Seventy-five percent of voters in the Netherlands have said they are against the ratification of the European Union’s association agreement with Kiev, according to a poll released on Saturday.
The poll comes ahead of a public referendum on the issue scheduled for April 6 which was triggered when over 450,000 people signed a petition which – following new public consultation rules brought in in July 2015 – forces the government to put the issue to a vote.
The vote is likely to further highlight the disconnect between Brussels’ distant and unpopular institutions and the EU’s 500 million inhabitants – adding to the recent “No” vote in Denmark which resulted in them maintaining their opt-out of EU criminal and justice rules.
Embarrassingly, while the agreement clearly requires the approval of all member states before it can come into effect, Brussels already provisionally applied the agreement on the 1 January.
This disregard for the opinion of citizens has angered many in the Netherlands and none more so than Jan Roos, one of the campaigners behind the association agreement petition:
“What I want to achieve is that the Dutch people are being asked what they think about what’s happening for heaven’s sake concerning the EU.”
“We want the Dutch people to be taken seriously.”
The strong probability of a “No” vote has lead European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to wade into the national poll when he openly urged the Dutch people to vote for the association agreement.Afraid that the poll will become a more general referendum on the EU, he has pressured Dutch voters saying:
“I have no criticism of the political system in the Netherlands, or on this opportunity to speak out, but I am saying: watch out, this could change the balance in Europe.”
“So the Dutch voter must act on April 6 as a European strategist.”
But starved of opportunities to express themselves on their country’s membership of the EU since the EU Constitutional Treaty referendum of 2005 – which the Dutch resoundingly voted down by 62 percent to 38 percent – this referendum has become just that.
The survey, conducted by Dutch television program EenVandaag, showed that a majority were not in favour of the agreement with over 50 percent of respondents saying they would “definitely” vote against it, while another 25 percent said they were “likely” to reject it
Turnout is expected to be well over 50 percent with more than half of those polled saying they will certainly go to the polls in April and with a further 17 percent saying they will probably do so.
Although non-binding, the referendum results would have to be somehow considered by the government.