Dutch MPs are set to vote through an EU-Ukraine deal rejected by 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 today 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.
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' party strongly opposed the agreement with Kiev
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.