AMSTERDAM - "Hurrah for the British! Now it’s our turn. Time for a Dutch referendum!"
That was what Dutch far-right politician Geert Wilders tweeted after hearing the results of Thursday's Brexit referendum on European Union membership.
Wilders was not the only right-wing politician calling for a referendum in the hope of seeing more countries leave the EU. Wouter van der Brug, a political science professor at the University of Amsterdam, said the success of other rightist parties partly depends on the EU’s response to them.
The European Union "should be a bit more modest and accept the fact that many citizens now feel that European unifications have moved too far," he said. Officials in Brussels should "maybe push for more democratization of the EU and more options for democratic accountability and democratic representation in the EU, rather than pushing for further integration without public support.”
Eurosceptic parties are popular, not only in France and the Netherlands, but also in Austria, Denmark and Italy. Most critics of the EU have made immigration the main pillar of their political campaigns.
Özkan Gölpinar, an adviser to the Dutch government on cultural affairs and a member of the Dutch Council for Culture, is of Turkish descent. He said he felt that the rhetoric of the right-wing politicians such as Wilders was pushing immigrants who have settled in the Netherlands to leave.
"People who have been living here for 30, 40 years are pushed back toward the countries where their parents come from, or their grandparents came from," Gölpinar said. "Some people feel the need to make a choice. The thing that made the Dutch great was their openness, was their willingness to open up to other countries."
EU facilitates free movement
Gabriella Ader, a young Dutch-Italian media professional, said there are no work opportunities for her peers in Italy. She said she saw people blaming the European Union for the economic crisis, but she contended that Italy could not continue without its membership.
“Forty percent of the young people are unemployed in Italy," she said. "Because you have the economic crisis, a lot of young people really want to get out of Italy and try to find work in the other countries of the European Union. And since they’re part of the European Union, it’s easier for them to travel, to find a job, to earn money.”
Reaction in the Netherlands:
The Netherlands holds the presidency of the EU Council until July 1. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has indicated it is unlikely a similar vote on EU membership will be held in his country, where referendums are nonbinding.
Dutch voters rejected a referendum on the European Constitution in 2005.