Saturday

11th Jul 2020

Ukraine to continue pro-EU reforms despite Dutch 'blow'

Ukraine will implement its EU treaty despite the Dutch vote because it is good for the country, its president and its EU ambassador have said.

“Ukraine will keep on implementing the association agreement … it is a way to modernise Ukraine and reinforce its independence. We will not turn off the road of European integration,” president Petro Poroshenko said in a statement on Thursday (7 April).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • The association treaty is designed to remodel Ukraine along EU lines (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

His EU ambassdor, Mykola Tochytskyi told EUobserver that “it’s not for the sake of the Netherlands that we must reform our coutry, it’s for the future of the 47 million Ukrainian people.”

They spoke after exit polls on Wednesday indicated that 61 percent of Dutch voters urged The Hague not to ratify the EU-Ukraine association and free trade treaty.

The official result of the non-binding referendum is to be published on 12 April.

The treaty, signed in 2014, is designed to remodel Ukraine’s public institutions and its economy along EU lines.

It also has symbolic value because its rejection by the former Ukrainian regime led to the Maidan revolution and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Recalling Poroshenko, Tochytskyi said the Dutch vote changes nothing in terms of Ukraine’s identity or foreign policy.

“We’ve demonstrated that we’re not just geographically in Europe, we’re philosophically in Europe,” he said.

He added that the treaty is sound in technical terms. “We don’t need to reinvent the bicycle,” he said.

He also said the Dutch vote has “nothing to do” with Ukraine’s bid to get EU visa-free travel.

“It might even help, because the reaction by our [EU] partners might be: ‘Look, let’s help the Ukrainians because they’re fighting for EU values in east Ukraine against a big, hybrid adversary,” he added, referring to Ukraine's ongoing conflict against Russia-puppet forces.

President Poroshenko said the referendum was not really about EU-Ukraine relations.

“The true goal of the organisers of this referendum is not the association agreement … this is an attack on the unity of Europe, on the spread of European values,” he said in his statement.

Tochytskyi added: “I think the migration crisis, euroscepticism, the difficult economic situation in the Netherlands all had a serious influence.”

The referendum took place amid news of corruption scandals in Kiev, including Panama Papers revelations that Poroshenko had created an offshore entity.

Tochytskyi said “the stories [on corruption] in the newspaprs here in Europe didn’t help.”

But he added that the “proper response” to the bad news was “implementation of rule of law.”

He said that Kiev, in line with the EU treaty, had created new anti-corruption agencies and passed a law obliging senior officials, including himself, to post online declarations of financial assets.

Psychology

The ambassador, who recently arrived in Brussels to take up his post, admitted that the Dutch vote was a “psychological blow”.

He said it was made worse by the fact that “it’s not for the first time in our history when some countries, especially those at the centre of the EU, haven’t provided enough support.”

Speaking from Kiev, one EU state’s diplomat, who asked not to be named, told this website the popular reaction in Ukraine was “quite sober.”

“When you look at comments from bloggers, journalists, MPs - there’s no panic,” he said.

“There’s a consensus that the referendum was more about Europe, or about The Netherlands’ place in the EU, so people don’t feel offended,” he said.

The Kremlin’s official reaction was also muted.

It’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said the Dutch result shows people’s “mistrust” of closer Ukraine ties but called it a “domestic affair.”

Russian PM Dmitry Medevdev said on Twitter that the referendum was “an indicator of Europeans’ attitude to the Ukrainian political system.”

Reacting to claims that Russia had given clandestine support to the Dutch No campaign, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov told the Tass news agency: “We do not interfere in this process. We did not touch on this issue in any way.”

Fear

Individual Russian MPs were more outspoken.

Alexey Pushkov, the head of the Duma’s foreign affairs committee, told Tass that Ukraine causes “fear” in Europe.

Pushkov and two other senior MPs, Frants Klintsevich and Alexander Romanovich, echoed Russian propaganda.

They described Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a Ukrainian “acute civil conflict.” They also accused Ukraine of suppressing the truth about “massacres” of civilians and of letting “fascists” march around its cities.

Ukraine PM resigns for sake of better EU ties

PM Yatsenyuk has said he will quit for sake of stability and better EU ties. Dutch PM said it could take "months" to decide what to do with the EU-Ukraine treaty after referendum result.

News in Brief

  1. Citizens' perception of judicial independence drops
  2. Irish finance minister voted in as eurogroup president
  3. Italy's League party opens office near old communist HQ
  4. 'Significant divergences' remain in Brexit talks
  5. Germany identifies 32,000 right-wing extremists
  6. WHO to hold probe of global Covid-19 response
  7. China accuses Australia of 'gross interference' on Hong Kong
  8. EU to let Croatia, Bulgaria take first step to join euro

Opinion

Entering a new, more Putin-like, Russia

The so-called "all-Russia" vote finishing today, with more than 200 amendments to the Russian constitution, has been marked by systematic electoral fraud, mass mobilisation of the administrative resources, populistic promises or exploiting the historical memory.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDANext generation Europe should be green and circular
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNEW REPORT: Eight in ten people are concerned about climate change
  3. UNESDAHow reducing sugar and calories in soft drinks makes the healthier choice the easy choice
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersGreen energy to power Nordic start after Covid-19
  5. European Sustainable Energy WeekThis year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) will be held digitally!
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic states are fighting to protect gender equality during corona crisis

Latest News

  1. Michel lays out compromise budget plan for summit
  2. Border pre-screening centres part of new EU migration pact
  3. EU 'failed to protect bees and pollinators', report finds
  4. MEPs give green light to road transport sector reform
  5. If EU wants rule of law in China, it must help 'dissident' lawyers
  6. Five ideas to reshape 'Conference on Future of Europe'
  7. EU boosts pledges to relocate minors from Greece
  8. Hydrogen strategy criticised for relying on fossil fuel gas

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us