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