Ratification of the Ukraine-EU treaty is still possible, Dutch PM Rutte says
The Netherlands may still ratify the Association Agreement between the EU and Ukraine, but the Dutch government needs more time for negotiations with Ukraine and the bloc's member states.
In a letter to parliament, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said he takes up to six weeks to broker a complex "legally binding" deal that would be acceptable to the 27 other EU countries while honouring the referendum.
In an April referendum, nearly two-thirds of Dutch voters said "No" to the EU's association treaty on closer political, military and trade relations with Ukraine, thus making the Netherlands the only EU state not to have ratified the deal.
Foreign Minister Bert Koenders said that "considering national interests" the government would now aim to reach an agreement between opposition parties, other EU governments and Ukraine, by mid-December.
A Dutch pull-out would have serious negative geopolitical implications for the EU and the Ukraine at a time of heightened tension with Russia, Koenders stated.
Specifically, the Netherlands is seeking to adopt an additional declaration that would be signed by EU leaders and explain how the Ukraine-EU treaty is interpreted by the Netherlands.
The declaration would state that the treaty is not a stepping stone for joining the EU, it does not entail any security guarantees or give Ukrainian workers automatic access to the European labour market. Declaration should also make it clear that the Association does not oblige EU member states to provide financial or military support for Ukraine, while Kyiv has to make more efforts to combat corruption.
Rutte specified that this is only about an additional declaration to address concern of those who voted to reject the treaty, while no changes will be introduced to the text of Ukraine-EU Association Agreement.
EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said he was ready to work with Dutch Prime Minister Rutte to find a solution before the December 15-16 EU summit.
On Friday Rutte made a dramatic appeal to opposition parties for their support. If the Netherlands fails to ratify the treaty, it could have serious implications for the stability of Europe, the prime minister said.