Dutch say no to EU-Ukraine agreement

Article published on April 7, 2016
Article published on April 7, 2016

A majority of the Dutch rejected the EU's Association Agreement with Ukraine on Wednesday in a referendum. Voter turnout was just 32 percent, so that the quorum was reached. Commentators call the result a slap in the face for the EU, which they see as dangerously weakened just over two months before the Brexit referendum.

Rutte government trapped in vicious circle - De Volkskrant, the Netherlands

The fact that a clear majority of the Dutch are against the EU Association Agreement with Ukraine puts The Hague and the EU under pressure, the centre-left daily De Volkskrant observes: "The Dutch voters fuelled the doubts about the future of the European project on Wednesday. The Rutte government faces the major challenge of turning the result into something tangible, something that won't increase the people's anger. … But disappointment is inevitable. … There is the danger that a vicious circle of Euroscepticism will develop. No matter what the cabinet does the 'no' camp will see any concessions by Europe as purely cosmetic measures, and as confirmation of the idea that the Netherlands has little say in reality. Confirmation that the people have reason to be angry. The referendum has given that anger a voice, but failed to serve as a vent for it." (07/04/2016)

EU is the big loser - Il sole 24 Ore, Italy

The Dutch have slapped the EU in the face with the British referendum just around the corner, the liberal business daily Il Sole 24 Ore groans: "The Hague may now demand that certain clauses of the agreement be reviewed, particularly those of political character. However, the general direction of the agreement, which has already been negotiated and ratified, can hardly be changed now. The EU, which is already in a painful state of uncertainty about the result of the Brexit referendum on June 23, is the big loser here. Full of anxiety it is watching a precedent being established in the area of international agreements that could call into question the entire decision-making process of the EU." (07/04/2016)

Dutch playing right into Moscow's hands - Postimees, Estonia

With their No in the referendum the Dutch have put Europe's unity at risk, the liberal-conservative daily Postimees fumes: "The opponents of the Association Agreement say Ukraine is a corrupt state and that they don't want another Greece in Europe. They don't care that except for the Ukrainians themselves, no one is talking about them joining the EU. It's not hard to guess which capital city is particularly pleased with the result. Until now the EU has managed to speak with one voice on the matter of Ukraine and the sanctions, even if there was criticism every now and then. Now the Dutch have jeopardised that unity. It is an irony of history that the sanctions against Russia were imposed straight after the shooting down of the Malaysian Airline passenger plane in Eastern Ukraine. Most of the victims of that tragedy were Dutch." (07/04/2016)

Dutch can block the rest of the EU - Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland

A Dutch rejection of the Association Agreement with Ukraine would be disastrous, the liberal member of the Polish parliament Marcin Święcicki wrote in a commentary for the liberal daily Gazeta Wyborcza the day before the referendum: "That would mean that a simple majority in one referendum in a single country is enough to block a decision that all the other 27 states, the European Parliament and even Ukraine have gone along with. The right to a veto on key issues leads to a situation in which the EU can't take any decisions at all. This confirms the theory that the EU either falls apart or it must construct a federal system in which decisions affecting democratically elected institutions are taken with a simple majority." (05/04/2016)

Trendsetter for Brexit - Lost in Europe, Belgium

The referendum in the Netherlands is a test run for the Brexit vote in the UK, wrote Eric Bonse in his Lost in Europe blog the day before the referendum: "It doesn't make sense to write off the referendums in these two countries as 'arbitrary', 'unnecessary' or 'beside the point', as the mainstream media are doing. That doesn't go far enough. We would be better off taking the people's complaints about this Europe and its (increasingly German) leadership seriously. It is a profoundly democratic complaint, even if it comes across as populist. If the Dutch say 'no' they could set the trend for the British - and the Brexit. That already happened in 2005 - back then they caused the constitution to fail." (5/04/2016)

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