A Dutch citizens’ initiative to force a non-binding referendum on a far-reaching treaty between Brussels and Ukraine had gathered 446,000 signatures by early Sunday evening.
In 2014, the Dutch approved legislation to allow ‘advisory referendums’ on controversial topics, if supporters can gather 300,000 signatures. The Dutch parliament has already voted in favour of the treaty.
The aim of the treaty is to foster political relationships and kickstart economic integration and supporters say it shifts Ukraine away from Russia and more towards the west.
Opponents say the treaty will cost Dutch taxpayers billions of euros and that the EU’s expansion drive is having an adverse impact on democracy in the Netherlands.
They also argue that the Dutch parliament no longer does what its own voters want, but are driven by Brussels’ own interests.
In The Hague, politicians congratulated the organisers of the lobby, RTL news reported, even though the ruling Labour party, the Christian Democrats and D66 all reiterated their support for the treaty. The Socialists and anti-immigration PVV are opposed and PVV leader Geert Wilders has already said he will campaign for a ‘no’ vote.
The electoral council will now check the results to make sure the signatures are genuine. Once it gives the green light for the referendum, it must be held within six months. This means the vote is likely to take place during the Dutch presidency of the EU, which starts in January.
The referendum is advisory and not binding on the cabinet. This means that if the turnout is over 30% and a majority vote against the treaty, the government has to re-examine the legislation. Even though ministers can still ignore the vote, it will be difficult politically to ignore the wishes of so many people, RTL news said.
‘This law will give citizens a serious opportunity to express their views and an important voice in the decision-making process,’ said D66 parliamentarian Gerard Schouw. D66 drew up the referendum legislation.
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