Friday

9th Dec 2022

Netherlands ratifies EU-Ukraine treaty

  • The Dutch senate approved ratification of the EU-Ukraine association agreement (Photo: Minister-president Rutte)

The Dutch senate approved ratification of the EU-Ukraine free trade and association agreement on Tuesday (30 May), bringing to a close a political saga that started over a year ago when Dutch voters rejected the deal in a referendum.

Almost two-thirds of the senate voted for ratification, with opposition coming mostly from far-left and far-right parties.

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

  • More than 60 percent of Dutch voters who showed up at a referendum last year, rejected the Ukraine deal (Photo: Peter Teffer)

It was already anticipated that a majority of senators would vote in favour, following a debate last week.

The vote of the centre-right Christian Democratic Party was crucial, after they had opposed ratification in the lower house of the parliament.

During this year's election campaign, the lower house christian-democrat leader, Sybrand Buma, had threatened to “throw” the EU-Ukraine agreement “in the bin” if he became prime minister.

But his colleagues in the senate voted differently. Only three of twelve christian-democrat senators voted against.

“We make our own consideration,” said senator Ben Knapen, a former minister for EU affairs.

He noted that the country's EU allies were counting on the Netherlands to ratify the treaty signed in 2014 – it was the only EU country that had not yet done so.

“Reliability and dependability are crucial characteristics for a small country that has to rely on its European surroundings,” said Knapen.

The vote was attended by caretaker prime minister Mark Rutte (Liberals) and foreign affairs minister Bert Koenders (Labour), for whom the outcome must come as a relief.

Citizen-enforced referendum

Two years ago, the two houses of the Dutch parliament had already approved ratification.

But in October 2015, a group of citizens used a new Dutch law that allowed them to force the government to hold a non-binding referendum about a recently passed bill.

The vote was held in April 2016, and the Ukraine treaty was rejected by 61.1 percent of those who showed up to vote – with a low turnout of 32.2 percent.

Although the referendum was non-binding, the Dutch political establishment decided they needed to "take the outcome into account".

Centre-right Liberal prime minister Rutte did not want to flat-out ignore the results, or push ratification through, and set out to find a third option.

Explanatory declaration

At an EU summit in December 2016, he found it: the Dutch leader convinced his 27 counterparts to support a text that explains what the treaty is about.

The declaration noted, among other things, that the treaty does not guarantee EU membership to Ukraine, and that the Netherlands is not obliged to provide Ukraine military assistance.

Rutte said that the declaration would address the concerns of the No voters in the referendum, although opposition parties that campaigned against the treaty disagreed – as the treaty itself has not been amended.

With the senate's vote, the ratification process has been completed for the entire EU. However, the treaty had already been applied provisionally.

Meanwhile, the centre-right MP, Buma and his party, failed to become the largest at March's elections. This means he stands little chance of becoming prime minister and can forgo on his promise to "bin" the treaty.

However, it is unclear which parties will make up the next government, following two failed attempts at a four-party coalition.

Quick Juncker

The European Commission was quick to respond.

Just minutes after the vote, it sent a press release with a comment from EU commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, who during the referendum campaign had said a No vote would trigger a “continental crisis”.

"Today's vote in the Dutch senate sends an important signal from the Netherlands and the entire European Union to our Ukrainian friends: Ukraine's place is in Europe," Juncker said on Tuesday.

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.

Opinion

A plea to the EU from inside Tehran's Evin jail

As a result of my peaceful civil activism, I have been arrested 13 times, undergone five trials, and been sentenced to 34 years of imprisonment and 154 lashes in total. I am currently in Evrin prison, without the slightest regret.

Opinion

No, Bosnia and Herzegovina is not ready for the EU

The European Commission has asked the member states' leaders assembling in Brussels next week for the customary end-of-year European Council to approve EU candidate status for Bosnia and Herzegovina. Doing so would be a mistake.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersLarge Nordic youth delegation at COP15 biodiversity summit in Montreal
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  4. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  5. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  6. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos

Latest News

  1. EU Commission silent on Greek spyware sale to Madagascar
  2. A plea to the EU from inside Tehran's Evin jail
  3. EU lets Croatia into Schengen, keeps Bulgaria and Romania out
  4. Energy crisis costs thousands of EU jobs, but industrial output stable
  5. Illegal pushbacks happening daily in Croatia, says NGO
  6. No, Bosnia and Herzegovina is not ready for the EU
  7. EU takes legal action against China over Lithuania
  8. EU Commission shoring up children's rights of same-sex parents

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022
  2. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  4. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us