Why was the Netherlands opposed the Agreement on Association of Ukraine with EU

Почему Нидерланды выступили против Соглашения об ассоциации Украины с ЕС

Mark Rutte

The original on the website of Deutsche Welle

Dutch Prime Minister mark Rutte was in a difficult situation. Three months in the country – parliamentary elections, opinion polls unfavourable to his people’s party for freedom and democracy (VVD). According to opinion polls, its support is falling, in the first place in the rankings came the force ex-the member of the VVD, the leader of the right freedom Party (PVV) of Geert Wilders. This euroskeptic party favors, in particular, and against the ratification of the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the EU.

Thursday, December 15, the head of the Dutch government present at the EU summit in Brussels offers Kingdom concerning the agreement on Association between Ukraine and the European Union. Initially, the Netherlands ratified the agreement in April 2016, a referendum was held on this issue. With a turnout of 32 percent or six out of ten voters said the Treaty “no.” Despite the Advisory status of the vote, the government Rutte forced to respond to the position of the Dutch.

Fears of the Dutch: the prospect of membership and corruption

The Dutch fear that Ukraine will become an EU member or would qualify for funds from the European budget. At least that’s the mood of the voters see the party Rutte, said in an interview with DW, the Deputy of the lower house of Parliament Han ten brook. “In addition, people have fear about what the Association agreement with Ukraine will make the EU a party to the armed conflict in the Donbass”, – said the Deputy. Responding to these concerns, the government, after long discussions will be the European Union to offer a compromise variant – to add to the text of the agreement with Ukraine, a number of provisions.

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So, in a letter to the Minister of foreign Affairs Bert Koenders to the Parliament of 12 December States that the government considers the most suitable solution to the “legally binding” document in the framework of the European Council. The foreign Minister stressed that such a document should “more clearly” to secure that the EU does not guarantee the collective security of Ukraine, will have no obligations with respect to military cooperation or financial support. And also the fact that Ukrainians do not have access to the labour market of the EU and Ukraine a membership perspective. The document proposes to include provisions that strengthen the rule of law and fighting corruption are Central to the agreement.

These theses appeared not for the sake of rhetoric. Many observers and the media portrayed the referendum as a result of protest vote against the existing elite and the EU as a whole. However, studies of the Dutch Foundation for electoral research (SKON) showed that concern Ukrainian corruption became a major factor in “no” in the referendum. This cause was called for 34 per cent of respondents, while fear of Ukraine joining the EU – 16. And only seven percent said that they voted against the EU as such, so that the euroscepticism was not the main reason, he said research Professor at the Radboud University Nijmegen Christophe Jacobs.

Parliamentary difficulty

After the referendum Rutte predicted “months of negotiations” to find a solution – and no mistake. Now that a compromise to break the deadlock will be agreed in Brussels, the relevant proposals will be submitted to the vote of the Dutch Parliament.

With the approval in Parliament Rutte problems arose. In the house his VVD in a coalition with the labour Party (PvdA) has a majority while in the upper, the Senate. And if the ruling political force is configured to re-ratify the agreement, the opposition forces are encouraged to consider the opinion of the Dutch, and to rewrite the agreement with Ukraine. Euroskeptic Party for freedom, and the socialist party are calling to opt out of the contract. Other forces are required to make “at least a symbolic change” to the text, explains DW Jacobs.

The ruling party VVD explain that they are ready to re-ratify the agreement with some reservations. This will support the social-liberal party “Democrats 66”, which were in support of Ukraine and during the referendum. The Senate will be the decisive votes of deputies from “Christian democratic appeal” (CDA) who did not make clear statements with respect to the agreement of the EU with Ukraine and did not respond to multiple requests DW.

The position of the Christian Democrats

Themselves the Christian Democrats have no unity on the Ukrainian question. Political force was the party of the ruling coalition in the years 2002-2010, it was the head of the government. However, in the 2010 elections, the party showed disastrous results, losing about half of the seats in the lower house of Parliament. In the current rankings CDA occupies the third place, following the VVD.

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“We also voted for the agreement. But if a referendum was held, it is impossible to pretend not to notice the opinion of the Dutch people” – leads the local edition of Het Financieele Dagblad according to the Deputy of CDA Peter Omtzigt. He added that members of the Senate from party to vote in its sole discretion, without consultation with the faction. Omtzigt, also expressed doubt that the re-ratification will take place and the lower house and called for an open discussion of the proposals of the government and the EU.

CDA wil het advies van de raadsadvocaat van de Europese Unie over het concept-besluit over Oekraineverdrag openbaar kunnen bespreken (1)

— Pieter Omtzigt (@PieterOmtzigt) 14 Dec 2016

“Party seniors” former NATO Secretary General Jan de Goop Scheffer and former Minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin spoke in support of the agreement. However, it is CDA actively criticized Rutte for the fact that he seems to be trying not to listen to the people. The leader of the faction in the lower chamber Gert-Jan Segers of the discussion on Wednesday, December 14, called the proposal Rutte “cosmetic decision” and said that the government should refuse to ratify.

Slap Rutte and Europe

“The longer this issue is on the agenda, the more shame to the government, especially Prime Minister Rutte and his party. On the background of the upcoming elections on 15 March 2017, the government wants as soon as possible to end this,” – explains the scientist, Jacobs DW. The Prime Minister himself in an interview with the online edition Nu.nl in the morning of Wednesday said the failure of the vote on ratification will actually be a vote of no confidence in the government. However, the Dutch commentators do not consider the ratification of important for local politics and the next election issue.

Advisory Committee on foreign Affairs (AIV), an independent adviser to the government, advice is still to ratify the agreement with Ukraine, in order not to harm the position of the Netherlands and the unity of Europe. The failure of the ratification, “it may be perceived by Russian President Vladimir Putin as a sign of weakness of Europe” and increase Moscow’s pressure on Ukraine, according to analysts of the organization.

Stas Sokolov