Thursday

18th Oct 2018

Dutch expected to vote on EU-Ukraine treaty

  • Repeat of 2005? It would be the first Dutch referendum on EU affairs since the No vote on the European constitutional treaty (Photo: Sebastiaan ter Burg)

The Dutch electorate is expected to be given the chance to vote on an EU-Ukraine treaty in a referendum, in what would be the first citizen-enforced plebiscite in the country's history.

On Sunday (27 September) Dutch citizens group GeenPeil announced it had collected 451,663 signatures, easily overshooting the 300,000 signatures required by Monday.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

However, a referendum will only be officially announced by the Dutch electoral council if it has verified the authenticity of enough signatures.

The signatures were collected thanks to an intensive online campaign by Dutch satiric blog GeenStijl, citizens group Burgercomite EU (Citizens' committee EU), and eurocritical think tank Forum voor Democratie.

They are using a law which came into effect on 1 July and which allows citizens to demand a non-binding referendum on legislation passed from that date onwards.

On 7 July, the Dutch Senate approved a law to ratify an association agreement between the European Union and Ukraine, signed by EU government leaders in 2014.

With the referendum, the campaigners want the Dutch to voice their opinion about the treaty, which is a step towards a free trade area. They fear the association treaty will be a precursor to Ukraine membership of the EU.

But there is also a more prosaic reason why they selected this treaty as a topic for a referendum: it was the first eligible one after the new referendum law came into effect.

"There is widespread discontent about the way the European project rumbles on", campaigner and vocal EU-critic Thierry Baudet told nrc.next newspaper Saturday, when their signature target was within reach.

"We are seeing a new democratic revolution here", he added.

Several Dutch MPs have already congratulated the campaigners. Populist anti-EU MP Geert Wilders called it "great" - he can be expected to campaign alongside the No camp.

Some pro-EU politicians have also also commended the ability to attract this many people.

"D66 is in favour of referendums, and we were in favour of the treaty", said Kees Verhoeven, MP for the centrist liberal party D66, adding that his party would campaign for a Yes vote.

The Dutch government, which will be in charge of organising the referendum, gave the initiative short shrift.

"It is a lawful right to organise these kinds of initiatives", interior minister Ronald Plasterk said on Friday, refraining from any praise for the use of the new democratic tool.

His colleague, deputy prime minister Lodewijk Asscher noted that the government will only contemplate what the consequences would be after a formal decision has been taken to hold the referendum. He also downplayed the importance of what would be a non-binding referendum.

"The European Union has bigger challenges than a Dutch referendum about an association agreement at the moment. I don't think this is keeping people awake", said Asscher.

However, while the referendum outcome would be advisory in nature, it could, however, deal a political blow. In 2005, when the Dutch government organised an advisory referendum about the European constitutional treaty, the subsequent No vote fundamentally changed the mood among Dutch politicians to a more critical tone.

And the referendum is likely to be held in the spring of 2016, right in the middle of the Dutch presidency of the EU. A No vote could be considered diplomatically awkward.

Ukraine war becoming bloodier, dirtier

UN says war in Ukraine claimed more civilian lives in past three months than in spring, with both sides guilty of war crimes and torture.

Dutch PM takes back seat on Ukraine vote

Dutch leader Rutte will not defend Yes vote "with flyers and flags and the like", despite polls showing the No camp could sink the Ukraine pact, in echoes of 2005.

Chemnitz neo-Nazis pose questions for Germany

UN human rights commissioner urged EU leaders to condemn violence that recalled the 1930s, but the local situation in former East Germany does not apply to the whole country.

News in Brief

  1. Rutte: summit was 'not the moment' for higher climate ambition
  2. Legal text for Brexit relocation EU agencies agreed
  3. Greek foreign minister resigns over Macedonia deal
  4. No Brexit backstop means no approval, says EU parliament
  5. Poland questions supremacy of EU court
  6. Medvedev to meet Juncker and Merkel in Brussels
  7. Italians and Czechs least favourable to remaining in EU
  8. Facebook hack set to be first major test of EU data rules

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  3. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  8. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  9. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  11. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  12. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All

Latest News

  1. Asylum reforms derailed, as EU looks to north Africa
  2. EU leaders worried about Italy's budget
  3. Russian activist warning on 'fake news' as EU backs action
  4. Kaczynski: No question of Polish EU exit
  5. EU summit to accept urgency of climate action – but no measures planned
  6. MEPs demand more from EU on human rights in Asia
  7. EU migration solutions are on the table - let's adopt them
  8. No progress at Brexit summit, talks continue

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us