What's the significance of a Dutch ‘no’ for EU-Ukraine partnership?

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte enters a school to cast his vote for the consultative referendum on the association between Ukraine and the European Union, in the Hague, the Netherlands, April 6, 2016. © Michael Kooren
The most important lesson that can be learnt from the Netherlands referendum on an EU trade deal with Ukraine is that the EU has lost its appeal to the common people, says Laszlo Maracz, Assistant Professor of European Studies at Amsterdam University.

RT: Does the Netherlands referendum really matter? The referendum was a non-binding vote and all the other EU states have already ratified the Association Agreement with Ukraine.

Laszlo Maracz: I think that the referendum shows that there is a big gap between the Dutch political elite and common [ordinary] people. Even the ‘yes’ camp was badly represented, although the mainstream media and the mainstream political parties tried to campaign for the ‘yes’ vote. In any case it seems to me that the government should take this into account. And this will have repercussions for the EU policy of the Dutch government. But on the other hand, the Netherlands is only one of the 28 countries of the EU. 27 have already ratified this (association) agreement with Ukraine, so I don’t think that Dutch ‘no’ vote in a non-binding referendum will change the outcome of the Association Agreement with Ukraine.

RT: The European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker warned about a continental crisis if the Dutch voted ‘no’. Why do you think he gave such a stark warning?

LM: It seems for me that the most important lesson that can be learnt from this referendum is that the European Union has lost its appeal to the common people. [It has shown that] it is not possible to mobilize [people] for a referendum, for a democratic event that has been organized by the EU and is closely connected to the EU. This shows that there is a democratic deficit in Europe, in the Netherlands. And it will have repercussions and probably an impact on the Brexit vote in June in Great Britain. It will have consequences for future projects of the EU. And of course, it is not only Ukraine, it is the dissatisfaction with the policy of the EU and a number of fails: the euro crisis, the migrant crisis…this all has [merged together]? In this referendum in the Netherlands and this has given the bad result actually for the ‘yes’ camp.

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Dr. Matthijs Pontier from the Pirate Party in The Netherlands commented on the issue: “This campaign was started by Euroskeptics. I think many people actually go to vote because of other reasons than Euroskepticism. There are also people campaigning against free trade agreements like TPP or CETA. And for a large part this is a free trade agreement with Ukraine. So, a lot of people vote because they think that the content of the agreement is not right and they are not necessarily Euroskeptical.”

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