Referendum in the Netherlands: Ukraine as a hostage of Eurosceptics
The Eurosceptic forces are not against Ukraine, they just oppose the enlargement of the European borders and struggle for internal political power
In early April, the Netherlands to hold a consultative referendum concerning the question of ratification of the Agreement on Association between the EU and Ukraine.
The decision to hold such a referendum was initiated by Eurosceptic political parties, which did not have the necessary votes to block the adoption of AA in the Dutch parliament.
Eurosceptics, openly opposed the AA between Ukraine and the EU, they have collected 427 thousand 939 signatures, 300 thousand were essential for the organization of a referendum. For the organization of the referendum Eurosceptics have used civil Geenpeil initiative ("Say No"), which started collecting signatures. October 14, 2015 the Netherlands electoral commission announced the holding of a referendum. Thus, the plebiscite, which rendered the ratification of the AA, will take place on April 6, 2016. It is important to note that according to the laws, the referendum will be considered legal at 30% turnout.
Initially, the referendum was initiated by the two parties of Eurosceptics - the Freedom Party and the Socialist Party. Later they were joined by the Party of animal protection, the parliamentary group of VNL and 50PLUS, which was initially supporting the AA between Ukraine and the EU, but it has changed its point of view.
The referendum itself became possible after the adoption of July 1, 2015 a law allowing citizens to request a non-binding referendum on the decisions taken by the Government at the time of this date and after it.
At the same time, it would be wrong to assert that Eurosceptics in the Netherlands are opposed to Ukraine. Not at all. In short, they oppose the expansion of the EU borders and conduct internal political struggle for power. But Ukraine itself, no matter how sad it is to admit, became once again just an excuse. Jan Roos, one of the initiators of the vote and an active critic of the European Union as such, said: "This referendum is an opportunity to give an ordinary Dutch citizen a chance to believe that his voice will be heard".
Organization of the referendum engaged the Dutch government, but there was no active campaigning "for" the ratification of the agreement. According to government documents that were in the press, it was planned to create a positive image of Ukraine in the Netherlands, to focus on the fact that the association of Ukraine with the EU is not a membership, and that the Ukrainian market of 40 million customers is important for the Netherlanders.
At the same time, the Dutch Eurosceptics have clarified why supporting the AA between Ukraine and the EU is not worth it. They used some explanations, which were not quite correct. Eurosceptics have used theses that in the case of the instrument of ratification Dutch taxpayers will be forced to "feed" Ukrainians. They said nothing about the fact that the AA does not mean Ukraine's accession to the EU. And in response to the Government's statement that the Ukrainian market is important for the Netherlands, Eurosceptics argue that in fact "40 million poor entrepreneurs are not interesting, moreover due to corruption and accountability of the oligarchs Ukrainian market will remain closed".
In this case, the essence of negative campaigning against AA is not to denigrate Ukraine, but the point is the struggle of visions the future path of the country, the struggle for the votes. In 2017 the Netherlands will elect a new parliament and form a new government. And those forces ruling today, let us call them pro-Ukrainian, are rapidly losing strength points, and Eurosceptic parties have become increasingly popular. In fact, the upcoming referendum is nothing but a part of the electoral program of the opposition parties of the Netherlands.
According to analysts, and according to opinion polls, the referendum would theoretically decide to denounce the AA of Ukraine with the EU. The government has already stated that it will accept the referendum result, whatever it was. Otherwise, pro-government forces risk losing even more supporters.
Based on internal data surveys in the Netherlands, we can say that people older than 50 years know about the subject of the referendum. While 40% of women and young people aged 18 to 35 years old, do not know that it is scheduled for April 6.
In turn, the head of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker said that the negative outcome of the referendum will be beneficial for Russia and can lead to "continental crisis."
A former chairman of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy is convinced that, if the Dutch vote against the AA between Ukraine and the EU, it would be a shame for the Netherlands. "If the majority of the Dutch says "no", it will make the Netherlands less than a reliable partner," he said.
In case of a negative outcome of the referendum in the Netherlands on the issue of visa-free regime for Ukraine will not be affected. To make a decision on visa-free regime for Ukraine 55.5% of the EU member states are required to vote. But further European integration will be much harder for us.
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