Monday

11th Dec 2017

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.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

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?

Thousands march for Catalonia in Brussels

Around 45,000 people marched in support of Catalonia in Brussels to get the EU involved in mediating the conflict with Madrid. 'Europe must realise that it can still play a role in the Catalan crisis,' said self-exiled Catalan leader Puigdemont.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFMake the Digital World Safer for Children & Increase Access for the Most Disadvantaged
  2. European Jewish CongressWelcomes Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and Calls on EU States to Follow Suit
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Boost Innovation Cooperation Under Horizon 2020
  4. European Gaming & Betting AssociationJuncker’s "Political" Commission Leaves Gambling Reforms to the Court
  5. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Applauds U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital City
  6. EU2017EEEU Telecom Ministers Reached an Agreement on the 5G Roadmap
  7. European Friends of ArmeniaEU-Armenia Relations in the CEPA Era: What's Next?
  8. Mission of China to the EU16+1 Cooperation Injects New Vigour Into China-EU Ties
  9. EPSUEU Blacklist of Tax Havens Is a Sham
  10. EU2017EERole of Culture in Building Cohesive Societies in Europe
  11. ILGA EuropeCongratulations to Austria - Court Overturns Barriers to Equal Marriage
  12. Centre Maurits CoppietersCelebrating Diversity, Citizenship and the European Project With Fundació Josep Irla

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceUnderstanding the Social Consequences of Obesity
  2. Union for the MediterraneanMediterranean Countries Commit to Strengthening Women's Role in Region
  3. Bio-Based IndustriesRegistration for BBI JU Stakeholder Forum about to close. Last chance to register!
  4. European Heart NetworkThe Time Is Ripe for Simplified Front-Of-Pack Nutrition Labelling
  5. Counter BalanceNew EU External Investment Plan Risks Sidelining Development Objectives
  6. EU2017EEEAS Calls for Eastern Partnership Countries to Enter EU Market Through Estonia
  7. Dialogue PlatformThe Turkey I No Longer Know
  8. World Vision7 Million Children at Risk in the DRC: Donor Meeting to Focus on Saving More Lives
  9. EPSU-Eurelectric-IndustriAllElectricity European Social Partners Stand up for Just Energy Transition
  10. European Friends of ArmeniaSignature of CEPA Marks a Fresh Start for EU-Armenia Relations
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Energy Ministers Pledge to Work More Closely at Nordic and EU Level
  12. European Friends of ArmeniaPresident Sargsyan Joined EuFoA Honorary Council Inaugural Meeting