In Europe an anti-Ukraine front opens; three reasons for a Netherlands “No” vote

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In l’Antidiplomatico, March 31, 2016

Original title: “In Europe the Anti-Ukrainian front officially opens: Holland: ‘We don’t want them in the EU'”

Translated from Italian by Tom Winter

“Last week we made a list of sanctions directed at people involved in the capture of Nadia Savchenko. We invite the US and EU to do the same to send a strong message.” Direct from Washington, where he is on an official visit, Petro Poroshenko urged the “allies” to put pressure on Moscow again on the case of a former top gun of the Ukrainian army. Under the aegis of the World Affairs Council of America, the Ukrainian president launched new accusations against Vladimir Putin and thanked the US government “for having sided with Ukraine over the past two years, the toughest two years in the history of the country.”

But while Poroshenko is in the US to try to get more economic and military help, in Europe the “anti-Ukrainian Front” has officially opened, and it may soon collect the adhesion of different EU countries. Interviewed by the news portal, the prime minister of the Netherlands, Mark Rutte, said that his country is opposed to an entrance to the former Soviet republic in Europe. “We believe that Ukraine should have good relations both with Europe and with Russia,” he said, “and this would not be possible if Ukraine were to become an EU member.”

At the moment, in the opinion of Mark Rutte, it is difficult for Kiev to build good relations with Moscow, given the recent events of the Crimea and the Donbass. “It will take time,” he added, “but for the long-term view it is a very important thing.” In recent days in the Netherlands the Ukraine theme is very current. Wednesday, April 6, in fact, citizens of the Netherlands will be called on to express their opinion on the association agreement between the EU and Ukraine, which, according to many, represents a further stepfor Kiev towards getting into the EU.

The referendum will be valid only if the turnout tops 30% and, even though advisory in nature, it could open up a deep division within the Dutch political world. A recent survey commissioned by the Amsterdam Foreign Ministry revealed a deep split within the country on the issue of Ukraine. “At the moment,” an activist for the “Yes” campaign, Bogdan Globa, said to the Kiev Post, “public opinion is split in half, 50 and 50. But it is more likely that the Dutch will say ‘no’ to Ukraine. Too many of them are afraid of the war in the east. They think that Ukraine could be another Greece.”

At the foundation of the “No” campaign there are three reasons: 

  1. the association agreement is a huge step towards Ukraine’s accession to the EU and the Dutch do not need to support the Ukrainians; 
  2. there is no need to maintain sanctions on Russia, since Amsterdam needs to trade with Moscow, and 
  3. if this agreement is approved, the Europeans will share responsibility for the war in Donbass.

The contest is at a “photofinish” and could cause internal troubles in Brussels. Interviewed by Dutch newspaper Handelsblad in January, Jean-Claude Juncker warned the citizens of the Netherlands: “I do not think that will say no to the Association Agreement, as this would open the door to a great continental crisis.” Amsterdam and the surrounding areas are warned.

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