.

He also argued that the caretaker minority coalition government – which collapsed last month after failing to agree an austerity budget with the PVV –

no longer had the political authority to ratify the new €500 billion fund.

Despite Mr Wilders’s objections, the ratification had an easy passage through parliament when it was passed by 100 votes to 47. This commits the Netherlands to contributing an immediate €4.5 billion to the fund, and up to €35 billion more if the economic situation worsens.

Yesterday the court backed that decision by parliament, saying it could not interfere in the process of law-making, which it described as “entrusted to the government and parliament together”.

The presiding judge said there had been no violation of any constitutional rules that could justify the court granting an injunction to stop the ratification.

He also noted that parliament’s upper house, the senate, still had to vote on the fund before it was fully ratified.

Afterwards,Mr Wilders, who said traditionally the Dutch parliament does not take controversial decisions once a government has fallen, described the court’s decision as “incomprehensible”.

“It is utterly irrational that this court should allow a caretaker government to sign a blank cheque for billions of euro of taxpayers’ money – especially in the run-up to an election.”

Polls show six out of 10 Dutch voters favour ratifying the fund.