Dutch referendum a painful mistake

"Yes" and "No" camp supporters rally in Amsterdam

"Yes" and "No" camp supporters rally in Amsterdam 

2016/04/06 • Analysis & Opinion

Article by: Robert van Voren

Whatever the outcome of the Dutch referendum on the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement will be, the whole process has been very much enlightening and disheartening at the same time. The Dutch state spent forty million euro on a referendum that asked citizens to vote for or against an agreement virtually nobody read, very few really understood, concerning a country most people didn’t know anything about and where virtually none of the voters have ever been. In other words: whatever the people decided, it was a decision based on a total lack of what was at stake and with an avalanche of information that was often incomplete, tendentious or consisting of outright lies. In that respect, the referendum that was meant to be a highly democratic tool turned into a farce and an insult to democracy.

Of course, it all started on a wrong footing. The campaign to hold the referendum was organized by people who later acknowledged they didn’t care less about Ukraine but were only interested in destabilizing the European Union. Their ultimate goal was the departure of The Netherlands from the EU and for that Ukraine had to be sacrificed. The fact that the campaign was organized with a EU subsidy that should have not been used for this purpose was illustrative of the organizers’ nihilism, and later they managed through other tricks to accumulate four times the maximum campaign subsidy they were allowed to receive from the Dutch government.

This governmental subsidy was a farce it itself, because the committee that dispersed the funds had no interest in content but only looked at technicalities. The result was that a businessman managed to get 50,000 euro to print toilet paper with “information” against the agreement, which was again a concoction of half-truths, outright lies and a lot of information “from hearsay”, all focused on making people vote against. The organizers of the referendum again played a clever trick by claiming they campaigned “against’, “in favor” and “neutral”, thus amassing more funds by applying for subsidies for all three campaigns separately. That the “neutral” and ‘in favor” campaign materials were so cleverly written that they too evoked an “against” feeling was apparently not of importance.

Socialist Party MP and campaigner Harry van Bommel, who in spring 2014 stood on Maidan after the carnage and voiced his support for those who fought for freedom, now took a totally different party line. He campaigned “No, no, no” (as if one “no” is not fully understood) and to support his view he paraded a number of “patriotic Ukrainians” who helped explain to the Dutch voters that Ukraine was a divided country in civil war and that many Ukrainians were against this agreement. First there was a self-professed former neighbor of Yanukovych now living in The Netherlands. Then at party gatherings he decided to use the highly-criticized French propaganda film “Masks of the Revolution”, to show that Ukraine is run by a gang of corrupt, right-wing semi-fascist crooks. Subsequently he aired a clip by the separatist Aleksei Zhuravko, a former MP of the Party of Regions who is now hiding from the SBU because of collecting financial support for the separatists and who continues to this very day to post photos of Ukrainian troop movements in social media in order to inform the enemy of their whereabouts and strength. Anything to feed his “no” campaign, irrespective of the content.

And thus the level of the debate continued to sink. Dutch media tried to remain “neutral”, balancing views from both sides. But this not only concerned views in The Netherlands, also Ukrainian views “against” should be put on an equal level as views “in favor”. A Dutch journalist complained to me that she had been sent to Kyiv to interview a Ukrainian “in favor”, “neutral” and “against”. But where to find an “against” here, she sighed. So she went to the DNR, sure she would find one over there. That three-quarters of the Ukrainians are in favor of this Association Agreement was carried by only few media.

This latter problem – the overwhelming urge to be “neutral” – is hard to explain. The notion that “the truth is in the middle” has taken on such huge proportions that taking sides and supporting a cause have almost become “unhealthy”. One factor that plays a role, I think, is the fact that many experts of the region are either Russia based, or have families in Russia, or are Russia-oriented, and so often they look at the Russo-Ukrainian war with “Russian eyes” or at least under strong influence of Russian media and public opinion. What they don’t understand is that Putin’s Russia is not Russia, but a country gang-raped by 75 years of communism and subsequently hijacked by one of the worst rapists, the KGB. So while dissident Russian writer Vladimir Voinovich makes his choice and openly states he will not visit Crimea as long as it is occupied even though his parents are buried there, they continue to be “neutral” and support the Moscow-induced view that there is a civil war in Ukraine and that the country is run by a corrupt clique that romances with right-extremism. Their views have an impact, because they are “experts” and thus they should know. And in the sea of total ignorance their well- worded opinions are swallowed almost without criticism.

The campaign for the referendum has triggered the worst possible discussions and debates in social media. Naively, I always thought that the Dutch after 400 years of democracy had at least a certain minimal standard. That view has been totally crushed. What I saw passing by was worse than I could have imagined in my worst dreams. It was much worse than the shouts of the mob in Vilnius in 2011 during the gay parade in the city, which I then ascribed to being in a post-totalitarian country still learning the ropes of democracy. Well, in Lithuania the climate has changed, and much for the better. There they know what lack of freedom means, they understand the necessity of defending it, at all costs.

In Holland it seems the past is long forgotten and the cosy life in an affluent country has made people greedy, self-serving, egocentric and above all fundamentally dissatisfied. They are convinced they are entitled to have only the best and that the whole world is crouching upon them in order to take away that what is “rightfully theirs”: Muslims, Poles, corrupt politicians, and now another 45 million Ukrainians. They repeat slogans about “right wing extremists” and “fascists” in Ukraine, without realizing that their populist leaders are faithful pupils of Mussolini and the like, and that their “popular resistance” has the same elements as politics in Germany in the late 1930s.

