Dutch government wins time to renegotiate EU-Ukraine agreement

April 20, 2016 11:30 am

Dutch lawmakers attend a parliament sessionin The Hague, The Netherlands, March 14, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

Dutch lawmakers have narrowly rejected a motion calling on the government to immediately withdraw a law ratifying an association agreement between the () and .
Seventy-five legislators, mostly form Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s ruling coalition, voted on Tuesday against the motion brought by the eurosceptic Socialist Party, with 71 in favor in the 150-seat lower house of parliament.
The deal, which calls for EU-Ukraine closer economic and political relations, had been rejected by 61 percent of Dutch voters in a non-binding referendum earlier this month.
Though the referendum was advisory, the Dutch premier acknowledged at that time it was politically impossible for his unpopular government to ratify the treaty in its current form.
Rutte, whose country currently hold the EU’s rotating presidency, said he would consult with parliament and European partners to figure out whether and how they alter the treaty in a way that could satisfy all parties.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte addresses parliamentarians from the 28 member states of the European Union in The Hague, The Netherlands, April 8, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

The Dutch “No” vote represented a victory for Russia. Back in 2013, Russian President Vladimir Putin was accused of pressuring Ukraine’s then-President Viktor Yanukovych into rejecting the agreement in favor of closer ties with Moscow.
The rejection sparked demonstrations that led to Yanukovych’s ouster and the rejoining of the Crimean Peninsula with the Russian Federation. A deadly conflict subsequently gripped the region, which has claimed the lives of some 9,000 people.
The Netherlands, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the EU, is now the only country in the bloc that has not adopted the treaty. To come into full legal force, the deal must be adopted by all 28 EU member states.
Reports say the Dutch premier could now argue in Brussels for a clause to be written into the agreement, clearly stating that Ukraine cannot join the EU.
He may also seek to split the agreement into its trade and political sections, with the Dutch keeping the trade component and leaving the political side.
Another option for Rutte could be to insist on scrapping a paragraph about closer military cooperation and demand a tougher position on corruption in Ukraine, according to media reports.
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