By Nanda Jagusiak
A referendum to ratify an EU agreement to boost links to the Ukraine has been rejected by a majority of Dutch voters, with 64% saying no to closer ties with the country. Prime Minister Mark Rutte now needs to decide how important this result is in the political landscape of the Netherlands.
The treaty had already been approved by 27 of the 28 EU Member States. The Netherlands wanted to agree, but many opponents made a bid to stop it moving forward, claiming that it should be put to the Dutch people first to decide on such a broad political move that could impact Dutch society. This meant that the treaty could not come into force on January 1 this year, as was initially planned.
An action committee affiliated with the news website GeenStijl along with the Forum for Democracy and the Citizens’ Committee EU gathered together more than 450,000 signatures to force an advisory referendum on the treaty, while a minimum of 300,000 is required. Therefore, there was more than enough support among the Dutch population. The Forum for Democracy was founded by lawyer and publicist Thierry Baudet. According to this organization is a “democratic revolution” in which citizens directly influence, without the intervention of political parties.
The Forum is a modest role for the EU “which allows for the diversity of Member States and only facilitates their mutual trade relations.” They want to transfer less power to Brussels and more to the EU member states.
Consultative referendums of this type require an attendance rate of 30% to be considered valid. Because there is a consultative advisory referendum, the act of approval of the Association Agreement will be reconsidered in the Senate and House. However, a majority in Parliament means that the outcome should be adopted. The government, led by Prime Minister Mark Rutte, has that they will consider the outcome and investigate what it means for the country.
If the agreement isn’t enforced
Consultative referendums are not valid with a turnout rate of less than 30%, so the turnout rate was a crucial first step for this referendum to even be considered. The turnout rate this time around ensures that the act of approval of the Association Agreement does not need to be re-voted in the Senate and House.
What exactly does the agreement entail?
The association agreement includes no less than 323 pages, mostly on trade. In this Convention are all kinds of mutual agreements between the EU and Ukraine to establish a free trade area within ten years. In practice this means that Ukraine must adapt to the EU trade legislation.
However, the EU does not just want to trade with Ukraine, but also a “political association” entering the country. It is precisely this objective raises a lot of resistance, because many believe is a clear indication that Ukraine is actually prepared for full membership of the Union. Something that is otherwise denied vigorously by Prime Minister Rutte because it believes that Ukraine is interested in good relations with both Russia and Europe and a member state in this way.
A number of points from the politically tinged passages increase sustainable democracy and a market economy, gradual economic integration and deepening of political association. Also talks about more contacts between people which may indirectly contribute to the free trade between the two countries.
Another important aspect is the requirement that Ukraine its legislation gradually to align EU legislation, this is because it is deemed impossible to trust in a trade dispute on independent judges. Another issue that evokes strong resistance is seeking greater military cooperation with Ukraine, something that potentially makes Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin worried.
Opinions are divided on the desirability of the Convention. So fear some exporters who do business with Russia, for their relationship with this country. Entrepreneurs who already do business with Ukraine or the like, especially hope that elimination of export and import duties, which can be driven more trade.
If the agreement is enforced
The wait is now on to see what will happen in the aftermath of the referendum. Until a decision is taken, all interested parties are in suspense, especially the Ukraine itself and the other 27 EU member states. An interesting detail in this is that the Netherlands currently holds the presidency of the EU. It is certain in any case that the Russia’s President Putin hopes to see a “no” in order not to lose influence in the region.
The champagne that Putin would have popped for a ‘no’ and a valid referendum may have to remain in the closet. The Netherlands has no further democratic obstacle for now, as the last country in the EU, to seal the treaty with its approval. This makes the rest of the procedure a formality. The Representatives and the Senate do not have to speak out and perhaps see the president of Ukraine wished to join ever-fulfillment of the EU.