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18th Dec 2017

Dutch will vote on EU-Ukraine treaty

  • The next potential referendum could target Canada and US trade agreements (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

The Netherlands will hold a referendum on the EU-Ukraine association agreement, the Dutch electoral council confirmed on Wednesday (14 October).

It said it had verified the validity of the signatures collected by a citizens' petition.

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It received 472,849 requests for the referendum. Base on a sample, it determined that 90.6 percent, or 427,939 of the requests, are valid.

“With this, the legal threshold [of 300,000 required signatures] has been passed amply, so a referendum will take place”, council president, Henk Kummeling, told a public hearing.

He called it a “special day” and a “historic moment”.

The event will mark the first time the country holds a citizen-enforced referendum.

The vote was made possible by a new law, in force from 1 July, which allows Dutch people to call for a consultative referendum on recently adopted laws.

They must mail in their signatures on paper. But organisers created an app which automatically printed letters.

The EU-Ukraine association agreement, a trade and political treaty, was signed last year.

The Dutch Senate approved it on 7 July, making it the first EU-related piece of legislation to qualify for a referendum demand.

Parts of the EU-Ukraine accord are already in force on the basis of a “provisional application” clause. The free-trade part is to be fully implemeted from 1 January.

The referendum must take place within six months, but the day is yet to be decided.

It’s unclear what would happen in the event of a No.

The referendum is consultative, which means the government can, legally, ignore the results.

But an overwhelming No vote in a 2005 referendum on the EU's Constitutional Treaty - which was also consultative - made a big impact in The Netherlands and beyond.

If the Ukraine referendum is held in the first half of 2016, when The Hague chairs the rotating EU presidency, a No would, at the least, be embarassing.

European Commission spokesperson Maja Kocijancic told this website the commission doesn’t comment on national ratification procedures.

Meanwhile, another Dutch citizens' initiative has started calling for a referendum on trade treaties with Canada and the US.

But any potential vote is still far away, because the treaties must first be finalised.

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