Next week’s referendum on an EU treaty with Ukraine is really about ‘putting pressure on the Dutch relationship with Europe’, two of the organisers say in an interview with the NRC.
History professor Arjan van Dixhoorn, who chairs the committee which led the campaign to hold a referendum, told the paper: ‘We really don’t care about Ukraine, you need to understand that.’ The founders of the Burgercomite EU had one aim, the NRC said, and that is to break up the EU or ensure the Netherlands pulls out. ‘A Nexit referendum has not been possible until now. That is why we are using all the options we have to put pressure on the relationship between the Netherlands and the EU,’ Van Dixhoorn said.
The campaign to hold a referendum was launched by shock blog Geenstijl, think-tank Forum voor Democratie and the Burgercomite EU association in September last year. 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. Two years ‘We waited two years for the referendum law to come into force,’ said committee member Pepijn van Houwelingen. ‘We checked what laws and international treaties could meet the referendum requirements… Then we realised the Ukraine treaty, which had been an issue for years, was a potential referendum subject.’ Van Dixhoorn said he had no regrets about the involvement of GeenStijl, which he described as ‘the best journalistic medium in the Netherlands’. ‘The anger in the Netherlands about the EU, about problems in the multicultural society, about government spin is much greater than people think,’ he said. ‘Including in intellectual circles. Many of these people don’t dare open their mouths because they are embarrassed about their reputation.’
Shocking D66 MP Kees Verhoeven described the revelation about the referendum as ‘bizarre and shocking.’ ‘Most Ukrainians want to move on. They want more democracy, less corruption and to get out of the old Soviet system,’ he is quoted as saying in the Telegraaf. ‘That the people who thought up this referendum say it is nothing to do with Ukraine is misery-making and unjust.’