Wednesday

12th May 2021

Dutch need deal on Ukraine at summit, Rutte threatens

  • Rutte wants to walk away with a "legally binding" text (Photo: The Council of the European Union)

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte has reminded fellow EU leaders via a newspaper interview that they need to find a deal on the EU-Ukraine trade and political agreement next week, or the Dutch will not ratify it.

Rutte told the Financial Times he needed to come home from the EU summit in Brussels with a “legally binding” declaration in his pocket, that says the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement will not automatically lead to the eastern European country becoming an EU member.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

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

... or subscribe as a group

Another demand is that the treaty will not lead to the Netherlands getting militarily involved in Ukraine.

“If we do not get this we will put a law to parliament the next day, which will state that we will not ratify the association agreement,” Rutte said in an interview published on Friday (9 December).

The Dutch demand to add a declaration to the treaty, which Rutte and other EU leaders signed in March 2014 and which was ratified by all other member states, stems from the results of Dutch citizens-enforced referendum earlier this year.

The April referendum was triggered by the use of a new law, which gives citizens the right to cast their vote over any bill passed in parliament, if they gathered enough signatures.

The referendum asked if voters supported the bill that calls on the government to ratify the EU-Ukraine treaty.

While Rutte's government legally could have ignored the non-binding vote, the political establishment had committed to acting on the outcome if more than 30 percent of voters showed up.

The No side won unambiguously with 61.1 percent. Voter turnout was 32.2 percent.

Following the political blow, Rutte set out to find a “solution."

He did not want to flat-out declare the Netherlands would not ratify – as many in the No camp wanted – but instead looked for a third way: to ratify while accommodating the “grievances” of the No side.

An attached declaration to the treaty is his preferred alternative, similar to the Irish declaration that convinced Irish voters in 2009 to support the Lisbon Treaty, after having rejected it in a referendum first.

When EU leaders meet next Thursday (15 December) in Brussels, the Dutch question will be on the agenda.

So far, the “situation in the Netherlands in the context of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement” is grouped under the point external relations, where the other topic of debate is Russia.

This fits with how Rutte recently framed his attempt to find a third way: the Netherlands needs to ratify to show Russia Europe is united.

“The reason I am fighting for this is that I am absolutely convinced that Europe must be unified now towards Russia’s foreign policy,” Rutte told the FT.

“I am asking for quite a lot,” he added.

The summit takes place exactly three months before the Dutch go to the polls to elect a new parliament.

Rutte's pragmatic coalition of his centre-right Liberal party and the centre-left Labour party are expected to lose their majority.

The far right party of anti-EU politician Geert Wilders are expected to do well. In the past month, several other anti-establishment parties have grown out of the discontent of what they see as Rutte's delay on following up on the referendum.

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.

Dutch MPs extend deadline on Ukraine deal

Parliament gives prime minister Mark Rutte until mid-December to find a compromise that takes into account voters' rejection of an EU-Ukraine trade deal.

Opinion

Rutte - from 'Mr No' to 'next Tusk'?

Make no mistake – Rutte, sometimes considered as a potential candidate to succeed Donald Tusk, is one of the toughest of the EU's current heads of state.

News in Brief

  1. Israeli rockets kill 20 people in Gaza retaliation
  2. No more EU expulsions likely over Russia bomb attacks
  3. EU ready to ignore Hungary veto on Hong Kong
  4. Borrell admits EU neglect of Western Balkans
  5. Macron accused of 'cowardice and deceit' in military letter
  6. EU citizens in UK applying for settled status face legal limbo
  7. Netherlands gives €2bn to offshore carbon storage project
  8. Germany will allow Johnson & Johnson vaccine for all ages

Opinion

Why Russia politics threaten European security

Russia could expand hostile operations, such as poisonings, including beyond its borders, if it feels an "existential" threat and there is no European pushback.

Analysis

Ten years on from Tahrir: EU's massive missed opportunity

Investing in the Arab world, in a smart way, is also investing in the European Union's future itself. Let's hope that the disasters of the last decade help to shape the neighbourhood policy of the next 10 years.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region can and should play a leading role in Europe’s digital development
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance

Latest News

  1. Russia penetrated Merkel's 'inner circle', Khodorkovsky says
  2. First recovery euros could be paid out in July
  3. Commission wants help for Italy after weekend's migrant arrivals
  4. Mercosur trade deal will fuel 'poison pesticides' back into EU
  5. Can new Iran talks avoid mistakes of the original JCPOA?
  6. EU and US urge Israel to defuse Jerusalem violence
  7. Frontex 'mislabelling minors as adults' on Greek islands
  8. Has Albania really met the 15 tests to join the EU? No

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us