Dutch Voters Reject Ukraine Deal

Dutch voters struck a blow against the E.U.’s Ukrainian association agreement – and the incessant Russia-bashing that has surrounded it – creating hope for less belligerence in Europe, writes Gilbert Doctorow.

By Gilbert Doctorow

On this overcast Thursday morning in Brussels, the political capital of Europe, rays of bright sunshine are breaking through from the east as the latest results of vote counting in neighboring Netherlands suggest that Wednesday’s referendum against the European Union’s Association Agreement with Ukraine won two out of every three votes and passed the 30 percent participation requirement of all eligible voters to be considered valid.

If those results are confirmed by the official results – to be released on April 12 – this referendum marks a resounding defeat for the Brussels-led conspiracy to pursue Russia-bashing policies of sanctions and information warfare without consulting public opinion at home.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte

To change metaphors and speak in terms of Dutch folklore, it is the first crack in the dam that many of us have been waiting for, the opportunity for common sense to prevail over the illogic, hubris and plain pigheadedness of those who control the E.U. institutions in Brussels, and afar from Berlin and Washington.

While the referendum was formally just “advisory,” both the public statements of parliamentarians and the acknowledgements of the Dutch government ahead of the voting indicated that it will force a new vote in parliament on ratification and likely send Prime Minister Mark Rutte to Brussels. hat in hand, requesting a renegotiation of the Association Agreement.

As such, it may bring the E.U. foreign policy machinery to a shuddering halt and open the illogic of all its policies towards its eastern borderlands over the past several years to public scrutiny and, possibly, to revision.

However, whether this was the decisive moment when the E.U. is brought to its senses or just the first of a series of knock-out blows directed at the political correctness and group think that have been driving policy ever since the coup d’etat in Ukraine on Feb. 22, 2014, its importance cannot be overstated.

We have been hearing for more than a year that the Russia-bashing policies – the sanctions in particular – were opposed by a growing minority of E.U. member states. Among the dissenters named at one point or other have been Italy, Hungary and Slovakia. Then came Bavaria, within Germany, whose minister-president Horst Seehofer just months ago flouted the policies of Chancellor Merkel and paid court to Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow. On Wednesday, the president of Austria did the same.

And yet, despite all the fine words to reporters about how the sanctions violate the basic economic interests of their countries and of Europe as a whole, none of these statesmen broke ranks when the sanctions repeatedly came up for renewal. The significance of Wednesday’s vote in The Netherlands was that this time the people spoke, not their elected or appointed officials. This was a consultation to remember.

In effect, the referendum played out at two levels. At the domestic level, it was a power struggle between the mainstream centrist parties in The Netherlands who stand for a “go with the flow” approach on E.U. decisions and decision-making, versus the Euroskeptic extremes on the left and especially on the right.

On the right, Geerd Wilders and his Freedom Party want to put a stick in the gears of the E.U. machinery and halt the slow-motion, seemingly unstoppable move towards greater union, indeed towards federalism that have gained momentum ever since the onset of the financial crisis in 2008. In that sense, the vote foreshadows the campaign fight of the parliamentary elections that will take place in The Netherlands in 2017.

At the same time, the referendum had a geopolitical dimension going way beyond the spoils of office, as a proxy battle in The Netherlands between those who favor a pro-U.S./pro-NATO approach versus those seeking improved relations with Moscow.

In both dimensions, the particulars of the E.U.’s Association Agreement with Ukraine that runs several hundred pages were not the real issue on the ballot. All of which begs the question of what exactly Prime Minister Rutte will eventually be asking the E.U. Commission to renegotiate.

President Barack Obama talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the G7 Summit at Schloss Elmau in Bavaria, Germany, June 8, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the G7 Summit at Schloss Elmau in Bavaria, Germany, June 8, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

The signs are multiplying that the E.U. consensus on foreign policy driven by German Chancellor Angela Merkel is nearing collapse. Within Germany itself, her detractors are becoming ever bolder. Earlier this week, the German newspapers were carrying on their front pages news of former Chancellor Helmut Kohl’s invitation to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban to visit him at his home next week.

This move is seen as a direct rebuke to Merkel and her policy of open-arms to refugees from Syria and the Middle East, a policy that Orban led a number of new Member States in opposing.

