On Wednesday, 6 April, the citizens of the Netherlands will go to the polling stations, where they must give an answer to a simple question: Do they support the Agreement on the association between Ukraine and the EU. According to surveys, the majority of the respondents will say "no." Voting results will not have legal force, because it is the consultative referendum. So why do we blame Dutch people?
What do the Dutch know about Ukraine? Their knowledgecould be easily to fit in a three-word associations: corruption, war, revolution. But they sound so abstract on the background of a calm and predictable (sometimes too predictable) Dutch life!
The Dutch are genuinely surprised by my stories that you can buy diploma and driver's license in Ukraine. Your mother really earns 80 euros per month? No drugs in hospitals? How so? It is absurd for them, and for us, Ukrainians, it is the norm. These just two parallel worlds.
An avalanche of powerful information on the importance and significance, advantages and benefits of the referendum fled the country. All the Ukrainian experts, politicians, political scientists, economists and journalists, and with them the rest of the Ukrainians, stew in their own pot of information and build forecasts. Because it is important for us, Ukrainians. Meanwhile, in the Netherlands once again we might hear: "Ukraine - where is it?"
Relevant information campaign started just a few weeks before the referendum. It peaked in the last week. The real surprise was the appearance of the Klitschko brothers at one of the most popular late-night talk show RTL. Here, any public person wants to get on the air of this program. So, Vitaliy and Volodymyr clearly underestimated their scale and completely failed the interview. In very bad English they talked about some political purposes, sports and very abstract about the association.
In one of the newspapers there was an article about Mezhyhirya, residence of former Ukrainian President Yanukovych. "Painful excursion to the Museum of corruption" – this was the name of the article. The main message was like Ukrainians are ready to continue to fight against corruption and still have the hope that the situation will improve.
Dutch TV programs tell about the new incorruptible Ukrainian police, and illegal buildings and developments, and even scandalous reconstruction of the Mariinsky Palace. In short, everything is very simple and specific. Dutch media are trying to persuade me as a viewer that Ukraine needs support in the fight against corruption, and the association will enable the country to pull up all of the standards and legislation to the European level. The choice is yours.
We must pay tribute to the Ukrainian community and the organizations Brand New Ukraine, which, incidentally, receives money for the propaganda of the Dutch taxpayer. Their activists in Amsterdam initiated film shows about Ukraine. In different cities informative meetings were held with local residents, were distributed to hundreds of explanatory leaflets and organized panel discussions with representatives of both countries. But is that enough?
Two weeks ago, the Dutch got here an invitation to a referendum - stempas (stempas). Without this document in the polling station you have no right to vote.
Of those still plan to come and vote, more than half - 51% - are going to vote "against" the EU-Ukraine Association. 37% are going to vote "for". Another 12% have not decided yet. And of those who would definitely take part in the referendum, 62% are going to say "no" to Ukrainians. These are the results of a special study, which commissioned one of the most influential newspapers of the country – De Telegraaf. The biggest problem of advocacy and information about the referendum campaign is that until now many Dutch people believe that they are not talking about the Association Agreement with Ukraine, but Ukraine's accession to the EU.
Those who understand the essence of the referendum have been thwarted by a powerful information campaign, nee-kamp (the camp of those who agitate against). These include local socialists. The politician Harry van Bommel in his speeches emphasizes on the corruption of the state:. "Ukraine is on the 130th place out of 167 on the index of Transparency International's Corruption. It is likely that millions of euros of our taxpayers will be simply wasted on Ukraine."
His thesis are very simple and in fact the main fear of the Dutch is that cooperation with Ukraine could destabilize the political situation in Europe. Vote against is to save Europe from Putin; the agreement is one of the steps of Ukraine's joining the EU.
At the same time, officials openly say that no one is waiting for Ukraine . In particular, it said by the Minister-President Mark Rutte and Deputy Prime Minister Lodevayk Asher.
Government's position is uniquely designed to support the association. The emphasis is on the economic component. Minister-President even called on people to come to a referendum. The Dutch government considered that while reducing customs duties in accordance with the agreement, European companies will be able to earn an additional approximately 390 million euros per year.
But it is not only about the earnings, said supporter of ja-kamp (camp "for"), the leader of the political party D66 Alexander Pechtold. He speaks of the need to support the people who, under the EU flags, were fighting for European values on the Maidan.