12:01 Apr. 2, 2016
Dutch referendum threatens an EU trade deal with Ukraine
Ukraine's efforts to reach an association agreement with the European Union have led to revolution, poisoned relations with Russia and caused war with Russian-backed separatists. After years of negotiations, Ukrainian and EU leaders at last signed the agreement in Kiev in March 2014, just after the Maidan revolution. But the deal may yet founder in a surprising place: the Netherlands. Dutch Eurosceptics have forced a plebiscite on whether to ratify it. The EU's other 27 states have already done so; the Netherlands is the lone holdout, and most polls show that on April 6th "no" will probably win.
The referendum is not binding, but the Dutch government will have to respond to the outcome. Rejection would hobble European diplomacy and suggest that the EU is too fractured to maintain a common foreign policy in the face of Russian interference in Ukraine. And it would send a signal to Ukrainians that however much they want to be part of Europe, many Europeans want no part of them.