Sanctions check: EU has passed test on Ukraine and bogged down in Syrian issue

Author : Yuriy Panchenko

Source : 112 Ukraine

Ukrainian issue at this year’s last EU summit was not the key one. At least, if we trust the official agenda
11:05, 19 December 2016

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Council of Europe

The first points deal with the relations with Turkey and other countries (first of all - in combating illegal migration), to ensure the sustainability of economic development, fight against unemployment. Finally, EU leaders could not omit the situation in Syria. They tried to dedicate Syrian issue much weight and symbolism. In particular, mayor of eastern Aleppo arrived in Brussels. Brita Haji Hassan invited to participate in the first part of the summit with European leaders.

Related: Parliament of Netherlands may ratify the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement in January

And only at the end of the agenda were two issues related to Ukraine: the continuation of sanctions against Russia and a way out of the impasse ratification of the Association Agreement with Ukraine.

The Netherlands led the European Union in this impasse, or rather, its citizens, who April 6 on the referendum voted against the AA. In addition, Dutch referendum has jeopardized the ability of the EU to conclude international agreements, so this problem has become a headache not only Kyiv, but also in Brussels.

Related: Ukraine to pay Netherlands €100 thousand for Scythian gold storage

The proposed compromise of the Netherlands was known; the ignature of the document had to answer the concerns of residents of the Kingdom. In particular, the EU had to admit that the association does not guarantee Ukraine's membership, access to the development programs of the EU and military guarantees. But even against such formulations were openly rebelled by the group of "Ukraine’s friends" in Brussels.

Related: Putin shows his anger in Syria, because he could not defeat Ukraine

"The reaction of the Netherlands is offensive to the Ukrainians. We fought to the end to ensure that the wording in this document have been more friendly to Ukraine, in particular, showed that the EU is waiting for Ukraine," said Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo.

Related: Ukraine supports МН17 case hearing in courts of Netherlands

However, the more friendly to Ukraine wording had to be abandoned because it did not have a chance to be approved later by the Dutch parliamentarians. So first Kyiv, and later its "friends," were forced to accept the proposed compromise.

This was to ensure the completion of the series with the ratification of the Association Agreement.

After arriving at the summit meeting, Prime Minister of the Netherlands Mark Rutte said that he is "very motivated" to achieve a compromise. "We have to achieve it, otherwise the agreement will be ratified," said Rutte.

Related: Netherlands demand deprivation of financial and military aid to Ukraine from EU

One by one, members of delegations from different countries began cautiously assume that the decision will be delayed.

"After all, you already have a free trade zone with the EU, but actually little would change for. So, the question of association may be postponed, but it is only a formality," urged the delegation from France. As the press service of the EU added, any decisions are possible after talks. Even the most unexpected: "It is no coincidence that we have constant telephone contact with President Poroshenko."

Related: Poroshenko expects to find compromise between Ukraine and Netherlands on AA with EU

Related: MP: Netherlands should take responsibility for decision on EU-Ukraine Association Agreement

Equally pessimistic forecasts were voiced by the Dutch. "You see, this is a very complex issue, so compromise is not easy. Not everyone agrees with our proposals," said the representative of the Dutch delegation.

Against the background of "Dutch betrayal," the society became aware of another one.

The site of European Parliament unexpectedly changed the estimated date of voting for Ukrainian visa-free regime. It was shifted for more than two months - from February 1 to April 3, although only 4 days because it has endured from January to February. Although the EP immediately issued a statement that the date is "approximate", its transfer is "technical" and means nothing, and the question is not removed. But the key issue is not even in the transfer itself. The fact that is the closer the date of presidential elections in France, the more likely that the visa-free again postponed - the EU is afraid to give extra trump to Marine Le Pen.

Related: Netherlands agree to ratify EU-Ukraine AA only with additional declaration

And later in visa issues were important news that got lost in the stream of messages of the day. Immediately several sources reported that the delay was due visa-free ... with the Netherlands. And saying this as a source, and quite formal officials. "Move to the visa-free can only solve the problem of the Dutch veto," said Prime Minister of Latvia Maris Kuchinskis after the summit.

