12:31 Apr. 13, 2016
The negative result leaves Dutch officials wondering what should be done to reach a compromise
The Netherlands will take at least 6 months to assess the results of the referendum on the EU-Ukraine association. This is according to a statement by the country's Foreign Minister Bert Koenders on April 12.
"It's obvious that Dutch government has entered an unexplored territory. The situation requires a thorough, step-by-step approach, which will take some time", stated Koenders.
Thus, the Dutch assessment of the voting may not emerge until September-October 2016.
The Netherlands made the official results of the referendum public on April 12. As expected, they were not that different from the preliminary exit polls. 61% of citizens voted against the agreement with the turnout of 32%.
Although the referendum bears a consultative status, the Dutch government makes it clear they can not ignore the results. The country's Prime Minister Mark Rutte said on April 7 when the preliminary results were published, the government "now sees no way to approve the agreement in its current form".
"We can not continue the ratification of the association agreement with Ukraine. This is my political opinion",- said Rutte in his Facebook post.
Brussels officials have already stated the referendum result is threatening the integrity of the EU. The President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz warns of "Implosion of the Union", according to Deutsche Welle. "The silent majority was taken in by the notion that in the end everything would be fine. The negative outcome of last week's Dutch referendum on the Association Agreement with Ukraine showed that this was a fallacy that wasn't to be relied upon", said Schulz
Experts say, the integrity of the EU seems to be the target of the eurosceptics who initiated the referendum. In a recent interview with UT René Cuperus, Director for International Relations at Wiardi Beckman Foundation, stated the decision would be influenced by the crisis in the European Union.
"Behind the referendum are populist forces in the media. If you really analyze what is going on in the Netherlands, you can see that this referendum is not really about Ukraine", said Cuperus. "It is about the disillusion with Europe, it is about the disillusion with how things developed in Brussels in the terms of Europe crisis, refugee crisis; and people are fed up with the problems of Europe".
Another side of the coin is that Dutch citizens say they did not fully understand the topic of the voting. A day after the referendum, one Amsterdam resident said she was not even sure about what was being voted on.
"I found it a pity that the proper explanation was not given about what is really the meaning of this, so it's logical I have voted 'no', because I never got any information about what is happening, [so my vote] has nothing to do with Ukraine," Amsterdam resident Okke said.
"The referendum was unnecessary, ridiculous, too expensive and a laughing-stock, so I didn't vote. But I am for the trade agreement," another Amsterdam resident Michelle said.
So now the Dutch government has to meet the feelings of the "No" camp. They will work closely with their European colleagues to find a solution. Germany and France have already said the EU will implement "what it can of this association". They will continue to support the closer ties of Ukraine and Brussels.
The rest is up to The Netherlands. As stated above, they will have up to six months to reach a compromise.
Sergii Oganesyan for Ukraine Today