Tulips for Poroshenko: what will the referendum in the Netherlands

The people of Netherlands rejected by referendum the ratification of the Association agreement between Ukraine and the European Union. According to election Committee of the Netherlands, 61,1% came to the polling stations answered negatively to the question, are they for or against the act of the Association, and only 38.1 per cent supported the ratification of the document. The referendum was almost derailed because of the extremely low turnout — it was 32.2%, while the vote on the Dutch legislation be considered valid with a turnout of over 30%.

Why a referendum?

Held a referendum on Ukraine — the first in the history of the Netherlands voting conducted not on the initiative of the authorities and on the initiative of the population. It became possible thanks to the “Law on Advisory referenda”, which entered into force on 1 July 2015. This law allows EU citizens to initiate a referendum on almost any issue. It is necessary for six weeks to enlist the support of not less than 300 thousand citizens.

The initiators of the referendum on the Ukrainian question became a group of activists eurosceptic “Committee of citizens of the European Union”, and the direct collection of signatures was the target of satirical news blog GeenStijl.

“The Committee of citizens of the European Union” used the referendum on the support of the Association of Ukraine with the EU in order to assess its capacity to influence the policies of national governments and the EU as a whole. His head Arjen van Dixhoorn told the Dutch newspaper NRC that he himself is the subject of the Ukraine is completely uninteresting, but he and his allies would use “every opportunity to create tension between the Netherlands and the European Union”. At the initiative of the Committee were supporters: for example, the configured anti-European leader of the nationalist freedom Party Geert Wilders on the day of the referendum wrote that “today, the Netherlands can regain a bit of sovereignty to Brussels and the Hague”.

The fact that the subject of the referendum was the agreement on Association between Ukraine and the EU is just a coincidence, writes in his blog Professor of European law at the University of Ghent Peter van Elsuwege. “The Association agreement is just the first held the initiative after the entry into force of the law on referendums, the first opportunity to test the possibility of holding referendums,” he said.

<p>Kids paint the Ukrainian flag on the Dam square in Amsterdam on the eve of the referendum on the Association agreement. April 3, 2016</p>

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Photo: AP

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Children paint the Ukrainian flag on the Dam square in Amsterdam on the eve of the referendum on the Association agreement. April 3, 2016

Why do the Dutch have against the Association?

2.5 million votes in the referendum, filed against the Association agreement, a testimony to the high degree of mobilization of the right and euroskeptic electorate, say Dutch experts. This is confirmed by considerable strengthening of ultra-right freedom Party in opinion polls. Ratings according to Ipsos, it support is now around 27% of the electorate (the second result after the ruling people’s party with 29%). In terms of General skepticism of the population the Dutch government even decided not to conduct large-scale campaign with calls to vote for the Association agreement.

Such sentiments are traditionally strong in the Netherlands: the previous referendum was held in the Kingdom in 2005, he was devoted to the adoption of the EU Constitution, and the victory also won the eurosceptics (and roughly with the same result as now, — 61,5% of votes against). Because of the will of the Dutch and the subsequent failure of Brussels to a referendum in France the uniform Constitution of the European Union and has not entered into force.

What is Association agreement?

The Association agreement consists of seven parts, which defines the issues of the reciprocal integration of the EU and Ukraine. This, in particular, political cooperation and cooperation in the field of security policy, judicial and law enforcement sector, mutual trade, economic cooperation, cooperation in the field of Finance and banking, with special emphasis on the fight against corruption and protection of human rights.

The agreement envisages that Ukraine and the EU will work together on a common policy on migration, border control, asylum and the fight against organized crime and money laundering. Political dialogue will be maintained at the leadership of the two parties on the summits Ukraine — EU, as well as at the Ministerial level in the Council of the Association.

The economic part of the agreement implies that the parties will take mutual duties on imports, and the Ukrainian side has received the right to withdraw from duties for ten years (in the automobile industry — 15 years) to adapt to new conditions. Only the European Union will lift 99,1% of all duties on exported goods of Ukraine, Kiev will do the same in relation to 98.1% of imports from EU countries. According to the European Commission, the European removal of duties on agricultural products in Ukraine will bring Ukrainian producers €330 million, fully opening the European market. At the same time, the Ukrainian industry from the removal of protectionist duties would lose about €117 million is partly offset by the withdrawal of European fees in the amount of €75 million, calculated in the European Commission. The agreement also calls for the gradual transition of Ukrainian enterprises on standardization, adopted in the European Union is the heaviest for the Ukrainian part of the agreement, Kiev and Brussels do not exclude that a number of enterprises can not adapt to the new conditions.

The refusal of President Viktor Yanukovych to sign the Association agreement in autumn 2013 provoked the outbreak of the Euromaidan, which led to his overthrow.

Does the outcome of the referendum, which Ukraine’s Association with EU doesn’t?

The Association agreement EU and Ukraine was approved by the European Parliament, the Parliament and all 28 EU countries (including the Netherlands) in 2014-2015. But for the final entry into force it still needs to ratify the Council of the European Union (which includes 28 Ministers of member countries of the EU, composed of Ministers depends on the issue under discussion). The EU Council decision on Association with Ukraine was postponed after the question was put to a referendum in the Netherlands. Now the Association agreement with Ukraine is valid in the so-called pre-mode. De facto the agreement is now fully operational.

