Wednesday

16th Jan 2019

EU deal on Ukraine could unravel in Dutch parliament

  • PM Rutte needs to find a majority in the Dutch Senate (Photo: Minister-president Rutte)

The future of the EU-Ukraine treaty is not yet secure, as Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte still needs to convince opposition parties to support the deal he clinched at the EU summit on Thursday (15 December).

Rutte aims to propose that The Hague goes ahead with ratification of the pact on Friday.

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

The Netherlands is the last EU state to conclude the strategic treaty, which aims to align Ukraine’s economy with the West.

It froze ratification after Dutch people rejected it in a non-binding referendum in April, but Rutte and EU leaders on Thursday agreed to attach a Dutch statement to the text as a solution.

The statement spells out that Ukraine is not in line to join the EU or protected by EU security guarantees.

Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko welcomed the Dutch statement in a comment on Facebook on Friday, despite its political frostiness.

“We call upon The Netherlands to fulfil the relevant procedures to ensure its [the treaty’s] swift entry into force”, he added.

The Dutch bill that enacts the ratification needs to be approved by both houses of parliament, and Rutte has no guarantee he will get a majority, however.

The Lower House of parliament should be the least difficult - Rutte's coalition has 75 out of 150 seats, with just a single MP needed to secure a majority.

It is widely expected that the centrist, pro-EU D66 party will support the deal.

The trouble starts in the Dutch Senate, where Rutte's coalition has only 21 of 75 seats. Even with D66, he would fall seven senators short.

Senate problem

Over the past weeks, Rutte has sought to woo the second-largest party in the Senate, the centre-right CDA.

But the CDA leader in the Lower House, Sybrand Haersma Buma, has been vocal in his opposition to Rutte's attempt to ratify the treaty, despite the Dutch No vote.

Buma reminded radio listeners on Friday that 4 million Dutch people had made the effort to vote on the Ukraine question.

“They really had the idea: We can answer that question,” he told Business News Radio (BNR).

The centre-right MP called it “crippling” for people's confidence in politics to ignore their choice.

He also called the deal that Rutte clinched in Brussels no more than an “inserted sheet” which did not change the EU-Ukraine agreement.

He said there was “a big chance” his party would reject Rutte's attempt in the Lower House, but noted party members in the Senate “will make their own judgement”.

Rutte's hope is that he can convince some of CDA's 12 senators.

Some may choose to support the deal out of personal convictions. Many are pro-EU, including former MEP Ria Oomen and former minister for European affairs Ben Knapen.

Tusk appeal

Senators may also feel compelled to listen to appeals from their European political family, the powerful European People's Party (EPP).

At a press conference after the summit, EU Council president Donald Tusk (EPP) made a plea to the Netherlands.

“The ratification is important not only for Ukraine, but also for Europe's geopolitical standing and credibility,” he said.

Meanwhile, if the Dutch parliamentary procedure drags out, it could bring the Ukraine vote close to general elections in March 2017.

“The timeline is difficult to predict,” said Buma.

“It is quite possible that both chambers are done before the elections, it is also possible that even the Lower House does not make it on time,” he said.

In a pre-election climate, even the Lower House vote could be a near-run thing.

On Saturday (17 December), the left-wing Greens, which have four seats in both the Lower House and the Senate, announced they would support the deal. That means the deal has a majority in the Lower House. Rutte still needs to find the support from three senators.

This article was updated on 17 December 2016 to include the last paragraph

Dutch PM clinches deal on Ukraine treaty

EU leaders agreed on a text that clarifies what is in, and what is not in the EU-Ukraine association agreement. But Mark Rutte noted he has no guarantee Dutch parliament will support the deal.

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?

News in Brief

  1. Spanish PM calls for EU gender equality strategy
  2. Farage says bigger Brexit majority if second referendum
  3. Macron starts 'grand debate' tour after yellow vests protests
  4. Barnier: up to London to take Brexit forward
  5. Stimulus still needed, ECB's Draghi says in final report
  6. May's Brexit deal defeated by 230 votes
  7. German economy hit by global economic turbulence
  8. MEPs narrowly call for end to 'tampon tax'

Opinion

EU parliament vote strengthens whistleblower protection

We must not undervalue what a massive step the European Parliament vote represents. The hard work has paid off. We can take a moment to celebrate, but the hard work begins again for finalising strong protection for European whistleblowers.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General

Latest News

  1. MEPs allow Draghi's membership of secretive bank group
  2. EU parliament backs Morocco deal despite row
  3. Barnier open to 'future relations' talks if UK red lines shift
  4. German spies to monitor far-right AfD party
  5. On Morocco, will the EU ignore its own court?
  6. UK parliament rejects May's Brexit deal in historic defeat
  7. EU suggests majority vote on digital tax by 2025
  8. MEPs redouble appeal on sexual harassment

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  2. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  3. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  5. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  6. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  8. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  10. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us