A no vote in the Dutch referendum on a key treaty between Ukraine and the EU could lead the way to a ‘major continental crisis’, European Commission chairman Jean-Claude Juncker has told the NRC.
The Netherlands will hold an advisory referendum on the treaty on April 6 following a campaign by shock blog Geenstijl and other anti-EU initiatives. While the result will not be binding on the government, pundits say the vote will be a test of Dutch support for Europe.
Juncker told the NRC at the weekend that a clear victory for the no campaign will be a boost for Russia. ‘I hope very much that [the Dutch] will not say “no” for reasons which have nothing to do with the treaty,’ he said.
He called on voters to ‘act as European strategists’ and realise that the issue goes beyond domestic Dutch concerns. ‘I am not criticising the Dutch political system… but I would say “take care, this can change the balance of Europe”.’
A majority of MPs think the results should be respected, even if the vote is no. Turnout needs to be 30% for the referendum to be officially valid.
An initial poll of 1,000 people by the yes campaign at the end of last year showed that 34% opposed the treaty and 17% supported it. However, when it was explained what the treaty was actually about, support rose to 45% while the number of opponents fell to 32%.
One problem for the yes campaign is the lack of wholesale government backing. While foreign minister Bert Koenders and trade minister Liliane Ploumen will be out and about talking about the benefits of the treaty, there will be no television campaign with adverts, the Volkskrant said at the weekend.
Employers’ organisations have said they will support the yes campaign if the backing can be broadened to include unions and other organisations.
In 2005, the Dutch voted against a European constitution. Some 63% of the electorate participated and almost 62% of them rejected the plan.
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