AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The Dutch remain overwhelmingly pessimistic about the prospects for the euro zone and fear that Italy or Spain will be next in line for a bailout, according to a poll published on Sunday ahead of another parliamentary debate on the debt crisis.
The Dutch parliament has grown increasingly critical of the high cost of the bailouts and failure to stem the euro zone crisis, mindful of growing resentment among taxpayers.
On Tuesday, parliament is due to debate the rescue package agreed by European leaders last week. However, the minority coalition government cannot bank on majority support for the package, because the pro-European, opposition Labor Party has become far more critical of euro zone policies in recent weeks.
A Maurice de Hond poll published on Sunday showed that the majority of Dutch remained pessimistic about the future of the euro zone, thought that Greece should leave the currency area, and feared more rescues would be needed.
When asked if they now felt more optimistic about the future of the euro zone, 57 percent disagreed, while 67 percent said they did not think that the euro crisis would be resolved in the next twelve months. Half of those surveyed said the money used for bailouts would be better spent on solving domestic problems.
Nearly two-thirds, or 63 percent, said it would be better for Greece to leave the euro zone, while 81 percent said they feared Spain or Italy would need financial support next, and 66 percent said Italy’s austerity measures were weak, or “as soft as butter”.
The fiscally conservative Netherlands has been among the more demanding euro zone countries in the bailout debate, insisting on private sector and IMF involvement, and pushing for the appointment of a powerful “budget czar” who would keep euro zone members in line or boot them out of the single currency if they failed to enforce the necessary economic discipline.
The Liberal-Christian Democrat coalition relies on opposition parties to approve euro zone bailouts because its main ally, Geert Wilders’ anti-immigration Freedom Party, is strongly opposed to such bailouts.
In the past few months, however, pro-European Labor, the biggest opposition party whose support has been crucial for ensuring a majority, has grown more critical of bailouts and it has said that it would not decide until Tuesday’s debate whether to support the latest rescue measures.
“Will it solve the problems, can it prevent contagion to other countries and does it make sure that people such as (Italy’s Prime Minister Silvio) Berlusconi do not lean back and say: ‘It has all been taken care of with this package, I don’t have to put finances back in order again’,” Labor MP Ronald Plasterk told Dutch public television earlier this week.
Political analysts said they still expected Labor to support the latest euro zone rescue measures despite its more vocal criticism.
“I don’t think the chance of a no vote is high. There is substantial agreement,” said Philip van Praag, senior lecturer in political science at University of Amsterdam.
No voting is scheduled for Tuesday’s debate which Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte will attend, but political parties will say whether they support the package or not, while motions can also be filed and voted on during a meeting later in the week or the week after.
Reporting by Gilbert Kreijger; Editing by Sara Webb and Helen Massy-Beresford