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By Boris Kagarlitsky, published in Russian in, excerpts translated for Russia Insider by Julia Rakhmetova and Rhod Mackenzie, April 15, 2016

So little comfort for the Ukrainians, who ruined their state for the sake of becoming a junior member of Europe

The referendum that took place in the Netherlands on April 6 produced a result whereby the citizens practically sank the Ukraine–European Union Association Agreement.

Dutch voters cast referendum ballot on EU-Ukraine association on April 6, 2016 (Michael Kooren, Reuters)

Dutch voters cast referendum ballot on EU-Ukraine association on April 6, 2016 (Michael Kooren, Reuters)

By voting against the association agreement with Ukraine, the Dutch opposed not so much Kyiv as Brussels.

The initiatives of the European Union when voted in referendums almost invariably fail. There have been a few significant exceptions when one and the same defeated issue is formulated a little differently and then voted a second or third time, until citizens are forced to put up with the planned results. But apparently these tactics didn’t work this time.

Surveys show that if the existence of the European Union itself was brought up to a popular vote, this union would be doomed in  most European countries. The situation is the reverse of that in the USSR, where people voted in the referendum in 1991 to retain the Soviet Union, after which it was liquidated by the respective Soviet federation governments.

In case of the Dutch referendum, it was all quite dramatic since the authorities of the Kingdom weren’t eager to bring  the issue to public judgement.

Public participation in decision-making in general is becoming a major threat to liberal democracy as priorities, values, and even the concept of good and evil between the intellectual-political class and most of the other people in Europe are not only different, but diametrically opposed.

That’s why avoiding the direct discussion of the issues with the people and especially preventing them from having referendums is the most important condition for supporting the system’s stability nowadays.

However, this can’t always work in the countries with old democratic traditions established in their legislation. The Netherlands is one of them. It is, after all, a birthplace of a victorious popular revolution, the first in Europe’s history!

Nevertheless, the results of the Dutch Ukraine–European Union Association Agreement are symbolic for Ukraine in their own way. The Ukrainian crisis started with an attempt by Victor Yanukovych’s administration to prepare an association agreement with the EU. In the end, the Ukrainian government itself did not risk signing the agreement, thus provoking the Maidan protest movement, civil war and conflict with Russia.

Now, when that agreement in its original form is buried, the initial absurdity of this entire epic is becoming more obvious. What Poroshenko promised in response to the Dutch vote was that independently of how its Western partners vote, Kyiv will carry out the agreement unilaterally, opening Ukraine’s domestic market for foreign goods and not trying to get anything in exchange.

Quite possibly, this is the best possible situation for European businesses. In the end, no one will be blamed if Ukrainian officials themselves, without outside help, finish off the country’s industry and destroy its domestic market.

Boris Kagarlitsky is the director of the Moscow-based Institute for the Study of Globalization and Social Movements and an editor of the online, Russian journal (Worker Correspondent)


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