Category Archives: Netherlands

+++ V.I. (JN) Missões diplomáticas holandesas na Turquia encerradas por segurança

(JNA embaixada e o consulado holandeses em Ancara foram encerradas pelas autoridades turcas por “razões de segurança”, anunciaram fontes do Ministério dos Negócios Estrangeiros turco.

“As entradas e saídas da embaixada e do consulado em Ancara foram encerradas por razões de segurança”, indicaram fontes do Ministério dos Negócios Estrangeiros da Turquia. De acordo com as mesmas fontes, as residências do embaixador e do chefe do consulado da Holanda na capital turca, foram também encerradas pelas mesmas razões.

A decisão das autoridades turcas surge na sequência do Governo holandês ter anunciado que iria recusar a entrada, na Holanda, do ministro dos Negócios Estrangeiros turco, Mevlut Cavusoglu, para um encontro, com a comunidade turca local, com o objectivo de conquistar apoios para um referendo sobre o aumento dos poderes do Presidente do país, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

A proibição enfureceu a Turquia, e Erdogan declarou que a decisão das autoridades holandesas contém “vestígios nazis”.

Na mesma linha, as autoridades turcas avisaram a Holanda para que o embaixador holandês em Ancara, actualmente fora do país, em férias, não regresse “durante algum tempo” para retomar a sua actividade.

Ministra turca bloqueada

Além da recusa em deixar Cavusoglu entrar na Holana, a caravana automóvel onde seguia a ministra dos Assuntos Familiares turca foi bloqueada pela polícia holandesa quando se dirigia para o consulado da Turquia em Roterdão para participar no comício sobre o referendo convocado por Ancara.

Em imagens transmitidas nos ‘media’ holandeses, dezenas de polícias impediram a ministra Fatma Betül Sayan Kaya de se dirigir à rua de Roterdão onde está situado o consulado do seu país, após o presidente da câmara da cidade, Ahmed Aboutaleb, ter ordenado o bloqueio total a essa zona.

Em declarações à televisão privada turca, Haber Canli, a ministra turca referiu-se a uma “situação verdadeiramente incrível”.

(NYT) Before Elections, Dutch Fear Russian Meddling, but Also U.S. Cash


AMSTERDAM — The parochial world of Dutch elections is not often seen as a hotbed of foreign intrigue. But in recent months, an unexpected worry has emerged: the influence of American money.

The country’s fast-rising far-right leader, Geert Wilders, is getting help from American conservatives attracted to his anti-European Union and anti-Islam views. David Horowitz, an American right-wing activist, has contributed roughly $150,000 to Mr. Wilders’s Party for Freedom over two years — of which nearly $120,000 came in 2015, making it the largest individual contribution in the Dutch political system that year, according to recently released records.

By American standards, the amount is a pittance. But to some Dutch, who are already fearful of possible Russian meddling in the election, the American involvement is an assault on national sovereignty.

“It’s foreign interference in our democracy,” said Ronald van Raak, a senior member of Parliament in the opposition Socialist party, who has co-sponsored legislation to ban foreign donations. “We would not have thought that people from other countries would have been interested in our politics,” he said. “Maybe we underestimated ourselves.”

The Dutch parliamentary elections on March 15 are the kickoff for a pivotal political year in Europe. Other elections loom in France, Germany and possibly Italy. With the viability of the European Union at stake, anxieties are rising about foreign interference, with European intelligence agencies warning that Russia is working to help far-right parties through hacking and disinformation campaigns.

But sympathy for Europe’s far right is also coming from Americans who share similar views and are willing to contribute money to help the cause. Measuring this outside support is difficult, though, because many European countries have leaky, opaque accountability systems on campaign finance.

France, Germany and the Netherlands have only published campaign finance data from as recently as 2014 or 2015. And only the Netherlands will update that information with more disclosures before Election Day. New campaign finance data is expected to be released on Wednesday.

Though Europe is generally known for its public financing of elections, parties are increasingly seeking outside donations, especially since regulatory loopholes abound. In Germany, the far-right Alternative for Germany sold gold bars and coins in a strategy to inflate its revenue and, through a quirk of the rules, increase its access to public funds, until the practice was banned by Parliament. German parties have also sought to divert public funds provided to parliamentary caucuses.

“It’s illegal but basically done everywhere” in Germany, said Christoph Möllers, a professor of public law and legal philosophy at Humboldt University of Berlin.

While France bars contributions from businesses, loans are allowed. A Russian bank made headlines in recent years after lending millions of euros to the far-right National Front party of Marine Le Pen. After that bank failed last year, the party complained that it had been shunned by French banks and declared itself in the market for a new lender.

If nothing else, European far-right parties are gaining newly emboldened allies.

“I expect the Trump administration to be more open to these parties than Obama, certainly,” said Representative Steve King, an Iowa Republican who is an ally both of President Trump and the European far right, having met with various party leaders during a recent European trip.

The State Department, in a statement, declined “to comment on political parties in foreign elections.”

Mr. Horowitz, who has long sounded alarms on Muslim immigration, first rallied to Mr. Wilders’s side after the Dutch politician was put on trial in 2010 for inciting hatred against Muslims with a film he made that attacked the Quran; he was acquitted the next year. Mr. Wilders was more recently found guilty of incitement after leading an anti-Moroccan chant at a rally, though he avoided a fine.

“I think he’s the Paul Revere of Europe,” Mr. Horowitz said in an interview. “Geert Wilders is a hero, and I think he’s a hero of the most important battle of our times, the battle to defend free speech,” he added, calling the situation in Europe a “nightmare.”

Though Mr. Horowitz’s donations adhere to Dutch standards, there was some question of whether they comply with American law.

Organized as a 501(c)(3) under American tax law, Mr. Horowitz’s foundation is barred from making donations to political organizations. The donations went to the Friends of PVV, according to Dutch records, a foundation covered by political disclosure rules.

Michael Finch, the president of Mr. Horowitz’s foundation, said in an email that “the funds that were sent to Geert Wilders were to help him in his legal cases” and “were not political donations.”

But donations to foreign political entities are problematic, tax experts said.

“The I.R.S. views foreign political organizations as the same as domestic political organizations — not appropriate for a charity to support,” said Marcus S. Owens, a partner at Loeb & Loeb, and former director of the Exempt Organizations Division of the Internal Revenue Service, in an email. He added, “The I.R.S. also views a charity that is controlled by a political organization as transgressing federal tax rules.”

Mr. Horowitz said he was not certain if the foundation had given additional funds to Mr. Wilders’s party this year or last year.

Mr. Wilders’s backing of Israel, where he once lived, has set him apart from other far-right groups, and he has courted American Jews. Daniel Pipes, another conservative American activist and a Harvard-educated historian known for his controversial statements on Islam, said in an email exchange that he hoped “the rise of the insurgent parties leads not to their forming governments but their sending a strong message to the legacy parties to wake up and deal with the imperative issues they have so long ignored.”

Mr. Pipes said his foundation, the Middle East Forum, provided money in the “six figures” to help pay legal bills in Mr. Wilders’s trial over the film, but specifically to a legal fund, and has not provided political support. Mr. Pipes has called Mr. Wilders “the most important European alive today,” but has differed with him on his view of Islam, though he himself has expressed inflammatory views on the subject.

Dutch records also show that two American foundations paid for Mr. Wilders’s flights and hotels on trips to the United States last year. One, the Gatestone Institute, lists John R. Bolton, a combative former United Nations ambassador under George W. Bush, as its chairman. Another, the International Freedom Alliance Foundation, is backed by Robert J. Shillman, a wealthy Trump supporter who paid for a digital ad in Times Square last year depicting Mr. Trump as Superman. The travel payments were previously reported by Foreign Policy magazine.

Lawmakers and academics say the European public has seen little need for tight campaign finance regulations because political campaigning in Europe has historically been far more restrained than in the United States.

“The campaigns don’t seem to be that relevant,” Mr. Mollers said. “You see campaign finance is spent for posters, and no one believes that changes the game.”

