Thursday

21st Feb 2019

Ukraine MPs ask Dutch voters for 'solidarity'

  • The coming month the Netherlands will see more campaigning ahead of the EU-Ukraine treaty referendum (Photo: Gerard Stolk)

The leader of the largest political party in the Ukrainian parliament has called on Dutch voters to show a “sign of solidarity” with Ukrainian soldiers by voting Yes in the upcoming referendum on a trade treaty between the EU and Ukraine.

“Our soldiers are fighting not only for Ukraine, they are fighting for the world order that was challenged by [Russian president] Putin,” said Yurii Lutsenko of the Petro Poroshenko Bloc on Monday (29 February).

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  • Ukrainian MPs are visiting the European Parliament this week (Photo: European Parliament)

“We will be, and we are, prepared to be at the frontline of this struggle. We just want a sign of solidarity, for you to show us your support, to support those soldiers and officers who have been killed on this frontline, who were standing there, defending not only Ukraine, but there defending Europe and its freedom and values,” Lutsenko added.

He spoke through an interpreter at a press conference in the European Parliament, flanked by six of his colleagues from the Ukrainian parliament.

MP Oleh Liashko said that he would travel on from Brussels to the Netherlands to meet Dutch politicians “to support this referendum”.

He added he hoped for a Yes "because Ukraine has spent a lot of time to build and foster positive relations and to convince the European community that we are on the path to reforms".

The Dutch will vote on 6 April in a non-binding, citizen-enforced referendum to voice their opinion about the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement.

Parts of the citizen movement that secured the required signatures also want to use the plebiscite to cast a general vote on the Dutch EU membership.

’Paranoid delusion’

The national affair has caught the attention of politicians beyond Dutch borders.

Last month, Russia's foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said "the referendum in the Netherlands is a natural reaction to the EU foreign policy, which is being carried out without taking into account public opinion in the EU member countries".

She said rumours that Russia is involved in supporting the No camp "looks like paranoid delusion".

But Ukraine’s Liashko said "there is a significant and strong, powerful Russia lobby there working towards a No answer.”

Last week, British eurosceptic MEP Nigel Farage also announced in a video message he will “come and help and support” the Dutch debate.

He made a connection between the Dutch referendum and the In/Out EU membership referendum that the UK will hold in June.

“If you win your referendum, my goodness me, that will help in Britain too,” said Farage, leader of the UK Independence party (Ukip). While Farage did not explicitly say he will urge Dutch voters to say No, he will be speaking at an event in Amsterdam organised by a eurosceptic faction in the Dutch parliament.

’Good for Europe’

Centre-right Croatian MEP Andrej Plenkovic said Monday he hoped the Dutch would vote Yes, and brought to mind “the fact that the Dutch government and the Dutch parliament have clearly committed to the association agreement”.

“They participated in negotiations, they ratified it in two chambers, and we look forward to all responsible political forces will make an effort to explain to the Dutch public the merit and the substance of the association agreement,” said Plenkovic, who chairs a committee that includes members from the European and the Ukrainian parliaments.

“It is a national referendum, but with consequences beyond the national boundaries. Therefore we look forward for a positive result, because I think that would be good for Netherlands, Ukraine and for Europe,” Plenkovic added.

“This is not a referendum about Ukraine,” said Ukrainian MP Oleh Bereziuk.

“We think this is a referendum about the future of European democratic society. This is a referendum about values,” he added.

Business lobby

Bereziuk noted that Dutch businesspeople have been “very successful” in Ukraine and that they are “our core team for campaigning in Netherlands”.

He also said that he and his fellow politicians “are campaigning right now, [by] being in Europe, showing that Ukraine is developing”.

Around 40 Ukrainian deputies are visiting Brussels to attend a conference on topics such as transparency, ethical standards for parliamentarians, and relations between the legislative and the executive branches of government.

The event is called “Ukraine Week” but it wraps up on Wednesday, less than 48 hours after it opened on Monday.

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.

The Dutch rooting for a No in the Ukraine referendum

Next week, the Dutch will cast their opinion on the EU-Ukraine association agreement. While the Yes side is fairly uniform in its composition and logic, the No side is a motley crew. Who are they?

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