The fact that Ukraine’s president Petro Poroshenko has been caught up in PanamaPapers scandal bodes ill for the result of the Dutch referendum on the EU-Ukraine association agreement, as well as for the just agreed US financial aid to Kiev, promised on condition of stable government and fight against corruption.
The freshly released PanamaPapers revealed Petro Poroshenko’s secret offshore deals. It thus appears that Poroshenko lied about his business assets and that a tax evasion scheme is involved.
When Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko ran for the top office in 2014, he promised voters he would sell Roshen, Ukraine’s largest candy business, so he could devote his full attention to running the country.
“If I get elected, I will wipe the slate clean and sell the Roshen concern. As President of Ukraine I plan and commit to focus exclusively on welfare of the nation,” Poroshenko told the German newspaper Bild less than two months before the election.
Instead, actions by his financial advisers and Poroshenko himself, who is worth an estimated US$ 858 million, make it appear that the candy magnate was more concerned about his own welfare than his country’s – going so far as to violate the law twice, misrepresent information and deprive his country of badly needed tax dollars during a time of war, as Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) writes.
Meanwhile, in a non-binding “advisory referendum” on Wednesday, the Dutch will vote for or against Dutch ratification of the deal with Ukraine.
While the Ukraine agreement is nominally the target, the referendum is seen by many as an opportunity to protest the EU’s expansion and what they consider its undemocratic decision-making processes.
“We, of course, couldn’t care less about Ukraine,” history professor Arjan van Dixhoorn, one of the leaders of the euro-skeptical Citizens’ Committee EU that pushed for the referendum, told the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad.
His organization really favors a referendum on whether the Dutch should leave the EU — just like the vote Britain is holding on June 23 — but there is no way to force such a referendum under Dutch law. The Netherlands is a founding member of the EU, but support has long been mixed in this country of 17 million, which in 2005 voted against the bloc’s proposed constitution.
The committee opposes the Dutch government ceding more decision-making power to EU officials in Brussels, calling it an “erosion of our sovereignty that we never approved.”
The Dutch result is valid only if Wednesday’s turnout is over 30 percent. If a majority votes against the deal, the government can pass a new law effectively withdrawing its ratification, or it can advise parliament to uphold the ratification.
EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker says the stakes are high, saying that a “No” vote “would open the door to a great continental crisis.”
In recent weeks, Ukrainian leaders have visited the Netherlands and Dutch lawmakers have flown to Kiev to swing the vote in favor of the association agreement. Poroshenko, while meeting with Dutch lawmakers, called it “a real road map for the internal transformation” of Ukraine.
Dutch supporters of the deal say it pushes Ukraine toward economic reforms and helps fight corruption, improve human rights and better protect minorities in the country.
The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry has accused Russia of feeding anti-Ukrainian sentiment ahead of Wednesday’s vote, a claim that Russian officials reject.