Now, however, European political campaigns could become more expensive as parties turn to data-driven persuasion efforts similar to those used in the United States, even if they are limited by European data-protection laws. The Dutch Green Party, for instance, has licensed software from Blue State Digital, a prominent American data consultancy.

Guillaume Liegey, co-founder and chief executive of Liegey Muller Pons, a data consulting firm, was an adviser to President François Hollande’s 2012 campaign in France, one of the first in Europe to use data-driven techniques.

“The idea of using data and technology has since then become more of a standard in today’s European campaigns,” he said in an email. He now consults for the campaign of Emmanuel Macron, a left-leaning politician who is one of the front-runners in the French presidential race, which takes place in two stages in April and May.

Few dispute the stakes. Mr. Wilders and Ms. Le Pen, the French far-right leader, are running strong in polls, though both are considered long shots to win control of their governments. If either did win, it could be a devastating blow to the euro currency union, as well as the European Union itself, an outcome that many analysts regard as a foreign policy disaster.

Mr. Horowitz disagrees, and portrays the European Union as the disaster.

“To have this Parliament that represents nobody in Brussels making laws for everybody, it’s very anti-democratic,” said Mr. Horowitz. “I always thought it was a bad idea.”

Correction: March 7, 2017

An earlier version of this article misstated the group to which David Horowitz was referring in a speech. He used the phrase “sick death cult” in reference to Hamas, not Islam.

(Reuters) Dutch relations with euro up for debate after lawmakers commission probe

(Reuters) The Netherlands’ future relationship with the euro will be comprehensively debated by its parliament following elections in March, after lawmakers commissioned a report on the currency’s future.

The motion approving the investigation by the Council of State, the government’s legal advisor, coincides with a rising tide of euroscepticism in Europe, which populist parties are hoping to tap into in a series of national elections this year also taking in euro zone powerhouses France and Germany.

The probe will examine whether it would be possible for the Dutch to withdraw from the single currency, and if so how, said lawmaker Pieter Omtzigt.

Omtzigt, of the opposition Christian Democrats, tabled the parliamentary motion calling for the investigation, which legislators passed unanimously late on Thursday.

It was prompted by concerns the ECB’s ultra-low interest rates are hurting Dutch savers, especially pensioners, and doubts as to whether its bond purchasing programmes are legal, he said.

Its findings will be presented in several months, by which time the make-up of parliament will have changed dramatically.

While most Dutch voters say they favour retaining the euro, the eurosceptic far-right party of Geert Wilders is expected to book large gains though it is unlikely to win enough votes to form a government.

The most probable outcome of the March 15 vote is a new centrist coalition including some parties, such as Omtzigt’s Christian Democrats, that have been vocal in their opposition to current ECB policy.

“The problems with the euro have not been solved,” Omtzigt said. “This is a way for us to look at ways forward with no taboos.”

Thursday’s motion instructs the Council to look at “what political and institutional options are open for the euro,” and “what are the advantages and disadvantages of each.”

(Express) THE FINAL BETRAYAL: Dutch MPs set to force through EU deal voters REJECTED in referendum

(Express) DUTCH MPs were today set to railroad through a controversial EU agreement despite the fact that it was rejected by an overwhelming majority of voters in a referendum.

Parliamentarians in The Hague were poised to approve the highly contentious pact between Brussels and Kiev which will grant 40 million Ukrainians visa-free access to Europe.

Their decision comes despite the fact that two-thirds of Dutch voters rejected the agreement in a referendum last spring, a result which establishment politicians immediately insisted they would ignore.

And this week they are set to come good on their word with the majority of MPs in the lower house of the Dutch parliament expected to row in behind Brussels and approve the pact.

Dutch MPs are set to vote through an EU-Ukraine deal rejected by voters in a referendum.

Late last year Dutch PM Mark Rutte secured a series of concessions from other European leaders which he insists together address the concerns of people who voted against the agreement.

Brussels chiefs agreed to bolt on a legally binding paragraph to the accord which states that the treaty does not give Ukraine the automatic right to EU membership or financial and military support from Europe.

But critics have argued that the amendment does not address the issue of visa-free travel – a central theme in the referendum debate – and Mr Rutte refused to confirm that Kiev will not join the bloc in the future.

Geert Wilders

Geert Wilders’ party strongly opposed the agreement with Kiev

Dutch PM Mark Rutte

But Mark Rutte says concessions he has secured address people’s concerns

Eurosceptics said the move had echoes of the 2005 EU constitution scandal, when France and the Netherlands rejected Brussels’ plans for increased federalisation only for them to be railroaded through as the Lisbon Treaty.

In a strongly worded statement the political movement Geenpeil, which organised the initial petition which led to the referendum, said the decision would be a two-finger salute to ordinary voters.

It said: “One year, nine months and eleven days after this issue first emerged you just knew what The Hague would do – officially ignore the outcome of the first democratic referendum brought about by the citizens themselves.

“This is an anti-democratic déjà vu of 2005 all over again. Confidence in representative democracy is again delivered another hammer blow.”

This dossier has seriously undermined people’s trust in politics

PVV MP Harm Beertema

MP Harm Beertema, member of Geert Wilders’s anti-EU Party for Freedom, said “the objections of 2.5 million voters” were set to be ignored by his fellow MPs.

Rounding on Mr Rutte’s dossier of concessions, he raged: “This dossier has seriously undermined people’s trust in politics.”

Conservative MP Pieter Omtzigt said he would also be voting against the “unimportant” deal secured by the PM in December, questioning whether it would be respected by other member states.

He told the parliament chamber he had written to all 27 other member states asking them about the text, and that of 20 who replied 15 of them said they had never even heard of it.

But Green MP Rik Grashoff said MPs should vote through the Ukraine deal despite admitting the choice was a “dilemma” given the result of last year’s referendum.

He argued that the reasons for strengthening ties with Kiev had only grown stronger since that vote in light of the expansionist and “intimidating” path pursued by Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

The pact is also being backed by the pro-EU Labour Party, which is polling at just 11 per cent and faces near oblivion when the country holds its general election next month.

Labour MP Marit Maij insisted: “This legally binding declaration clearly addresses the objections No voters had.”

But despite everything Mr Rutte refused to guarantee to opposition MPs that the Netherlands would use its veto to stop Ukraine joining the bloc in the near future, which was the biggest concern of all.

He would only say that an “overwhelming majority of member states is against” such a move, telling them he would not waste his breath making promises about something which would not happen.

The Netherlands is set to hold its next general election on March 15 with the anti-EU and anti-Islam politician Mr Wilder’s party currently leading the polls on 28 per cent of the vote.

(JE) Holanda manda ‘recado’ aos socialistas europeus

(JE) O Partido Trabalhista do vice-primeiro-ministro Lodewijk Asscher pode vir a ter um dos piores resultados de sempre, depois da coligação com os liberais de Mark Rutte.


Numa altura em que se aproximam as eleições gerais na Holanda, a 15 de Março, as sondagens indicam diversas coisas – para além do facto já conhecido da liderança que Geert Wildres, o líder da extrema-direita continua a manter. Uma delas é o colapso por que está a passar o Partido Trabalhista de Lodewijk Asscher: está neste momento no sétimo lugar das sondagens.

Para alguns analistas europeus, a posição dos trabalhistas holandeses é um ‘recado’ para os partidos socialistas de cariz social-democrata que populam um pouco por todos os países da União Europeia.

A história é simples: Asscher decidiu aceitar uma grande coligação ao centro com o partido de centro-direita do ainda primeiro-ministro Mark Rutte, tendo mesmo assumido o cargo de vice-primeiro-ministro. A coligação teve uma política de abertura às iniciativas mais liberais, tanto no que diz respeito às leis do trabalho e da segurança social, como no que se refere às liberdades culturais, tão caras ao povo de Amesterdão. Resultado: a erosão do partido de Rutte apanhou ‘por tabela’ os trabalhistas de Asscher. Ou por outras palavras, e ainda segundo alguns analistas, a ilusão do poder por uma legislatura pode colocar em causa a própria sobrevivência dos socialistas holandeses.

