Dutch to Hold a Referendum on EU-Ukraine Deal
A Dutch citizens’ initiative to force a non-binding referendum on a far-reaching treaty between Brussels and Ukraine had gathered 446,000 signatures by early Sunday evening. The campaign to hold a referendum was launched by shock blog Geenstijl, think-tank Forum voor Democratie and the Burgercomite EU association earlier this month. In 2014, the Dutch approved legislation to allow ”advisory referendums” on controversial topics, if supporters can gather 300,000 signatures, The Dutch News reports.
The Dutch parliament has already voted in favor of the treaty. The aim of the treaty is to foster political relationships. Its supporters say it shifts Ukraine away from Russia and more towards the west, while the opponents say the treaty will cost Dutch taxpayers billions of euros and that the EU’s expansion drive is having an adverse impact on democracy in the Netherlands. They also argue that the Dutch parliament no longer does what its own voters want, but are driven by Brussels’ own interests.
In response to the Dutch decision, the Embassy of Ukraine in the Netherlands reported a statement the other day, which said in particular, ”We appreciate the Dutch people’s wish to bring the question to a public democratic discussion by means of the referendum and see our role in sharing as much information as we have through different communication channels on how the Ukraine-EU Association Agreement will benefit not only Ukraine, but the EU and the Netherlands as well, thus contributing to the public making a well informed decision”.
The electoral council will now check the results to make sure the signatures are genuine. Once it gives the green light for the referendum, it must be held within six months. This means the vote is likely to take place during the Dutch presidency of the EU, which starts in January. The referendum is advisory and not binding on the cabinet. This means that if the turnout is over 30% and a majority vote against the treaty, the government has to re-examine the legislation. Even though ministers can still ignore the vote, it will be difficult politically to ignore the wishes of so many people.
This law will give citizens a serious opportunity to express their views and an important voice in the decision-making process.