Dutch voters overwhelmingly rejected the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement on 6 April. The referendum was called pursuant to a new Dutch law, which obliges the government to call a non-binding plebiscite is an initiative collects enough signatures. Eurosceptics were able to gather the required number regarding the EU-Ukraine deal, which many see as merely one concrete issue at hand in order to deal a blow to the embattled Union. The turnout reached the required 30%, which means the parliament has to reconsider the deal – but need not reject it altogether. The EU-Ukraine deal practically started the Maidan revolution in Ukraine and is provisionally applied in its entirety as of 1 January. Except for the Netherlands, all remaining EU states have already ratified the deal, as has the European Parliament. The No vote is an embarrassment for the Dutch PM Rutte, whose country holds the Council Presidency. He stated already that the government obviously needs to reconsider the deal if the population so wishes. However, not many experts think that the Dutch voted on the deal itself. Although some politicians tried to campaign on the specific Ukraine topic (Ukraine is not ready to come close to the EU, let alone enter it in the near future – which has nevertheless never been on the table), for the most part the campaign was about rejecting the EU and its policies in general. EC President Jean-Claude Juncker said he was said about the result and had previously indicated that the No vote could lead to a continental crisis – it concerns a crucial foreign policy issue. According to some European politicians, it is unfortunate that a small portion of EU population (61% voting No of the 32% participating of some 16M Dutch) can derail a crucial foreign policy deal with a strategic partner. The Dutch No is also a worrying sign of an increasingly Eurosceptic EU population ahead of the British referendum in June.
26th July 2019