Dutch PM hopes to reach Ukraine-deal compromise at EU summit today
The European Summit in Brussels today is expected to be a tense one. One of the main items on the agenda is the fact that the Netherlands still has not ratified the association agreement with the Ukraine, the only EU country not to do so. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte will try get his fellow EU leaders to accept a set of amendments to the deal, with which he hopes he can convince Dutch parliament to ratify the agreement.
The Dutch Prime Minister is in this difficult position after the Netherlands voted against an association agreement between the EU and Ukraine in a referendum in April. The association agreement is aimed at creating stronger political ties between the EU and Ukraine, and gradually freeing the Ukraine from Russia's orbit, according to Reuters.
Earlier this week Reuters reported what amendments the Netherlands wants to add to the agreement. The first is that this agreement is not a "stepping stone" for the Ukraine to join the EU. The second is that member states are not obliged "to provide collective security guarantees or other military aid or assistance to Ukraine". And the third state that the agreement does not require further financial aid from the EU. These are not specifically promised to the Ukraine in the association agreement, but the Dutch want to explicitly rule them out.
Rutte hopes that the EU government leaders will make a legally binding agreement on these amendments today.
Insiders told NOS that it may not be as easy as that. While the amendments do not affect the treaty itself, just add to it, there are countries that do not feel very willing to help the Netherlands in this situation. This involves particularly countries that are friends to the Ukraine, like Poland and the Baltic States.
"On the one hand it is about the exact wording", NOS correspondent Arjan Noorlander said to the broadcaster. "But is also about how Rutte asks the others for help. They might not all see sense in it, but they also know that they need Rutte for this treaty to take effect." A diplomatic source recently gave Reuters the same opinion, calling the amendments "expensive, but worth it. At this stage, it's either this or nothing."
In an interview with NU.nl earlier this week, Rutte said that he realizes that the Ukraine referendum is not winning him any popularity prizes. "I realize very well that ratification will not bring me any votes. This is not making me popular." But he still believes that ratifying the agreement is worth it. "Why I am motivated to - despite me not wining the popularity prize with it - not throw the agreement in the trash is not because of the Ukraine but because of Russia. The EU is not only the market, jobs and the economy, but also safety. If you see what Russia is doing in eastern Ukraine, the Crimea, Aleppo and you see that Russia is increasingly aggressive towards Europe, then you as the Netherlands can't say that we won't ratify."