By: Michael McDonough
On April 6th voters took to the polls in the Netherlands to vote on the ratification of the Ukraine-European Union Association Agreement. The EU and Ukraine signed the agreement in 2014, and the Netherlands is the only remaining member state that has not completed its ratification of the deal.
The referendum was a product of the Advisory Referendum Act of 2015. This act gives any Dutch citizen eligible to vote the right to call for nonbinding referendums on newly adopted acts and treaties that are adopted or ratified but have not yet been put into force. Citizens must acquire 300,000 signatures for a referendum to be called. In the case of the Ukraine-EU agreement, 427,939 signatures were collected in total.
Only 32% of voters turned out April 6th, barely clearing the 30% voter turnout required to make a referendum’s results valid under the Advisory Referendum Act. Of the 32% of Dutch voters that participated, 61% voted against ratification of the agreement and 38% voted in favor. Despite the referendum’s nonbinding status, Dutch Prime Minister Rutte has said that the result of the referendum will result in further discussion amongst the Dutch Cabinet before the legislature takes a binding vote on the issue.
The focus of the EU-Ukraine agreement is tariffs; however, Dutch voters were not concerned with trade details. The call for the referendum is largely being seen by analysts as an attempt to gain momentum for the Dutch Europsceptic movement. Euroscepticism has been gaining steam in the face of the EU’s migrant and economic crises, and is most visible in the Brexit referendum that will take place in 3 months. Despite the low voter turnout, the results of this Dutch referendum show that even founding EU member states are beginning to show signs of growing skepticism in a unified Europe.