EU-Ukraine Association: why Dutch agreement is questionable

Author : Stas Sokolov

Source : 112 Ukraine

Ukrainian issue split the Dutch parliament after the referendum on the EU-Ukraine Association. Prime Minister Rutte is trying to find a compromise at home and in Brussels
13:01, 16 December 2016

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Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte faced a difficult situation. In three months the country would hold parliamentary elections, the polls are unfavorable to his People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD). According to opinion polls, its support falls, in first place comes political force of former VVD member, leader of the right Party for Freedom (PVV) of Geert Wilders. This Euroskeptics are against the ratification of the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the EU.

Thursday, December 15, the head of the Dutch government will present at the EU summit in Brussels offers kingdom on the Association Agreement Ukraine and the EU. Initially the Netherlands have ratified the agreement, but in April 2016 held a referendum on this issue. Over 32 percent turnout in six of the ten voters said the deal "no." Despite consultative status of the voting, the government had to respond to the position of the citizens.

Related: EU ready to continue work with Rutte to find good solution to ratify Ukraine AA

The Dutch are afraid that Ukraine will join the EU or would pretend for funds from the European budget. At least this is how the party of Rutte sees voter’s moods explained in an interview with DW deputy of the lower house of parliament Han ten Broeke. "In addition, people are afraid that the EU-Ukraine would EU a member of the armed conflict in Donbas," said the deputy. In response to these concerns, the government, after long discussions the EU will offer a compromise - to add to the text of an agreement with Ukraine a number of provisions.

Related: Poroshenko, Rutte discuss ratification of AA with EU

Thus, a letter to Foreign Minister Albert Gerard (Bert) Koenders to Parliament on December 12, says that the government considers most appropriate decision on "legally binding" document within the European Council. Chairman of the Foreign Ministry stressed that this document is "more clearly" consolidate the EU does not guarantee collective security Ukraine will have no commitment to military cooperation and financial support. And the fact that the Ukrainian will receive access to the EU labor market, and Ukraine - the prospect of membership. In the offer document and include provisions to strengthen the rule of law and the fight against corruption is central to the agreement.

Related: Rutte asks EU leaders to help Netherlands find best decision on Association with Ukraine

These theses were not for rhetoric. Many observers and media portrayed the referendum result as a consequence of the protest vote against the current elite and the EU as a whole. However, the study of the Netherlands Foundation for Electoral Studies (SKON) showed that concern Ukrainian corruption was a major factor "no" in a referendum. This reason was mentioned 34 percent of respondents, while fears of Ukraine's accession to the EU - 16 and only seven percent said they voted against the EU itself, so Euroscepticism has not become the main reason.

After the referendum, Rutte predicted "months of negotiations" to find a solution. Now when a compromise way out of the impasse will be agreed in Brussels, appropriate proposals will be submitted to a vote of the Parliament of the Netherlands.

Related: Rutte: Netherlands may not sign association agreement with Ukraine

Rutte has difficulties with the approval of the Parliament in. In the lower house in his VVD coalition with the Party of Labour (PvdA) has a majority, while in Senate there is no majority. If the ruling political forces are set to re-ratify the agreement, the opposition urged to take into account the opinion of Netherlanders and rewrite an agreement with Ukraine. Party for Freedom as the Socialist Party call to withdraw from the contract. Other forces require making "even symbolic changes," the text says DW Jacobs.

In ruling party VVD explain that they are ready to re-ratify the agreement with some reservations. This will support their social-liberal party 'Democrats 66' who spoke in support of Ukraine and the referendum. In the Senate vote will be decisive deputies from the "Christian Democratic Appeal" (CDA), which until recently did not make clear statements regarding the agreement with Ukraine and has not responded to numerous requests of DW.

Related: Rutte: Final decision on the Association of Ukraine and EU can take several months

Most Christian Democrats have unity on Ukrainian issues. Political power was a member of the ruling coalition in 2002-2010, led by its representative government. However, in the 2010 elections the party has shown a failed result, losing about half of seats in the lower house of parliament. In the current ratings of CDA holds third place, following the VVD.

"We also voted for the deal. But if the referendum passed, we can not pretend not to notice the opinion Netherlanders" - leads the local edition of Het Financieele Dagblad words of CDA MP Pieter Omtzigt. Omtzigt also expressed doubt that the re-ratification of the pass and the lower house and called for open debate government proposals and the EU.

Related: Rutte assured Poroshenko in supporting visa-free regime for Ukraine

"The longer this issue is on the agenda, the more ashamed government will be, especially the prime minister and his party. Against the backdrop of upcoming elections March 15, 2017 as soon as the government wants to do away with this," says political scientist Jacobs. Prime Minister himself in an interview with the online edition, Wednesday morning said that the failure of a vote on ratification will actually vote of confidence in the government. However, the Dutch observers do not consider ratification important for local politicians and the next election issue.

Related: Minister-President of the Netherlands Mark Rutte cast vote for Ukraine-EU Association Agreement

Advisory Committee on Foreign Affairs, an independent consultant government advises yet to ratify the agreement with Ukraine, not to harm the position of the Netherlands and the unity of Europe. The failure of ratification "may be received by Russian President Putin as a sign of weakness Europe" and strengthen Moscow's pressure on Ukraine, analysts say the organization.

Related: Rutte: Further ratification of Association Agreement impossible if the Dutch reject it

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