To me the referendum has been a very painful confrontation with the country in which I grew up. It was a liberal country, a country with free people, open-hearted, welcoming and with a very vibrant community of people working in charities and aid organizations, either as volunteer or as a professional calling. The Netherlands I saw these past weeks are a total opposite. I am ashamed of the Dutch who voted against Ukraine, who do not understand the price of freedom, who do not understand the psychological importance of knowing there are others by your side. It goes too far to say the country needs a little war to wake up, but deep down I cannot resist that nasty feeling. 70 years of peace have turned a nation into a wobbling overfed Christmas turkey. Poor country, and poor Ukraine that sees its integration into the European family threatened by this self-indulging lot.

 

Source: Originally published in Russian on Novoye Vremya

Tags: , , ,

  • Volker Trauth

    True, each time democracy needs to be defended, the awareness of risk and the fighting spirit comes *almost* too late. While the totalitarians have their effords by order lined up from the starting moment, what makes them look stronger and scares off the neutral minded. Still, we are going to defeat them. Maybe not by this referendum, but on the long run. I just hope the pro-Russian anti-European side around Geen Peil have spent much more money on their campagain (and it is Russian money) then they got from blind democratic reimbursement sources. Anything else would mean we, the free and democratic Western societies, are fiancing our own weakening and the subversion by Putins partisans. This has to be revised by a democracy aware of risk and fighting for defense victory.

    • Hillarious Clinton

      There is NONE “democracy”,only DEMON-RATCIES!!! The American is oligarchic PLUTOCRACY,and Ukrainian is KLEPTOCRACY!!!

      • Dirk Smith

        LOL.

      • Eddy Verhaeghe

        You’re hilarious, but certainly not a Clinton clone.

      • Volker Trauth

        Sure, and that is why in your country dissidents, journalists, politicians and even supporters get killed in all KGB-ways you can think of, while we have none of it. So start criticizing your corrupt leadership before you start wordplaying with things you don’t understand, my dear Peterburg troll factory employee.

  • Patrick

    Very well comment Robbert but the people who today vote no will probably not read this and if they do, it will only infuriate them more. As a Dutch person I present them with the same mirror as you do on a daily bases. My experience is that they will react with even more cynicism on the typical undiplomatic and blut way the Dutch are negatively famous for in the entire world.

    My country is sick, very sick but I hope it will not demotivate the Ukrainian people if there is a “no” today. They should remember that the other EU countries, representing 491 million people, will not allow the Dutch population to decide for the EU as a whole what is good for them. The association treaty will go on no matter what the outcome of the referendum is today !

    The Ukrainian people will have to continue doing their homework by reducing corruption and living according to democratic principles. The Ukrainian people will have their internal fight to achieve their goals and we Dutch, we will certainly have our fight too the coming 20 years.

    Our fight will be against our backwardness, selfishness, ego-centrism and of course against the ultra right wing and ultra left wing forces who today will most likely have the upper hand but which should not get the upper hand as far as the power in out country is concerned.

    • Mephisto

      you are too optimistic about the other countries. Its the same all over Europe, majority of people are morons brainwashed by russian anti-EU propaganda. Wilders is a Putin puppet. There are many such puppets in every european country.

  • Czech Mate

    Many good points in the article. The whole thing just doesn’t make sense. Why are Dutch folks saying YES/NO to Ukraine while folks from other member states can not?

    If it were YES/NO for the Dutch leaving EU, then ok. But deciding on a country about which one knows nothing or very little is simply not fair.

    • Hillarious Clinton

      Ani ty prilis nevis a neznas,vole…

      • Mephisto

        zalez, ruský kolaborante

  • Hillarious Clinton

    Ukraine is SWAMP OF CORRUPTION as wrote N.Y.Times,and Porky Pornoshenko is prime example of it! Ukraina,those who wants it tied to the EU(newest Gulag of captive nations) are duraks ! Tao-Path of Heavens clearly tell us that our bi-polar world is on the move! the positive pole,former US has moved to China,the next superpower and leader of the world! the negative pole,former USSR was removed to Brussels and EU,the next Gulag of nations! With rise of China which will experience new cycle of ENLIGHTENMENT, will rise also Russian Federation…China will rule the world for the next 300 years,and in its last 100 years,RF will take fully over,for another 300-400 years! Only idiots don’t know this fact! All former East Block countries were dragged by few sellouts to EU,the loosing side! Only look at the big colonial powers of Western Europe,today only an average countries,steadily in decline! The allmighty British Empire once upon a time went to colonise the world! Nowadays,the Third world colonise Britain which looks today more as Bangladesh rather than Britain! In 50 years,all world will see this TRUTH, Tao-path of Heavens, starting new cycle,from Far East and China! EU is negative pole,Gulag of nations,some idiots(duraks) from Ukraina wants to join that modern Gulag!!! Meanwhile,RF is the future!!!

    • Dirk Smith

      The Three Stooges of Fascism. One to go……..

  • Dirk Smith

    Putie the Pedo.

  • Dirk Smith

    With Ukraine now receiving lethal aid from Turkey, the gay dwarf’s days are numbered. That’s why he’s organizing his new SS guard to protect his mafia ass. He’s done.

    • Volker Trauth

      Unfortunately, no matter what ground hole they will pull him out of with wild grown beard, crazed look and pissed panties, on one future lucky day, for bringing him to justice – I am afread the braindead zombies of his followers in twenty, thirty years will still erect him some monuments as they today still worship Stalin, another rapist of the Russian people who found so happy victims praising him for killing and torturing them off all the way until today. When the Russians will grow up to become a civilized grown-up, or will that never happen?

      • Dirk Smith

        Not until the last of the Soviet dinosaurs is removed from power. At this point,ruSSia has taken first place in the hermit kingdom category. LOL.

  • Dirk Smith

    The world knows who that is.