The Referendums in Denmark, the Netherlands and the UK in Light of Euroscepticism, Refugee Crisis and the Paris and Brussels Terror Attacks


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Referendums are supposed to ‘bring back’ political questions to the people. Many referendums have been held on questions concerning the European Union: enlargement, the treaties, the European constitution, the euro. A new ‘trilogy’ of referendums started with the Danish European Union opt-out referendum in December 2015. This referendum, which could have modified Denmark’s full opt-out on home and justice matters, took place at the height of the refugee crisis and not much more than two weeks after the Paris terror attacks. The Danes decided to stick to the opt-out.

The next referendum to come is the Dutch Ukraine–European Union Association Agreement referendum to be held on 6 April. The result of this referendum, instigated by Eurosceptic groups, could ─ even though it is non-binding ─ derail the foreign policy of the Dutch government, hamper EU-Ukraine relations and embarrass the Dutch presidency. Only two weeks after the Brussels attacks, with the refugee crisis still unsolved, the prospects for the ‘Yes Campaign’ to win are gloomy. Of course, the ‘big one’ is the ‘Brexit referendum’ on 23 June. It seems a long time ago that the European Union could celebrate a convincing success and with Farage using the recent terror attacks in Brussels as arguments for his Brexit campaign, times are tough for the ‘In Campaign’.

What is the relation between Euroscepticism, refugee crisis and the fear of terror attacks and how do they reflect in the recent and upcoming referendums and referendum campaigns? What lessons can be learned from the Danish and Dutch results with regard to the UK campaign? In the light of Euroscepticism, refugee crisis and the Paris and Brussels terror attacks is there still hope for a multi-cultural unified Europe?

Product details
Date of Publication
May 2016
Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung European Union
Number of Pages
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Language of publication