É que, enquanto os eleitores de direita do bloco central que aparentemente se prepara para deixar o poder derivou para a extrema-direita de Wilders, os eleitores do outro lado passaram de armas e bagagens para os partidos da esquerda radical – que, segundo as sondagens, podem chegar a percentagens interessantes.

Não é a primeira vez que a deriva pró-liberal dos socialistas europeus corre mal: uma das causas do crescimento do Podemos espanhol e do Siryza grego reside exactamente na falta de resposta dos partidos socialistas tradicionais ao seu eleitorado de sempre – e a aceitação de medidas draconianas vindas de fora quando a crise chega ao seu ponto mais baixo.

Pelos vistos, a história vai repetir-se na Holanda – uma vez mais para espanto dos partidos socialistas tradicionais – aqueles que nos idos de 70 e 80 do século passado acharam uma boa ideia meter o socialismo na gaveta, mantendo apenas o nome.

(BBG) Dutch Speed Trader Hasn’t Lost Money in ETF Market Since 2014

(BBG) High-speed trading firm Flow Traders NV has racked up 31 months without a single day of losses, the Dutch specialist in exchange-traded funds said Wednesday.

Flow Traders made a profit every trading day last year as the company increased the value of its trades in both Europe and the U.S. by more than 10 percent. Although Amsterdam-based Flow reported a 6 percent rise in value traded globally, it still reported a 28 percent decline in full-year net profit, according to a statement.

The company’s shares rallied 3 percent in Amsterdam trading.

Net trading income from the European ETF market, where Flow is the biggest trader, dropped 14 percent in 2016 to 158 million euros ($167 million). Income from the U.S. market jumped 32 percent to 68 million euros as Flow started building a presence in the off-exchange ETF market, where the biggest deals take place.

Asian income slid 65 percent as Flow continued to struggle with a market where trading is concentrated in a handful of the biggest funds. Flow specializes in thinly traded or difficult-to-price ETFs, which potentially offer the greatest margins.

“Throughout 2016 our trading infrastructure operated as expected and the trading team showed great discipline during events like Brexit and the U.S. elections,” said Flow’s co-Chief Executive Officer Sjoerd Rietberg. “Our institutional trading teams increased the number of counterparties and reinforced our dominant position in the over-the-counter market via request-for-quote trading. All these changes brought Flow Traders up to the next level, as demonstrated by our growing market share while maintaining our desired risk profile.”

(Carta Maior) Holanda: um cínico paraíso fiscal

(Carta Maior) O mesmo ministro holandês que pressionou Espanha e Grécia para adotarem as medidas de austeridade tem transformado a Holanda num grande paraíso fiscal.

Dijsselbloem (foto: Wikimedia Commons)

Qualquer leitor que tenha seguido de perto as notícias sobre a Grécia recordará que uma figura crucial da imposição das políticas de austeridade ao povo grego, as que tiveram um impacto devastador para aquele país, foi o Presidente do Eurogrupo, o ministro da Fazenda da Holanda, o Sr. Jeroen Dijsselbloem, que liderou o ataque (e não há outra forma de descrever o que ele fez) contra a Grécia, forçando o país a aplicar as receitas neoliberais, que causaram dano, não só às classes populares gregas, mas às de todos os países – incluindo a Espanha – cujos governos adotaram as mesmas receitas.

Tal personagem foi especialmente duro nas exigências fiscais, acusando o governo do Syriza de não fazer o trabalho que tinha que fazer, ou seja, recolher fundos públicos para pagar as dívidas herdadas do governo conservador liberal anterior. E este mesmo senhor vem pressionando o governo espanhol, com extrema insistência, para que faça mais cortes e ajustes do gasto público, aplicando as mesmas políticas públicas que causaram efeitos danosos ao povo grego, liderando o setor mais duro do Eurogrupo, conformado pelos ministros de Economia e Finanças dos países da Zona Euro, que ele preside. Depois da Grécia, Dijsselbloem escolheu a Espanha como seu alvo principal exigindo cortes de nada menos que de 9 bilhões de euros, que desmantelariam ainda mais o já bastante subfinanciado Estado de bem-estar espanhol.

A Espanha é um dos países com mais baixo gasto público social por habitante entre os quinze mais importantes países da União Europeia, em saúde, em educação, em pré-escolas, em serviços domiciliários, em moradia social, em serviços sociais e um longo etc. Mas tal personagem colocou como prioridade um trabalho para que esse gasto seja ainda menor – segundo ele, o deficit público da Espanha é hoje o maior problema o país tem, ponto de vista que, por certo, é amplamente sustentado pela maioria dos economistas neoliberais, os quais possuem grande projeção midiática nos meios de informação e persuasão espanhóis (incluindo os catalães).

Quem é este personagem, o Sr. Dijsselbloem?

O que não se sabe – porque não se publica em nenhum dos maiores meios de informação – é quem realmente é este senhor. Esse personagem jogou um papel crucial no trabalho de transformar a Holanda num paraíso fiscal onde as maiores empresas europeias (incluindo algumas espanholas) e norte-americanas evitam pagar seus impostos nos países onde se realiza a produção, a distribuição ou o consumo dos seus produtos. A política impositiva desse país está desenhada para atrair as companhias multinacionais, que estabelecem suas sedes na Holanda. As vantagens fiscais e subsídios públicos, assim como seu tratamento favorável às rendas do capital, são bem conhecidas no mundo financeiro e empresarial.

Isso explica que existam muitas companhias que estabelecem sua sede na Holanda (desde a mineira canadense Gold Eldorado à estadunidense Starbucks, a lista é enorme). Na verdade, algumas dessas companhias possuem na Holanda somente um endereço postal, sem sequer um edifício de referência, como é o caso dos grupos musicais Rolling Stones e U2, do Sr. Bono Vox, que se fez famoso e rico supostamente defendendo os pobres do mundo. Muitos desses benefícios fiscais e subsídios, assim como as transações financeiras, não têm transparência, e até mesmo os membros do Parlamento holandês não têm acesso a essa informação.

É surpreendente como a Holanda, porém, não aparece na lista de paraísos fiscais. E isso se deve à ativa mobilização da coalizão governante na Holanda, formada pelo partido social democrata, ao qual pertence o ministro da Fazenda, o Sr. Dijsselbloem, dirigindo a política econômica e financeira do país, e pelo partido radical de direta, os quais aprovaram juntos uma lei no ano de 2013, que indica que a Holanda não é um paraíso fiscal, por mais que se pareça.

Assim, o governo holandês praticamente proibiu o uso de tal termo, o que não foi um obstáculo para que o esse mesmo governo apoiasse a realização de seminários para empresários estrangeiros (realizados em países estrangeiros, a Ucrânia foi o último deles) para ensinar a eles como evitar pagar impostos na Holanda.

Como bem indica o estudioso economista David Hollanders, a Holanda é um exemplo clássico e ilustrativo sobre o que é um paraíso fiscal. Ele aponta, em um de seus estudos, que há 12 mil empresas (que fazem circular um total de 4 bilhões de euros) que possuem uma sede postal na Holanda, que incluem 80% das cem maiores empresas do mundo e 48% das maiores companhias que aparecem na revista Fortune.

Entre tais empresas com sedes holandesas, estão empresas portuguesas, espanholas (como a empresa que se beneficiou da privatização da empresa pública Aigües Ter Llobregat, realizada pelo governo da Catalunha), gregas e outras, o que significa que Grécia, Espanha, Portugal e outros países deixam de arrecadar impostos (milhões e milhões de euros) e que os cofres desses Estados perdem dinheiro devido às políticas aprovadas pelo governo holandês, políticas essas que tiveram como um dos principais responsáveis justamente o Sr. Dijsselbloem, o mesmo personagem que acusa a Grécia e a Espanha de apresentarem excessivos déficits públicos, os quais talvez não existiriam se as grandes empresas pagassem os impostos que deveriam pagar se não tivessem suas sedes fora do país, em países como a Holanda. Portanto, este senhor foi um dos que favoreceu essa situação, a qual ele agora condena.

