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Dutch politician calls for country to exit eurozone

Populist right-winger Geert Wilders has said the Netherlands should leave the euro – despite its triple-A credit rating.

Geert Wilders
Geert Wilders
Image: Peter Dejong/AP/Press Association Images

DUTCH POPULIST politician Geert Wilders has called for a national referendum on abandoning the euro and reintroducing the guilder.

The idea is not likely to succeed in the short term, but it marks a significant change in the discussion over the euro in one of the “core” euro-zone countries – one of the few, along with Germany, that retains a top-notch credit rating.

“With the guilder, the Netherlands would be master of its own money again,” Wilders said at a news conference in the Hague.

His call came hours after he met with the country’s prime minister to discuss new spending cuts needed to comply with European budget rules.

Wilders heads the Freedom Party, the country’s third-largest, and is an indispensable partner for Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s minority Cabinet. Rutte relies on outside help from Freedom to achieve a majority in parliament.

Wilders is mostly known for his anti-immigrant stances, but he also is a longtime sceptic of European projects. He has opposed any aid for struggling countries during the sovereign debt crisis, saying the Greeks should return to the drachma. He also was a prominent figure in the Netherlands’ rejection of the European constitution in 2005.

He acknowledged it would cost money to depart the euro and calculated the new guilder might rise by 10 percent against the euro in the short term, hurting exports. But he argued consumers’ purchasing power would improve in compensation.

That analysis doesn’t address the possible costs if a Dutch departure leads to a new acute financial crisis in Europe.

A majority of Dutch voters say they want to remain in the single currency, though most regret joining it. Enthusiasm has waned as the country’s economy has weakened in recent months. The government’s statistics agency announced last week that the country is now in recession.

More: 12 major investors agree to write off parts of Greek debt>

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Associated Press

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