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Last Updated: Tuesday, 26 April, 2005, 11:24 GMT 12:24 UK
Poll boost for Dutch eurosceptics
Dutch FM Bernard Bot and PM Jan Peter Balkenende
Mr Bot and Mr Balkenende are still confident of a Yes vote
Several opinion polls indicate that Dutch voters plan to reject the EU constitution in the 1 June referendum.

An internet poll released on Monday showed that 60% of respondents opposed the constitution.

The poll, conducted by the Institute for Public and Politics, asked 7,500 people how they were planning to vote.

A poll published on Sunday by the Centre for Political Participation similarly found that only 42% of voters backed the treaty.

Last week a foreign ministry poll showed that 52% would support the constitution, with only 30% opposing it.

The negative polls followed Saturday's mail distribution of non-partisan leaflets aiming to inform the 12 million Dutch voters about the constitution.

The EU treaty is aimed at streamlining decision-making in the enlarged EU of 25 members. Opponents fear it will undermine national sovereignty.

It is the opponents of the constitution who should to be on the defensive
Jan Peter Balkenende
Dutch Prime Minister

Dutch Foreign Minister Bernard Bot said poll results were mixed and that both Dutch and French people might change their minds once they were better informed on the issue.

"We'll see as we give more information more people will vote Yes," he told the French news agency AFP.

Waning support

France is holding a referendum on the constitution on 29 May.

The Dutch centre-right coalition government launched its Yes campaign at the beginning of April.

They have used full-page newspaper ads in leading dailies in a bid to convince voters to inform themselves and back the constitution.

The Netherlands is one of the EU's founding members, and support for the bloc has traditionally been strong among the Dutch.

However, tensions over immigration and the high financial cost of EU membership have led to increasing Dutch euroscepticism ahead of the poll.

Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said on Monday that the Yes camp should not be forced onto the defensive despite the negative polls.

"In my view, it is the opponents of the constitution who should to be on the defensive," he said in a speech published by the Dutch newspaper The Netherlands.

"They only have fear to offer and give no prospect of a better future."

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