Se sabe que o Sr. Jean-Claude Juncker, hoje Presidente da Comissão Europeia, é outro personagem que fez o mesmo quando foi presidente e ministro da Fazenda de Luxemburgo, outro paraíso fiscal onde um grande número de empresas internacionais, incluindo espanholas, possuem sua sede. O Sr. Jean-Claude Juncker também é dos usa todos os meios para pressionar em favor da aplicação de políticas de austeridade na Grécia e na Espanha. Mas não se sabia tanto desta outra figura, o Sr. Dijsselbloem. O cinismo e a indecência – para não dizer falta de ética – de ambos os sujeitos alcançam níveis sem precedentes. E esta é a Europa a qual querem nós pertençamos.

* Catedrático de Economia Aplicada na Universidade de Barcelona. Professor de Ciências Políticas e Sociais na Universidade Pompeu Fabra de Barcelona e professor de Políticas Públicas na The Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore, EUA).

(EUobserver) Dutch MPs reject request to probe euro introduction

(EUobserver) MPs representing a majority in the Lower House of the Dutch parliament rejected (1 February) a citizens’ request on Wednesday to investigate why the Netherlands decided to join the euro.

They all complimented the people behind the citizens’ initiative, whose 45,000 signatures forced the parliament to debate the idea.

But MPs from the ruling centre-right Liberals and centre-left Labour party, and those from two pro-European opposition parties, opposed the suggestion to interrogate former prime ministers Wim Kok and Ruud Lubbers, and former finance minister Gerrit Zalm on why they decided to join the monetary union.

The citizens behind the request said they feared the risks of the euro’s introduction were hidden from the public.

While the outcome was no huge surprise, the debate showcased the different attitudes in parliament towards European integration, exactly six weeks before the Dutch go to the polls to elect a new Lower House.

Labour MP Henk Nijboer said the decision to adopt the euro “was taken democratically” and with plenty of public debate.

He said that the negative risks – like very diverse economies being tied to each other without the option to devaluate their currencies – had been considered.

His colleague Wouter Koolmees, of the strongly pro-EU D66 centrist party, said an inquiry would be a “waste of time”.

He also noted that the two representatives of the citizens’ initiative have in the meantime set up a political party and will try to get elected as MPs this March.

Their party, the Forum for Democracy, is opposed to Dutch membership of the EU and the eurozone.

“They have already reached their conclusion,” said Koolmees. “The parliament should not be abused for a political show.”

Forum for Democracy’s frontman, Thierry Baudet, spoke to EUobserver ahead of the debate.

“In the 1990s, when the European currency was introduced, there was never a debate about the extreme costs that would be associated with it,” said Baudet.

“We are missing out on economic growth, we have lost our democratic control. That is a huge drama. If they [the Dutch political leaders at the time] knew this would happen, then they lied to us,” he added.

Baudet, who defended the idea in parliament on Wednesday, conceded to this website that the citizens’ initiative was partly a desire to know the truth and partly a publicity vehicle for his party during the election campaign.

“It’s both. Look, I will not deny that it will have an affect on our campaign. If we could convince more people of our political position by finding the truth, then that just means our political position is in line with the truth.”

During the debate, he received support from several opposition MPs who are sceptical of the European Union.

Tony van Dijck, of the far-right Party for Freedom, said the euro “never should have been adopted”.

Carola Schouten, of the socially conservative ChristianUnion, said the euro caused a “discord” between northern and southern European countries.

“The experiment with the euro has failed,” said the leader of the ecological Party for Animals Marianne Thieme.

Finance minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, a member of the Labour party and also head of the Eurogroup, also spoke.

He said that it was unfair to blame the euro for the past years’ of economic and financial crisis.

He also noted that before the euro, the separate currencies of European countries were often victim of speculators trying to play them against each other. “Our memory is short,” he said.

(BBG) Dutch Regulator Accidentally Posts Soros’s Short Positions


George Soros

Some of hedge fund billionaire George Soros’s short positions dating back to 2012 were published on the Dutch financial market regulator’s website this week due to “human error,” according to the regulator AFM.

The short positions, bets on a stock declining, were “between 0.2 percent and 0.5 percent,” of shares outstanding in the companies shorted, AFM spokesman Ward Snijders said by phone on Thursday. The Dutch regulator publishes shorts of 0.5 percent or higher on its website on a daily basis. The smaller amounts were posted by mistake, he said.

The Financial Times earlier reported that some of the positions, including bets against Dutch banks, including ING Groep NV, appeared briefly on the website on Tuesday evening. ING declined to comment on Thursday.

Soros, whose fortune is estimated at $25.2 billion by the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, is in the same league as Warren Buffett when it comes to investors copying their trades as they try to ride the coattails of the super successful. Short positions, which are typically closely guarded, in Deutsche Bank AG jumped when it was revealed in June that Soros had bet that the stock would fall after the U.K. voted to leave the European Union. The German bank fell 14 percent on the first day after the ballot.

Trump Loss

The Dutch regulator’s spokesman couldn’t disclose whether there has been contact with Soros following Tuesday’s error. A spokesman for Soros didn’t respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

The 86-year-old investor lost about $1 billion by betting against the market after the election of U.S. President Donald Trump, according to the Wall Street Journal this month. The hiring of a chief investment officer may reduce Soros’s role, the paper reported.

Soros has managed as much as $30 billion as founder and chairman at New York-based Soros Fund Management LLC. Currency bets on the pound in 1992, the Thai baht five years later and the yen in 2012-13 helped Soros attain a fortune ranked 26th globally by Bloomberg. He’s donated $8 billion to charities since founding the pro-democracy Open Society Foundations in 1979.

Regulators have pushed for more transparency around short positions. The European Union imposed rules in 2012 on short bets against some securities in the political bloc to reduce the risk of destabilizing sovereign-debt markets. The U.K.’s Financial Services Authority introduced a regulation in June 2008 requiring disclosure of short positions of more than 0.25 percent for companies that are selling new shares in rights offerings.

(Economist) Why Amsterdam’s coffeeshops are closing


ON DECEMBER 31st the world’s oldest coffeeshop, Mellow Yellow, in Amsterdam, was forced to roll down its bright yellow shutters one last time. Over the past half-century, many a foreigner has smoked their first spliff at this cosy cafe, which sat perfectly on the route between two tourist favourites, the Heineken Brewery and Rembrandt Square. Mellow Yellow is the latest in a string of Amsterdam coffeeshop closures, a development that is worrying health workers, law enforcement officials and potheads equally because it may push drugs back onto the street. The number of coffeeshops in the Dutch capital has fallen by half since 1995, from 350 to just 167. Why are so many Amsterdam coffeeshops closing?

To most outsiders, the Netherlands is synonymous with liberal, legalised vice, with Amsterdam the main port of call. Roughly one in four tourists to Amsterdam intends to visit a coffeeshop, according to the city’s tourism bureau (in 2016 Amsterdam received 17m tourists, up from 12m in 2012). Holland’s soft drug policy has always been one of “tolerating” rather than legalising. As Vincent explains in “Pulp Fiction”, “It’s legal to buy it, it’s legal to own it and if you’re the proprietor of a hash bar, it’s legal to sell it.” Central to making this construction work is a system of small, tightly regulated coffeeshops, where people can legally buy and smoke cannabis—and which the authorities can keep an eye on. Few officials in liberal Amsterdam want to get rid of coffeeshops altogether; they are thought to help keep soft drugs out of the criminal circuit. But in more conservative parts of the country, including the political capital, The Hague, resistance to the policy of looking the other way has grown.

Dutch governments have been clamping down on coffeeshops by banning those in border cities from serving tourists, and forcing the closure of establishments near schools. A hairdressing school 230 meters down the road was the proximate cause for Mellow Yellow blazing out; a new rule states that they must be at least 250 meters apart. City officials openly question the effectiveness of this policy, but claim it placates The Hague and that it is the “lesser of two evils” (in that at least they can still serve tourists). Given the density with which Amsterdammers live on top of each other, nearly 20 coffeeshops have had to close due to the proximity rule. Another 30 were stubbed out as part of an effort to clean up the seediest parts of the red light district a few years ago. Around 150 prostitute windows were closed as part of the same scheme. But the largest chunk of coffeeshops went out of business either because they ran into trouble with law enforcement (there have been several shootings recently) or because they couldn’t hack it financially. A “no growth” policy means coffeeshops are petering because no licenses are being handed out for new ones to replace those that have closed.

