n a referendum, held on April 6th
in the Netherlands, a majority of 61% expressed themselves against ratification of the Association Agreement of the European Union and Ukraine. The consequences of this ‘no’ vote will probably be discussed over dinner by the European Council on Thursday October 20th
and Prime Minister Rutte of the Netherlands will have to explain how he will deal with the ratification process.
It is acknowledged that many voters in the Netherlands objected against the Association Agreement because they feared the Agreement would be a first step towards full EU-membership of Ukraine. Past experience shows that the Union often swiftly decides to enlarge, mostly without consulting the voters, and in practice an Association Agreement or another partnership with a European country, is often a step towards candidate membership and subsequent membership. For me, the fear of a gradual accession of Ukraine to the EU was the main reason I voted against the Agreement.
The objection of many voters in the Netherlands would be taken away if the Council and the Commission would explicitly declare that this Agreement is not a first step towards EU membership and that before any country is offered the prospect of membership, voters should and will be asked to express themselves first in the next elections for the European Parliament.
With such a declaration, the Council would satisfy the objections held by a very large part of the ‘no’ voters in the Netherlands. Moreover, the Council would enhance democracy in Europe by giving all voters in Europe a say in future enlargements. I cannot see any democratic leader objecting such a declaration. Consequently the Dutch Parliament could ratify the Association Agreement while still respecting the outcome of the referendum.
Sammy van Tuyll
Chairman Liberal Democratic Party in the Netherlands