Open letter to the Dutch Prime Minister: do not give into populism

PM of The Netherlands Mark Rutte. Photo: Nu.nl

PM of The Netherlands Mark Rutte. Photo: Nu.nl 

2016/04/08 • Op-ed

Dear Prime Minister Rutte,

I am writing this open letter as a European citizen, believing in the unity of the Old Continent and solidarity between all its countries. Since the Treaty of Rome, Europe has experienced an era of prosperity and, above all, peace. Without doubt Europe has big challenges ahead including the threat of a fundamentalist Islam present both inside and outside her borders and Russian nationalism which is directly threatening Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Armenia and even the EU borders.

Your Kingdom, victim of the German steamroller in the Second World War, during reconstruction took great advantage of the Marshall Plan and later reaped the fruits of the common market. Moreover, The Netherlands benefited from large EU subsidies for the development of Dutch intensive agriculture whose products today flood European supermarket shelves and even those of Ukraine.

Ukraine, yes, let’s consider this country concerning whom a small fraction of your constituents, merely 20% (61% of 32 % who bothered to cast their vote on April 6th), have just nullified a treaty negotiated at length by your elite; a treaty which has huge meaning for Ukraine having experienced the trauma of a revolution, a Russian military offensive in which more than 10,000 were killed, the loss of the Crimean peninsula and the Donbas, its industrial heartland. It is also important to remind the world that there was no pre-requisite of a Dutch referendum during those protracted negotiations.

The prospect of a trade deal between the EU and Ukraine has given hope to a population excluded far too long from the big European family; young people in particular, well aware that the road will be long and tumultuous, have associated it with the beginning of a new era for Ukraine based on the rule of law and accountability before this irresponsible referendum was unfortunately initiated by a questionable Dutch organisation. How are you going to justify to the Ukrainian people that your so-called democracy would not only allow 20% of voters to dictate their voice to the nation but would nullify the decision made by 27 national parliaments of your European partners, thus catapulting 40 million Ukrainians towards Moscow’s orbit.

Let’s recall that the Kremlin killed nearly 200 of your citizens in July 2014. The diktat imposed by 10% (mainly Eurosceptics) of your population not only reveals the referendum concept to be unjust and undemocratic but it opens the way to future dangerous popular consultations. This referendum has clearly endorsed the position of the European far right and plays into the hands of Vladimir Putin, responsible for countless crimes in Russia and abroad.

We know this referendum was initiated by the GeenPeil organisation, a movement that takes the same rhetoric on Ukraine as Russian media propaganda, calling Ukraine a fascist country and a nation in the midst of a civil war. Now, we know this is a lie. In fact, Ukrainian leaders were all democratically elected and this unfortunate country has been the victim of Russian military aggression. Ukrainians have always supported political pluralism and freedom of the press. In addition, they have implemented all Brussels directives, even though some went against traditional Ukrainian values.

The greatest political leaders in History have sometimes had to make courageous decisions against the populist trend, despite elections looming. I ask you, Mr. Rutte, on behalf of 10,000 Ukrainian victims, on behalf of the 283 killed by a Russian missile in the Malaysian airliner tragedy, on behalf of Europe, in the name of European solidarity, on behalf of those young people in Kyiv who died with the European flag in their hands in February 2013, to disregard the results of this patently unfair referendum which is not constitutionally binding and to instead ratify the treaty which has been in force since January 1st.

Please do not be tempted to give into populism that may provide short-term relief but in the long run risks triggering political earthquakes and would have immeasurable consequences for the population of a country of 40 million. Ukraine has, according to the genesis of the European concept, as much right to belong to our continental entity as the Netherlands with its population of 16 million. Be aware that blocking the ratification of the association agreement with Ukraine won’t save your political career. Worse still, you would go down in history among those politicians who lacked vision and political courage.

pierre

Pierre Scordia
Lecturer at University College London
Writer & founder of FΩRMIdea (form-idea.com)

 

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  • Patrick

    As a Dutch person and supporter of the association treaty I understand the frustration of the writer.

    I think my people let Ukraine down and months ago I warned my Ukrainian friends for this.

    A new referendum is already announced namely about trade treaty TTIP with the USA. This will be a no as well.

    In case there is a fourth aid package for Greece there will be a referendum with a certain outcome: No new package.

    If there are new laws concerning European asylum guidelines there will be a no in referenda as long as It takes to make asylum policy a national policy again and our borders can be closed.

    The populists will have glorious vivtories and moderate left wing forces like me crushing defeats.

    The basis of all these “no’s” is self interest and a lack of confidence in other european countries.

    Dishonest and unreliable Greece “robbing” our money, Germany and France arrogantly abusing their power by neglecting the Maastricht treaty initiating the Eurocrisis as a result and than Germany unilateraly disregarding Schengen amplifying the refugee crisis, the British traditionaly only wanting the benefits of the EU and hardly ever the obligations and now a poor and corrupt Ukraine which can draw us into a war and a new financial black hole.

    This is how a majority of Dutch people regard Europe of today and they have had enough of it.

    The behaviour of all these other countries is purely a result of short sighted national self interest completely neglecting the interests of others. Basically this is “good old” nationalism in a modern democratic context but it is still nationalism. And as a result the Dutch this week reacted with its own nationalism.

    Not giving the EU sufficient power and means to correct unilateral acts of nationalism at the expense of others now turns out to lead to an existential thread to the EU as such.

    Two world wars initiating from Europe leading to the physical destruction of our continent, killing 100 million people, making almost all of us loose independence at least for many years, making us loose our world empire apparently wasn’t enough to teach us the right lessons and motivating us to act accordingly.

    If all of this apparently wasn’t enough to change us what on earth could make us change ???

    If we Europeans simply refuse to change no matter what, than our continent will remain a hopeless continent !

  • Evelyn Myketa Livingston

    I think the Dutch people have a very short memory and they have made putin a happy barbarian. Shame on them.

    • Patrick

      My people simply has no historic awareness. The only thing they do is to watch their wallet all day and if anything threatens the amount of money in their wallet they oppose it. No ideals, no justice, no solidarity, just money. That is who we have become today. This was once different but these times are over. Selfishness rules !

  • Calibra

    “Ukraine has, according to the genesis of the European concept, as much right to belong to our continental entity as the Netherlands with its population of 16 million.”

    We are 17 million already and no there is no such thing as an right to be a part of the EU.