Amsterdam’s remaining coffeeshops must therefore deal with the high demand. It is a mixed blessing. Some of the busiest ones have shifted from cosy cafes to take-away counters. This makes it much harder to keep an eye on users. Staff members often no longer have time to offer friendly advice, says Floor van Bakkum of Jellinek, an addiction help centre. A second worry is that street dealers might rush in to fill the gap left by coffeeshops. A report by the Bonger Instituut, a criminology think-tank named after a professor at the University of Amsterdam, is blunt: it blames both the growth in tourism and the closures of coffeeshops in the city centre for the increase in street dealers. Other types of crime could also rise. Coffeeshops are only allowed to hold 500 grams of the green stuff at any one time; some now need to re-stock several times a day to keep up with demand. This makes their couriers more vulnerable to robberies. It could also push proprietors to turn to criminals for their increased supply needs. Back in the old days they could count on a few friends with plants on their balconies. But as fewer coffeeshops are expected to cater to ever larger groups of stoners, that approach could leave them out of joint.

(EurActiv) Dutch populist leader rises in polls after conviction


The party of populist anti-Islam Dutch MP Geert Wilders has risen strongly in the polls since the lawmaker was tried and convicted of discrimination, according to a survey published Sunday (11 December).

If legislative elections due next March were held this week, Wilders’ Freedom Party (PVV) would pick up 36 out of 150 seats in the lower house of parliament, making it the biggest single political group, it found.

Before the trial began on 31 October, the PVV was credited with 27 seats.

During the trial, but before his conviction on Friday (9 December), its estimated share rose to 34 seats. It currently has 12 lawmakers.

It found that Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s Liberals would place second with 23 seats, against 40 today, and his junior coalition partners, the Labour Party (PvdA), would gain 10 seats, compared with 35 today.The new poll data comes from a weekly monitoring by the Maurice de Hond Institute.

Wilders was found guilty of discrimination against Moroccans but acquitted of hate speech over remarks he made at an election rally in March 2014.

He had asked supporters whether they wanted “fewer or more Moroccans in your city and in the Netherlands.” When the crowd shouted back “Fewer! Fewer!” a smiling Wilders answered: “We’re going to organise that.”

Wilders, 53, largely boycotted the trial, which he denounced as a political attempt to gag him.

The outcome of the Dutch vote will be keenly watched given the anti-EU outcome of Britain’s Brexit referendum and the November election of populist Donald Trump as the next US president.The judges were strongly critical of Wilders’ “inflammatory” remarks at the rally but decided not to impose any sentence or fine.

Wilders has among other things vowed to confiscate Korans, close mosques and Islamic schools, shut the borders and ban migrants from Islamic countries.

(PJ) Geert Wilders on Track to Become Next Prime Minister of the Netherlands

(PJ) Geert Wilders, chairman of the Party for Freedom (PVV), has been celebrating on Twitter today. The reason? His party is now the biggest party in the Dutch polls. With elections coming up in March 2017, the populist politician seems to be on track to become the Netherlands’ next prime minister.

According to the latest poll of Maurice de Hond, the Netherlands’ most famous pollster, the PVV would become the biggest party in parliament if elections were held today (link in Dutch): they’d get 33 seats in the 150-seat lower chamber.

The PVV is the Netherlands’ one and only populist party. It’s more or less “conservative,” although certainly not conservative on issues such as health care. Wilders is especially well-known for his criticism of Islam and Europe’s open-borders policy, which he routinely — and accurately — describes as suicidal. His main goal is to end “the Islamization” of Europe generally and of the Netherlands specifically.

Additionally, Wilders and his party are the most Eurosceptic of all the parties currently in parliament. He is the Netherlands’ very own Nigel Farage, which he once again proved earlier this year when he and his allies won the Dutch referendum on the EU’s upcoming treaty with Ukraine. Wilders campaigned hard against the deal, arguing that it would eventually lead to the poor (and not entirely democratic) Eastern European country joining the European Union. Although proponents of the treaty said that would not be the case, the Dutch voter wasn’t convinced. Wilders and the “no” campaign won.

(EurActiv) Dutch PM says he’s ‘totally against referendums’

(EurActiv) Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte today (13 June) admitted a referendum called by eurosceptic groups on whether to back closer ties between Ukraine and the EU had been “disastrous” after voters soundly rejected the pact.

“I’m totally against referenda, and I’m totally, totally, totally against referenda on multilateral agreements, because it makes no sense as we have seen with the Dutch referendum,” Rutte told a conference of European MPs.

“The referendum led to disastrous results,” he added.

His comments were his toughest since the 6 April Dutch referendum, which had been closely watched by eurosceptic groups in Britain, who hailed the results as a blow to EU unity.

Although the Dutch referendum only scraped past the 30% voter turnout to be valid, over 60% of those who cast ballots rejected the EU-Ukraine cooperation accord.

The Netherlands, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, is the only country in the 28-nation bloc which has still not ratified the deal.

Even though April’s vote is non-binding Rutte’s coalition government is now left with a dilemma of how to proceed.

Although Rutte did not mention the June 23 referendum when British voters will choose whether to leave the EU, Britain’s eurosceptic parties have seized upon the Dutch results as supporting their own campaign to leave the European Union.

The Dutch government has not yet spelt out what it intends to do following the referendum, promising only to respond before the summer’s parliamentary recess.

Rutte has been a strong advocate for Britain to stay within the EU, and warned in an interview with the BBC earlier this month that any vote to leave “would be very bad news” for Britain, the Netherlands and the EU.

Calling a referendum in the Netherlands is easy, as only 300,000 signatures are needed to trigger the process, under a new law adopted last year. Stakes are high that in case of Brexit populists will start gathering signatures for a NL-exit referendum.


+++ (FT) Wolfgang Munchau: Why the EU must act on the No vote in the Dutch referendum

(FT) It is hard to get a positive answer these days when you ask people a question about the EU, no matter what the question is.

The Dutch referendum last week was about the ratification of the
EU-Ukraine association agreement. The vote was 61 per cent against, albeit on a low turnout. But this was not really about Ukraine. Those who voted Nee— and I suspect most of those who voted Ja, too — could not care less about that country. This was an ill-defined message of insurrection against the Establishment, whoever that may be.

The EU is used to referendums. In Ireland and Denmark, when the answer was No, governments tended to call a second referendum after symbolic dealmaking in Brussels back rooms. French and Dutch No votes in 2005 on the constitutional treaty were essentially ignored; the document resurfaced two years later as the Treaty of Lisbon.

I hope the Dutch government takes a different tack and notifies the European Council that the agreement should lapse. Personally, I am strongly in favour of the agreement as it binds Ukraine closer to the EU and keeps Russia at bay. But to ratify it despite a democratic vote against in one of the EU’s founding member states is asking for trouble.

In particular, it would allow the Eurosceptics in the UK to make the justifiable claim that the EU has no respect for democratic decisions. The Remain campaign has already been weakened by the admission last week of Prime Minister David Cameron that he benefited from a fund set up in Panama by his father because it has damaged the credibility of the previously most credible of all Remain proponents in British politics.

The Dutch referendum raises important questions about the workings of the EU. The reforms Mr Cameron secured in Brussels in February go in the wrong direction. They will fragment the EU and render decision-making harder. I would go as far to say that the upside of a British exit — from the perspective of the other member states — is that this wretched deal would be dead and buried, and never spoken about in polite company after the UK vote on June 23.

The Dutch referendum has shown us the reforms we really need to be talking about: how to make the EU more effective and less prone to blackmail by a Eurosceptic minority. This is not an argument about unanimity or qualified majorities but about how to deal with a minority of Eurosceptic member states.

The Netherlands should repeal its law on consultative referendums, which allows referendums on motions that se­cure at least 300,000 signatures. If not, there is a danger Dutch voters will ren­der the EU inoperative. If an outside power — say, Russia — wanted to undermine EU cohesion in a specific policy area, it would simply need to give financial support to Geert Wilders, leader of the populist Freedom party, which campaigned for a No vote. Moscow is accused of doing the same for disruptive parties in other European countries.

