Saturday

22nd Sep 2018

Dutch MPs extend deadline on Ukraine deal

  • Rutte (c) will try to find a way to ratify the EU-Ukraine deal (Photo: Consillium)

A majority in the Dutch parliament has given prime minister Mark Rutte more time to negotiate with his European counterparts on how to accommodate a popular rejection of an EU-Ukraine treaty.

MPs said on Tuesday (8 November) they would give Rutte until after an EU summit in Brussels in mid-December to find a solution.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

Initially, Rutte had been given a 1 November deadline by MPs.

But Rutte's centre-right Liberals, his coalition partner Labour, and several smaller parties gave him extra time. Opposition MP Kees Verhoeven said he had supported the motion “grudgingly”.

In April, the EU-Ukraine association agreement was rejected in a Dutch referendum with 61.1 percent of the votes.

The vote was non-binding, but because the voter turnout of 32.2 percent surpassed a required threshold of 30 percent, the Dutch political establishment promised to somehow take the results into account.

Officially, the Dutch voted to reject the parliament bill that would lead to ratification of the treaty, which has now been put on hold. All other 27 member states have ratified the deal.

Rutte will seek a legally binding declaration from his EU counterparts explaining the details of the deal.

The idea is that such a declaration would quell some of the "grievances" the No voters had, so that ratification can go ahead.

The declaration could include a statement that the trade treaty will not automatically give the Ukraine access to EU membership, or that the Netherlands could opt out of military cooperation with Ukraine.

Following a potential deal at the 15-16 December summit, Rutte would then try to get parliamentary approval to ratify the treaty against the will of the No voters.

Legally, Rutte could have already ignored the referendum result and ratify the treaty. Politically, he wants as many political parties on his side to make the unpopular move, four months before national elections.

At Tuesday's debate in parliament, several opposition parties pointed out that the referendum outcome was clear, and that the treaty should not be ratified.

But Rutte repeated that Europe should show unity in the fact of an aggressive Russian foreign policy. He conceded that he should have used the “geopolitical argument” more during the campaign ahead of the referendum.

The Dutch leader also admitted that a policy response to the No vote, which took place seven months ago, was taking too long.

“We could have worked faster,” Rutte said.

The Dutch rooting for a No in the Ukraine referendum

Next week, the Dutch will cast their opinion on the EU-Ukraine association agreement. While the Yes side is fairly uniform in its composition and logic, the No side is a motley crew. Who are they?

Little to celebrate at EU-Ukraine summit

EU leaders have pledged to uphold sanctions on Russia in the run-up to a summit this week, but the declaration comes amid multiplying uncertainties on future ties.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  2. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  3. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  5. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  6. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  7. IPHRCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  8. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  9. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  10. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  11. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow

Latest News

  1. Brexit and MEPs expenses in the spotlight This WEEK
  2. Wake-up call on European Day Against Islamophobia
  3. Sound of discord at 'Sound of Music' Salzburg summit
  4. Salzburg summit presses for bigger Frontex mandate
  5. UK's post-Brexit plan 'will not work', EU says
  6. Airbnb agrees to clarify pricing for EU
  7. Libya keeps coast guards rejected by the EU
  8. EU divisions on menu at Salzburg dinner

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us