Dutch ‘no’ on EU-Ukraine trade deal ‘would have big impact’

Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko. © Valentyn Ogirenko
A poll ahead of the Netherlands’ referendum on the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement reveals the Dutch are against the deal. Since MPs said they would agree with the referendum, it’s likely the deal would be off the table, said Dutch journalist Joost Niemoller.

On January 1, Ukraine took a symbolic step closer to the EU when an Association Agreement provisionally came into effect.

A Dutch broadcaster conducted a poll to gauge the public mood. The results of the poll released on Saturday showed the overwhelming majority of people in the country are not in favor of the agreement.

Commenting on why people in the Netherlands are so fired up over the agreement, Dutch journalist Joost Niemoller said that the Dutch “know pretty well what the importance of this so-called deal is: it is a political deal. It is the reason why the coup d’état was made in Ukraine and why there’s war now in Ukraine - exactly because of this deal.”

The people know that is not just about trading, it is about the political idea the EU wants to have more power in Ukraine,” he continued.

A lot of people in the Netherlands and in Europe are afraid that the confrontation with Russia will get bigger and nobody in Europe wants a warlike situation with Russia; they want to have peace,” he added.

Niemoller said the Dutch people want to work together with Russians and don’t want to see them as their enemies.

The journalist commented that European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker had said in an interview that if the Dutch people vote against this trade deal, “there would be an enormous crisis in Europe.”

Niemoller said that first, officials were saying that “this was not a very important trade deal,” and now – “they are talking about the crisis.” He also said this new rhetoric comes exactly after the poll results have been revealed that up to 60 percent of the Dutch people are going to vote, whilst the required turnout for the referendum to be considered valid is 30 percent.

There’s going to be a big debate about political issues and not just about a trade deal,” Niemoller said.

The referendum is to be held on April 6 and is non-binding “but it will have a big impact,” he went on.

Already a majority in the Dutch parliament has said they would agree with that. It means that the government also has to agree with it. So, the answer would be then ‘no’ from the Netherlands and that would mean that the whole deal is off the table,” he added.

Niemoller suggested that “if you ask people in France, maybe even in Germany...the majority of the people do think the same.” He compared this case with a referendum about the European constitution in France and in the Netherlands. “People in both countries were against this constitution on a large scale, about 60 percent. So you would see the same thing here,” he continued.

I think this deal would be off the table and then [authorities] will try to make out another sort of deal for which they will not need a referendum,” he told RT.

Niemoller found it funny that “it was in international news, in American news, in Russian news but in the Netherlands it was not in the mainstream media. There was only one newspaper article about it.”

I think people are trying to downplay it and don’t mention it too loudly because the authorities are not very happy about it,” he said.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.