The solution to the Dutch problem — and that of the UK — would be a form of associate EU membership. This would allow centralised decision-making among core members; others would regain some independence from Brussels. Associated member states would be allowed to be detached from central policy areas — the euro, the Schengen free-travel zone, possibly aspects of the single market — while remaining members of the customs union.

Associate member status would obviate the need for binary In-Out type referendums such as the one in the UK. And it should be possible for associate members to switch back to full membership if political preferences change.

This might prove attractive to several northern member states with Eurosceptic electorates. I am not sure whether the Remain camp in the UK would be happy with it but, in my view, it would be better than Britain having to quit the EU. Associate membership would be a place where Europe’s most lukewarm states could seek temporary shelter.lkrvbh

+++ V.V.I. (FT) Dutch campaign was encouraged by UK referendum on EU

(FT) The seeds of a Dutch campaign against an EU trade deal with Ukraine were sown when Britain set out its demands for an EU referendum, according to the man who orchestrated the deal’s opposition campaign.

“The idea was sparked by [David] Cameron’s referendum,” said Thierry Baudet, the slick-haired author who led campaign group Forum for Democracy in theoverwhelming vote against the Ukraine deal.

The British prime minister laid out the UK’s demands for a referendum on EU membership in January 2013, which triggered a furore in the Netherlands. “The point was: we want the same as Britain,” said the campaigner. “We want a renegotiation, and a referendum.”

They got their wish in 2015, when the Dutch parliament gave voters the power to demand an advisory referendum on new laws. The Ukraine deal was simply the first and most obvious EU deal to be challenged — and Dutch voters opposed it on Wednesday evening by a margin of nearly two to one.

For the first few months of the campaign, Forum for Democracy had a near free rein. “The media portrayed it as a joke,” said Mr Baudet. The vote was, after all, started by an anarchic website GeenStijl, which styles itself as “tendentious, unfounded and needlessly offensive”.

The main political parties — including the governing coalition — also did not take the campaign seriously, proving unwilling to become involved. Partly, this was an attempt to keep the turnout beneath the 30 per cent level required for the referendum to count. They also hoped to avoid any association with a potential defeat.

Many Dutch people played along with this plan and opted for “tactical non-voting” in a bid to scupper the referendum on a technicality. But this tactic was undermined in part by an intervention from Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission president, who said a no vote would trigger a “continental crisis”.

This resulted in a flurry of coverage for a referendum that parts of the Dutch establishment were trying to play down. “We never had more calls,” said one “against” campaign insider.

When the referendum debate neared, however, a proper campaign emerged. The debate was at times brutal, partly because of the simple yes/no nature of the vote, according to Michiel van Hulten, a former MEP who was running the “For” campaign.

Bile flew. Some accused the “against” campaign of allying themselves with Vladimir Putin, whom many in the Netherlands blame for the deaths of 298 people — 196 of them Dutch — in the MH17 disaster. Mr Baudet, however, is not among them, deeming the responsibility for the crash “a confusing subject”.

Meanwhile, the “against” campaign accused “for” supporters of aggravating the deteriorating situation in Ukraine — making things worse both for Europeans and Ukrainians.

“People in the Netherlands are not used to a black and white campaign,” said Mr Van Hulten. The near-inevitable prospect of having to form a coalition with opponents normally tempers the worst excesses of campaigning.

Tactical non-voters left the beleaguered “for” campaign fighting on two fronts, against both their opponents and apathy among their own side.

Despite this, the ploy almost worked. On the referendum night, Mr Baudet entered the campaign’s results party ashen faced: in some cities only 15 per cent had voted, with only a few hours of polling to go.

An initial exit poll showing turnout of 29 per cent — just short of the threshold — triggered groans. But the first complete exit poll at 9.30pm revealed a 32 per cent turnout — paving the way for a huge majority of 13 points for the “against” camp.

“This is the first,” said Mr Baudet. “We can have more.”alotyh

+++ V.V.I. (FT) Dutch vote knocks hopes for further EU enlargement to the east


A likeness of Russian President Vladimir Putin standing beside a map of Europe and Russia sits on a vote
© Bloomberg

When a Malaysia Airlines jet was shot down over eastern Ukraine in 2014 killing 196 Dutch citizens — almost certainly by a missile fired by Russian-backed separatists — the tragedy hardened views towards Moscow in the Netherlands and across Europe.

Yet less than two years on, Dutch voters on Wednesday rejected Kiev’s integration deal with the EU, which sparked the Ukrainian crisis, in a referendum that handed the Kremlin a valuable symbolic victory.

The vote was non-binding and turnout, at 32 per cent, was small. But it crossed the threshold required to make the vote valid — and put moral pressure on the Dutch government to take account of it.

That could be a gift to President Vladimir Putin in his geopolitical struggle to undermine the EU’s unity and reassert Russia’s influence over ex-Soviet republics. Moscow had put immense pressure on Kiev not to sign the deal, leading to Ukraine’s pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovich being toppled by street protests two years ago.

Mr Putin then fought to reverse or undermine the agreement after Ukraine’s new pro-western president, Petro Poroshenko, signed it in 2014.

Even if the trade deal with the EU that is the backbone of the Ukraine deal survives, the Dutch vote could complicate Kiev’s hopes of further integration with the EU, including a long hoped for visa-free travel deal.

Moscow could barely conceal its glee. Prime minister Dmitry Medvedev said the vote was an “indicator of Europeans’ attitude to the Ukrainian political system”. Alexei Pushkov, head of the Russian parliament’s foreign affairs committee, called it “self-defence by Europeans against a Ukraine that frightens them”.

The result also signalled that insularity, suspicion towards political leaderships and rejection of immigration are becoming powerful forces, even in countries such as the Netherlands, an EU founder member.

That could have implications for the workings of the bloc, and for its further enlargement to east and south-east Europe, especially the fragile states of the former Yugoslavia.

“If European decisions become increasingly subject of national referendums, the EU will ultimately be unable to act,” said Jo Leinen, a German Socialist MEP.

Marine Le Pen, France’s National Front leader, called the vote a “step further towards the Europe of nations”.

How much the Dutch rejection damages Ukraine’s integration hopes — potentially pushing the country back towards Russia’s orbit — will depend in part on how The Hague and the EU respond.

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte stopped short of promising to follow fully the result but said he would examine the vote over “weeks”.

While Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission president, had warned of a “continental crisis” if the vote went the wrong way, Brussels diplomats were searching on Thursday for a way to work around it.

One potential “minimalist” option could be to work on an EU political statement clarifying contentious parts of the agreement — making it clear, for instance, that it does not put Ukraine on a path to EU membership.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko gestures as he gives a joint press conference with the German Chancellor (not in picture) on March 16, 2015 at the Chancellery in Berlin. AFP PHOTO / ODD ANDERSENODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images
Petro Poroshenko: has not ruled out euro-integration © AFP

More difficult alternatives would be to recast the deal to acknowledge Dutch reservations. One senior EU diplomat said this could involve separating pure trade elements — decided at EU level — from political elements that require national ratification.

Mr Poroshenko called the referendum result “an attack on the spreading of European values”. But he insisted Ukraine would “not turn away from the euro-integration path”.

But Vadim Karasiov, a Kiev political analyst, said the result was a “shock for much of the political elite and citizens”. Despite the price Ukraine had paid for its pursuit of European integration — from Russia’s annexation of Crimea to thousands of deaths in the east Ukraine conflict — the referendum showed “many in Europe still don’t see Ukraine as a part of Europe”.

“A Eurosceptic mood could swell in Ukraine as well,” he said.

Many Ukrainians’ initial response, however, was to blame their own government for failing to make sufficient progress on tackling corruption and strengthening the rule of law to change European perceptions of the country.

Mr Poroshenko, a billionaire businessman, has been under pressure after revelations in the Panama Papers that he set up an offshore company to move his confectionery business to the British Virgin Islands. The president has denied wrongdoing.

