According to Jan Van Benthem, the foreign affairs commentator at the Netherlands Dagblad (The Netherlands Daily), it may be a surprise to see how many people will vote for the ‘NO’ option. The referendum, according to Mr Van Benthem, is more to do with general anti-EU sentiment inside the Netherlands; with the feeling that the Dutch are fed up with encroaching EU powers, than for or against Russia.
The Partnership Agreement was signed in 2014, is not yet fully ratified, but is already mostly in force. If the Netherlands votes against the Agreement in a referendum, this could cause a ‘continental crisis’ with the EU, according to the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. The Dutch parliament has backed but not ratified the Agreement. This vote has been caused by a Dutch law that stipulates that any cause that attracts over 300,000 verified signatures can trigger a referendum, and this campaign attracted 450,000 signatures. This is democracy in action, and means that the EU will have to adapt to a new legal situation. As yet, there is no indication what the outcome will be either for the vote or how the EU will adapt if the ’No’ camp wins.
The referendum has not been given very much attention in the world’s press, despite its significance, and has been overshadowed by other stories such as the Brexit referendum in the UK in June, and the Brussels bombings. The Netherlands is currently fulfilling its Presidency of the EU, which is rotated among EU members every 6 months.
The Foundation Forum for Democracy in The Netherlands seeks Dutch participation in the Association Agreement with Ukraine to be put on hold, because it has not yet been ratified. The European Commission ruled in January that the treaty can provisionally be implemented by all Member States. But the Forum for Democracy demanded that The Netherlands should wait for the results of next week's referendum. They demanded that the Dutch participation in the agreement should be immediately suspended.