Related: Syrian blood on hands of Assad regime and its supporters from Russia and Iran, - Obama

It is unclear what is the relationship between the Agreement and the completion of the procedures for visa-free regime, but this opinion was voiced several times. Therefore, a position shared by at least part of the EU member states. The only sphere without "betrayals" is the issue of the continuation of sanctions against Russia. Current limitations completed in late January, but the EU preferred not to postpone this issue for the past week. It is not yet clear what will be the sanctions policy of the new US president. So it would be better not to risk...

But here there was an additional question: whether introduction of new sanctions related to the crimes in Syria is possible?

Related: Dutch PM: Netherlands will not ratify EU-Ukraine Association Agreement

This question was really touched! British Prime Minister Theresa May put it on the agenda. However, support for this initiative has been inadequate. "The consensus on this issue yet, even in the long term," said our source in one of the national delegations.

"Everyone understands that the situation in Aleppo is terrible, but no ideas how this situation can be corrected," said another official.

But ignoring the Syrian issue was not possible. That is why EU leaders also discussed the possibility of humanitarian aid to Syria, including the evacuation of civilians.

Related: Lajcak: Dutch government should find way to not block EU-Ukraine association process

And judging by the lack of applications, they reached no agreement on this issue. And it will probably be long debated by European media, the EU has been unable to respond to crimes that hit the world.

By the way, at a meeting of EU leaders in Brussels, they discussed another "anti-Russian" initiative, for which could not reach an agreement. Beata Szydlo proposed to change the term for which continues the action of sanctions - from the current six to twelve months.

Related: "Wagner Group:" Russian secret mercenaries in Syria

Similarly, the EU does not succeed in an extremely important issue of migrants. Summit decision does not contain any new ideas or initiatives. They agreed only to "intensify efforts" to implement the previous agreements.

After all, the root of the problem is a division of a number of workers in the distribution system, which the EU approved a year ago. Among the "refusers" is Slovakia, which currently chairs the European Council.  "We will be more successful in promoting this initiative," promised after the summit Joseph Muscat, Prime Minister of Malta, that takes over the EU presidency from 1 January 2017.

Related: Dutch government started preparing for the ratification of AA between Ukraine and EU

Anyway, during the half hour before the end of the summit expectations were not very favorable.

Especially with conference room began to receive disturbing news about the Ukrainian issue.

"The EU means first democracy and respect for people. If residents of the Netherlands said "no," what can we do? We must wait until they change opinion," said on the sidelines of a member of the Italian delegation. For Ukraine, it could be a devastating defeat. Scale disappointment in the EU, the consequences of which can not even predict. But eventually, they agreed.

And the official news were better than expected!

Related: EU-Ukraine Association: why Dutch agreement is questionable

"We took into consideration the situation are the Netherlands. And we want to help Ukraine. In this situation we had only one way, and we went to him and supported the proposal of the Netherlands," said the Prime Minister of Latvia Maris Kuchinskis.

But within hours, the official spokesman read out the text just adopted "solutions summit member states." "This decision is the litmus paper, which was to show the state of the EU. Fortunately, he showed that is able to act," summarized Beata Shydlo.

Related: Crimea to appeal against Dutch Court decision on returning Scythian gold

A similar assessment was voiced by President of the European Council and Donald Tusk, who opposed the Dutch problem out of Britain and the EU: "Brexit proved the importance of being responsible. Today's decision shows that we have learned this lesson."

The EU generally has made a happy Ukrainian-end headline news Summit. However, it is easy to explain it was a great success not only Kyiv, but also in Brussels. In recent days, in 2016 the EU was able to avoid a systemic crisis in relations between institutions, unlock your agreement with Ukraine.

Related: Several buses sent for evacuation of residents burned in Syria

Although - and this is important for Ukraine - the fight for Association is not over.

After this agreement still must be approved by both Houses of the Parliament of the Netherlands.

So the final victory in the War of Association is ahead. However, December 15, the EU and Ukraine had every reason to consider themselves winners.

Related: European Council to consider Dutch ratification of EU-Ukraine Association Agreement

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