Some Dutch papers this week carried front-page photos of Mr Poroshenko alongside Mr Putin, whose associates’ dealings were also exposed by the Panama leaks. In opinion polls, opponents of the deal cited Ukrainian corruption as a primary concern, ahead of worries over further EU expansion.

Mustafa Nayem, an instigator of Ukraine’s 2013 political protests and now a pro-reform MP, blamed Mr Poroshenko. “This is a verdict on a president who … for the past two years has systematically and persistently chosen the past over the future.”

Mr Poroshenko, he said, had chosen to partner with Ukraine’s “elites and oligarchs, not civil society and the next generation”.asdnhui

+++ V.I. (FT) Editorial: A Dutch embarrassment for Europe and Ukraine

(FT) Putin would applaud the loudest if referendum hurt EU ties with Kiev.

GeenPeil frontman Jan Roos, initiator of the Dutch referendum on the EU's treaty of association with Ukraine, follows the outcome of the referendum in Amsterdam on April 6, 2016. Dutch voters rejected a key EU-Kiev pact in a referendum seen as a barometer of anti-EU feeling, but it was not immediately clear if enough people had taken part for the ballot to be valid, exit polls showed. / AFP PHOTO / ANP / Remko de Waal / Netherlands OUTREMKO DE WAAL/AFP/Getty Images
Jan Roos, initiator of the Dutch referendum on the EU’s treaty of association with Ukraine © AFP

In 1972, 44 years before this week’s Dutch vote on a EU-Ukraine association agreement, France held a referendum on whether to let Britain, Denmark and Ireland join the European Economic Community, the EU’s forerunner. If French voters had said “No” to what became the EEC’s first expansion beyond its six-member founding club, Europe’s history might have turned out very differently. In the event, the French voted in favour by 68 to 32 per cent on a 60 per cent turnout.

Contemporary commentators viewed the margin of victory and turnout, which was low for that era, as a less-than-ringing endorsement of EEC enlargement. Measured by the standards of 1972, however, Wednesday’s Dutch referendum was a far less satisfactory consultation of the popular will. Some 61 per cent of voters rejected the EU-Ukraine accord, but the 32 per cent turnout was so low that the referendum was almost invalid.

Vast numbers of the 12.5m eligible Dutch voters either did not know the referendum was happening, or did not understand what it was about, or did not care enough about it to vote. A segment of the electorate abstained in a deliberate attempt to invalidate it. The outcome bears a less convincing stamp of democratic legitimacy than the 2005 referendum in which Dutch voters, on a 63 per cent turnout, rejected a draft EU constitutional treaty.

The referendum will nonetheless have consequences for European politics. The fact that it happened at all underscores that anti-EU movements are eager to exploit the doubts of many European citizens about the quality of democracy and accountability in the EU. More attempts to embarrass Europe’s political establishments and weaken the EU are to be expected, starting with Britain’s referendum on staying in or leaving the bloc.

Pro-EU Ukrainians, meanwhile, will take the Dutch result as a slap in the face. Scores of their compatriots, wrapped in the EU flag, sacrificed their lives in the 2013-14 Maidan revolution that toppled Viktor Yanukovich, the corrupt Moscow-backed president. Critics of Petro Poroshenko, his successor, and other post-Maidan politicians will contend that the Dutch suspicion of closer ties reflects broader EU concerns about persistent corruption and oligarchy in Ukraine since 2014.

Europe’s rightwing populist movements, such as France’s National Front, the Dutch Freedom party and Britain’s UK Independence party, are portraying the result as a popular revolt against the EU and, in particular, its future enlargement into eastern Europe. This is deceitful insofar as Ukraine is not a candidate for EU membership, a point the Dutch government should have made more explicitly to voters in the campaign.

European governments justifiably want to help Ukraine by expanding trade and encouraging it to adopt EU standards in public procurement and company law. If the Dutch result caused the EU to retreat from these features of the association accord, it would damage the bloc’s reputation as a reliable partner. No one would applaud louder than Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president. Hostility to the EU is the common ground on which Mr Putin and Nigel Farage, Ukip’s leader, stand. British voters should keep this in mind when they vote on June 23.

Thankfully, the Dutch result need not derail the EU-Ukraine association accord. Its trade arrangements came into provisional force on January 1. They cannot be suspended without the unanimous agreement of all 28 EU nations. Even if the Dutch government decides not to ratify the accord, the EU’s efforts at forging closer ties with Kiev can and should survive.sjuiom

+++ V.V.I. (FT) Dutch reject EU-Ukraine trade deal

(FT) Dutch voters opposed a trade deal between the EU and Ukraine by a margin of nearly two-to-one, throwing Europe’s united stance against Kremlin meddling in Ukraine into question and boosting those in the UK campaigning for Britain to leave the bloc.

Turnout just breached the 30 per cent level required to force the hand of a government that had agreed to abide by the result if the threshold were passed.

Although Dutch Eurosceptics used the referendum as a test case for rising anti-EU sentiment in the country, the vote could have wider-ranging implications for Ukraine’s future.

The EU pact, which is both a European integration treaty as well as a free-trade agreement, sparked demonstrations in Kiev two years ago that led to the overthrow of President Viktor Yanukovich when he bowed to Kremlin pressure and refused to sign it.

The revolution in Kiev prompted Russia to annex Crimea and Russian-backed separatists to launch a bloody civil war in Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region. Kiev’s new pro-western leadership later went on to sign the EU deal.

Ukraine’s president, Petro Poroshenko, condemned the vote, calling it “an attack on the spreading of European values,” and vowed to continue working towards integration with the EU.

“I declare that we will not turn away from the Euro-integration path,” Mr Poroshenko said on Thursday.

In a statement, Mariana Betsa, a spokesperson for Ukraine’s foreign ministry, said that while her country “takes into consideration” the results of what she noted was a non-binding referendum, Kiev hoped the Dutch government would make a “decision meeting the interests of Ukraine, the Netherlands and Europe.”

Mark Rutte, the Dutch prime minister, who had offered cautious and last-minute support for the treaty, conceded that the Netherlands would not be able to automatically ratify the Ukraine deal, potentially paving the way for months of tortuous negotiations with Brussels over a new pact. Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, has long demanded a reopening of treaty negotiations to halt Kiev’s drift into the EU’s sphere of influence.

In total, 61 per cent of Dutch voters opposed the deal, while just 38 per cent supported it.

Voter turnout was always expected to be low but miserable weather across the country — with rain, strong winds and unseasonably cold weather — depressed it further. Many voters engaged in “tactical non-voting” in a bid to push the referendum under the 30 per cent threshold. They failed, however, withturnout reaching 32.2 per cent.

The potential implications of the Dutch vote on Britain’s EU referendum have been closely watched. For those campaigning for Britain to remain in the EU, it will provide a sharp lesson in the necessity of making sure supporters turn up on polling day.

But campaigners for Brexit will take succour from the outcome of the referendum, which had spread from a specific focus on a 2,135-page trade deal with the Ukraine, into a far wider debate that touched on the Netherlands’ relationship with both Brussels and Moscow.

The results of the vote cam as a shock for Ukrainians. Two years ago many demonstrators in Kiev carried EU flags. The scores of protesters who were killed demonstrating in Kiev during the final stages of the revolution are widely seen in Ukraine as having died for “European values.”

The vote came about after a group of journalists at an anarchic website called GeenStijl, which styles itself as “tendentious, unfounded and needlessly offensive”, launched an attempt to secure the 300,000 signatures needed to call a referendum on the deal last summer.

Initially the Dutch government ignored the prospective referendum, partly in the hope that this would stop it from reaching the 30 per cent threshold but also to disassociate itself from any defeat.

In the final weeks of the campaign, however, senior ministers, including Mr Rutte, offered vocal support for the deal.

Additional reporting by Roman Olearchyk in Kiev


+++ V.V.I. (BBG) Dutch Snub EU in Vote Hailed From ‘Brexit’ Camp and Le Pen

(BBG – click to see) Dutch voters rejected a treaty between the European Union and Ukraine by a resounding margin, in a referendum that exposed the extent of anti-EU sentiment in one of the bloc’s founding members.