The referendum in the Netherlands gives only a theoretical possibility that the document will not be finally approved. The fact that this Treaty belongs to the category of so-called mixed agreements. On the one hand, it needs to be ratified at the national level (all 28 EU member States), but a significant portion of its main provisions is the exclusive competence of the European Union. For example, the free trade agreement with Ukraine (in advanced mode entered into force on 1 January 2016) refers to the Common trade policy of the EU. To cancel, you need a unanimous decision of all EU countries, which on this issue is likely impossible.

The agreement has already been previously used, and that decision unchanged, despite the results of the referendum in the Netherlands, said on Thursday the press-Secretary of the European Commission Margaritis Shinas. “Internal procedure for the ratification are a matter for national competence, — reads the statement of Chinasa. — So first of all, the government of the Netherlands should review the results and determine a course of action”.

For further integration with Ukraine acts as the head of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker. Back in January he said that the vote on the referendum against the agreement with Kyiv “will open doors for large-scale continental crisis.”

Student flashmob in Kiev on the eve of the referendum in the Netherlands on 5 April 2016
Photo: REUTERS 2016

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Student flashmob in Kiev on the eve of the referendum in the Netherlands on 5 April 2016 Photo: REUTERS 2016

The referendum in the Netherlands will have real consequences, said this week, and German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, who called his conduct “somewhat absurd”. According to the politician, a negative vote in the Netherlands will reveal that a growing part of the Europeans, there are “large doubts” about European politics.

If the Netherlands still reconsider the decision on ratification of the agreement in the worst case the country will be excluded from it. In practice this may mean, for example, that those clauses of the agreement that fall within the competence of member countries of the EU, will not come into force in the Netherlands. This may relate, for example, article 18 of the Association agreement dedicated to the facilitation of the movement of the labour force.

What was the reaction to the referendum in Russia and Ukraine?

The first reaction to the results of the referendum came from Moscow on Thursday morning, despite the fact that its official results will be announced only on April 12. Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev in his Twitter said: “the outcome of the Dutch referendum on Association of Ukraine with the EU — indicator of the attitude of Europeans to the Ukrainian political system”. In similar vein, spoke to the press Secretary of the President of Russia Dmitry Peskov. “This is absolutely an internal affair of the Netherlands, but they show the relations of the citizens of Holland to the document, — said Peskov, the correspondent of RBC. — They have questions and mistrust, and they signal about it, but to intervene as we do not believe it is possible”.

The Ukrainian authorities in the last two months, the Dutch campaigned to vote “for”. In early March, the country was visited by the Chairman of the Parliament Volodymyr Groysman. Together with the deputies, he held a series of meetings with leaders of the Netherlands. A few days before the referendum in the Netherlands has arrived group of MPs.

The failure of the referendum, many Ukrainian politicians have accused Moscow. Verkhovna Rada Deputy from led by Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk “Popular front” Vadim Krivenko believes that the “Russian lobby” was behind the referendum, as “Russian propaganda” led to the defeat of the supporters of the agreement with Ukraine. The Ambassador of Ukraine for special assignments Dmitry Kuleba said that due to the referendum there will be an additional argument: it will be able “to destabilize the internal political situation in Ukraine” to tell the Ukrainians: “You there no one is waiting.”

Poroshenko on Thursday assured that Ukraine will continue to implement the agreements with the EU in the life, “will provide a deep and comprehensive free trade area with the EU, because this is the path to modernization of the Ukrainian state and strengthening its independence.” But the promises did not save him from criticism. The result of the vote — “payment for offshore Poroshenko (referring to the publication “the Panama document”. — RBC), corruption and lies to Ukrainians”, — said on Thursday the leader of Radical party Oleg Lyashko. The referendum in the Netherlands — “this is the verdict personally Petro Poroshenko,” wrote in Facebook Deputy Mustafa Nayem from the presidential “Block Poroshenko”.

Recent ratings show that the popularity of presidential “Block Poroshenko” decreases, and his main coalition partner, the people’s front is almost close to zero. Gaining popularity of the “Batkivschyna”, “Samopomich” and “the Opposition block”. According to the Kyiv international Institute of sociology, the leader of the party’s rating in March was “Batkivshchyna”, for which are ready to vote for 9.5% of Ukrainians, in the second place, the Opposition bloc (6,7%), the third is the “Block of Petro Poroshenko” (5,8%), the fourth “Self-help” — 5,5%, “Popular front” is less than 1%.

In order to avoid early elections, the faction “people’s front” and “Bloc of Petro Poroshenko” has started to lure deputies from other factions. BPP Deputy Alexander Briginets said Thursday that the emerging coalition already has about 230 members. On the formation of the coalition may be announced next week, at the same time approved a new government headed by Groisman, says Ukrainian political scientist Vadim Karasev. The results of the referendum in the Netherlands will not speed up any realization of the scenario of early elections or a change of government, as these processes develop according to its own logic, says political analyst Konstantin Bondarenko.