The next big test for the European Union, and the next opportunity to deal a severe blow to its complacent leadership in Brussels will be the Brexit referendum in the U.K. at the end of June.

NB: the issues in the referendum were the featured topic in RT’s Cross Talk show released on 6 April during which I expanded on these points and on the criminal folly of EU policy on Ukraine:

Gilbert Doctorow is the European Coordinator, American Committee for East West Accord, Ltd. His latest book Does Russia Have a Future? (August 2015) is available in paperback and e-book from Amazon.com and affiliated websites. For donations to support the European activities of ACEWA, write to eastwestaccord@gmail.com. © Gilbert Doctorow, 2016 [For a video discussion about the Dutch referendum, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PCAsC_dw8wY]


10 comments for “Dutch Voters Reject Ukraine Deal

  1. dahoit
    April 7, 2016 at 10:36 am

    The people have a right to remain silent,anything they say can and will be used against them.

    • MG
      April 7, 2016 at 11:36 am

      Noted, thank you! :)

    • Gregory Kruse
      April 8, 2016 at 8:54 am

      And no good deed ever goes unpunished.

  2. Joe Tedesky
    April 7, 2016 at 11:47 am

    Sometimes I wonder to if, we the people should vote on policy decisions, such as like we viewers vote for Dancing with the Stars, or American Idol.

  3. April 7, 2016 at 12:43 pm

    Eminent astrophysicist Brian Greene tells us that consciousness is expanding as fast as the cosmos. Distributed human intelligence is part of cosmic powered biology. It is part of accelerating big bang. There is no congress or parliament that can even begin to match the breadth and depth of distributed intelligence.

    Although Brian Greene’s assessment of expanding consciousness is not part of Gilbert Doctorow’s new book, I have recently read “Does Russia Have a Future?” and can say that he Gilbert Doctorow does a very good job of exposing governmental decisions that pursue endless war and destruction of Earthly life support systems.

    We the people will eventually devise a system to create policy choices as well as vote on them.

  4. Noel
    April 7, 2016 at 2:20 pm

    Based on what I experienced, discussions held in The Netherlands were polarized, and had little to do with the actual topic of the referendum. Broadly, those in favor of the treaty consider Putin as the biggest threat to the world, while those against the treaty want to tear down the EU and at the same time throw out all refugees. The gut feeling of the last group prevailed. The results of the referendum may look like a hopeful sign to set the EU on a different track, but considering the underlying justifications, I’m pretty pessimistic about what this different track will be.

    • Barbara van der Wal-KylstrA
      April 8, 2016 at 6:10 am

      I belong to the Dutch voters against the treaty, and member of the left wing S(ocialist) P(arty). We were very much aware of the fascist element in Western Ukrain, and of their corruption.. We think this agreement neither benefits the ordinary people in Ukrain, nor those in the Netherlands or in Europe.
      Socialist Party has got 15 members in Dutch Parliament and 2 members in the European Parliament, and leftwing compaired to our Labour Party, that ,is reigning now with Mark Ruttes Liberal Party, and seen by us as lapdogs of the USAy

  5. Terry Washington
    April 7, 2016 at 6:52 pm

    Much like the Eurosceptics in my own country, Dutch voters seem to want to have their economic cake and eat it- to have their strawberries in December and yet to bar the door to those pesky foreigners to the East!

  6. Hank
    April 7, 2016 at 10:03 pm

    Continually going after Russia is an insane course pursued by neocons who are only concerned with their own myopic agenda.

  7. Katherine
    April 12, 2016 at 1:17 pm

    Gilbert Doctorow is smart. I always enjoy his contributions on CrossTalk.

    “Much like the Eurosceptics in my own country, Dutch voters seem to want to have their economic cake and eat it- to have their strawberries in December and yet to bar the door to those pesky foreigners to the East!”–hogwash.
    The Dutch grow their own and everyone else’s strawberries.
    Can’t see what such a silly comment as Terry’s has to do with the actual subject. Maybe she wants to be responsible for holding the Nazis’ heads above water—and those of their many victims in the Ukraine as well, many of them will be heading west to survive the warm ministrations of the coupsters and sanctioneers in nicer climes.

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