British campaigners to leave the bloc hailed the news from the Netherlands, as did the leader of France’s anti-EU National Front, Marine Le Pen, and Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. About 61 percent voted against the so-called association agreement Wednesday and turnout was about 32 percent, clearing the 30 percent threshold needed to declare the vote valid.

The result put Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte under pressure as the growing swell of populist support will force his government to renegotiate the treaty, first at home and then at EU level. Rutte, whose cabinet campaigned for approval of the pact, said the Netherlands couldn’t ratify the treaty after the rejection, even though, technically, the referendum is not binding.

The Dutch ballot is the latest success for insurgents outside of power managing to directly influence the mechanics of government. The U.K. Independence Party managed to push Prime Minister David Cameron into calling a vote on leaving the EU for later this year, while in France, Le Pen has helped drive the country’s security agenda to the right. European citizens are showing their frustration with a bloc that has been beset by a refugee crisis, security challenges and economic stagnation.

‘Long-Term Implications’

“This vote has very profound long-term implications for Europe on so many different levels,” wrote Tim Ash, head of emerging-market credit strategy at Nomura International in London. “It just further shows how far Europe’s elites are detached from their populations. All too eager to embark on elite political projects, e.g. even including the single currency, without thinking through all the implications and popular opinion.”

Supporters of the referendum were also hindered by Sunday’s publication of leaks from a Panamanian law firm, which sparked global outrage about money hidden by the world’s elite. They mentioned loans to companies linked to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko that were backed by offshore deposits. In the Netherlands, opponents said the discovery was a reason to be wary of Ukraine.

‘Humiliating Rejection’

“The Dutch result is a stunning condemnation of the European Union’s willingness to extend its borders,” a spokesman for the British Leave.EU campaign group, Brian Monteith, said in an e-mailed statement. “This humiliating rejection of the Ukraine agreement demonstrates that people don’t have to support the EU and its expansionist agenda to feel European.”

Geert Wilders, the leader of the Dutch anti-EU, anti-Islam Freedom Party, hailed the result as “fantastic,” and Le Pen congratulated him on Twitter, saying it was another “step away” from the EU. Medvedev said the rejection was an “indication of Europeans’ attitude to the Ukrainian political system,” in a post on Twitter.

While all other members of the bloc have ratified the treaty, which facilitates EU trade and other links with Ukraine, the Dutch subjected it to a referendum as a result of a new law that allows citizens to challenge legislation provided they gather a requisite number of signatures. A group of local activists picked the association agreement, deciding it would serve as a perfect test case to try out the mechanism — especially as a rejection would demonstrate the growing strength of opposition within the Netherlands to the bloc.

The referendum law will be reviewed by the Dutch government, Interior Minister Ronald Plasterk said Thursday, according to national newswire ANP.

“The target is an attack against Europe’s unity,” Poroshenko said in a video-recorded comment from Japan. “I’m confident that strategically this event is not an obstacle on Ukraine’s EU-bound path.” He committed to implementing the treaty, saying it was the way forward for a modern and independent Ukraine.

+++ (FT) Brussels briefing: The Dutch question

(FT) The Netherlands votes today on the EU’s trade pact with Ukraine. Polls suggest the deal will be rejected. But what will it actually mean? For an answer to that, prepare to enter the topsy-turvy world of Dutch referendums.

Here are some of the contradictions to grapple with. The plebiscite is merely advisory. Most Dutch politicians support the Ukraine deal. Two-thirds of voters say they have no idea what was agreed with Kiev, according to I&O research. Even the referendum organisers were not particularly interested in the details. Yet, in spite of all that, this vote may have some real political consequences for the Netherlands and the EU.

The first muddle is over what it means for the Ukraine trade deal. The Dutch government has little choice but to act on a No vote, if there is a half-decent turnout (over 30 per cent). In other words the Ukraine agreement may never be ratified (it needs unanimity from EU states).

But – read this carefully – its provisional application may still survive (repealing it also needs unanimity). So the trade benefits temporarily enjoyed by Ukraine today could continue for some time. The question is how long the EU can live with the hypocrisy of a provisional deal that will never becomes permanent. That will require a political fudge of some sort. But Brussels is the place for such things.

Then there is the tangled question of what the vote is actually about. Some say it isRussia and Vladimir Putin. Other darkly mutter this is all a Russian plot to destabilise Ukraine and the EU (Russian diplomats joke that this was a Dutch gift they didn’t have to pay for). Voters on the other hand tell pollsters their worry is corruption in Kiev (not helped by revelations from the Panama Papers). To confuse matters further, some of the campaigning has involved gory posters of mistreated chickens.

If there is a No vote, though, the clear winners are eurosceptics. The result will be the latest in a miserable run of referendum defeats for pro-EU politicians. Denmark thumbed its nose at the option of more integration in December, the Dutch are now poised to blow a raspberry at a trade deal and the EU in general, and the British look close to abandoning the club in June. The implications of the Dutch vote should not be overstated: it is unlikely to hasten Brexit, or be a watershed for the EU. But as Judy Dempsey writes for Carnegie Europe, it is further proof that EU champions need to learn how to campaign and stop running scared of the ballot box.

The revelations about offshore activities roll on. Iceland’s premier Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson resigned on Tuesday, becoming the first casualty of the Panama Papers. David Cameron struggled to scotch questions over his late father’s role in tax avoidance and possible benefits enjoyed by his family at some point. Associates of the Marine Le Pen, the French far-right leader, wriggled under the spotlight. The new head of Fifa cameunder pressure too.

Regarding the policy response, Nicholas Shaxson argues in the FT that the big problem is “armies of offshore enablers looking for loopholes: accounting firms, offshore company formation agents and trust companies and banks”. The FT, the Wall Street Journal andLe Monde take a look at some of the banks under scrutiny, including HSBC, Société Générale and Credit Suisse.

One of the founders of the law firm Mossack Fonseca meanwhile dismissed the “witchhunt” against a legitimate offshore industry. “It’s like if you buy a car and sell it to a dealership and it sells it to a woman who kills someone — the factory isn’t responsible,” Ramón Fonseca told the FT. That must be an old Panamanian proverb.

The Pope, Lesbos, asylum reform

This should be interesting. The Pope is preparing a visit to the migrant hot-spot of Lesbos next week to see first-hand the plight of refugees. The timing of the Papal visit is less than ideal for EU authorities, who are under fire from the UN and aid agencies over a controversial deal to return asylum seekers to Turkey.

Around 200 migrants were returned to Turkey on Monday, but more than 300 landed on Greek islands on the same day. Returns are largely on hold for the moment because most of the around 6,000 migrants on Greek islands are seeking asylum. With EU countries only offering Greece just 22 of the 400 interpreters needed, they may have a long wait for their applications to be processed. Francois Hollande speaks to Bild Zeitung today, stressing that resettlement from Turkey is only possible if external borders are under control.

The European Commission, meanwhile, will unveil its option paper today to overhaul rules on who is responsible for asylum claims (the so-called Dublin system). The FT’s Duncan Robinson saw a leaked draft in early March and the basics are the same. Two main options are outlined. The first is to fundamentally reshape the bloc’s system and would result in all asylum seekers being shared out across the EU on a quota basis, regardless of where they first arrived (that’s what Greece and Italy want and eastern Europe will try to block). The other would build on the status quo, with asylum seekers shared out on a quota basis if a country is overwhelmed by a sudden influx (the French helped design this compromise route). The longer term plan is to centralise the handling of asylum claims. The politics around this is fraught, even in countries like the UK that are only marginally affected.

Nagorno Karabakh

A ceasefire was called on Tuesday between Armenia and Azerbaijan after days of fighting over the Nagorno-Karabakh region. It seems to be holding but there are doubts over how long. Thomas de Waal of Carnegie Europe describes it as the “most menacing”of all the conflicts that erupted with the break-up of the Soviet Union. There are international efforts to calm things down. But even Russia has for decades struggled to impose its will on this conflict, attempting a balancing act between providing security for Yerevan without fully alienating Baku. Throw some Russo-Turkish tensions into the mix(Ankara is a backer of Turkish-speaking Azerbaijan) and it is not hard to see how this could end badly.htybf