Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

A “surprise” from Rutte

An expert on the Dutch premier’s proposal to make serious changes to the Ukraine-EU Association Agreement
2 November, 2016 - 17:07
Mark Rutte / REUTERS photo

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has said he is trying to find a compromise which would allow the Netherlands to ratify the Ukraine – European Union Association Agreement. Incidentally, the Netherlands is the only EU country that has not ratified the agreement signed past year. Rutte wrote to Dutch lawmakers that his desire to sign the deal is based on “national interest,” adding that European unity “is the best answer to Russian foreign policy that leads to the destabilization of Europe’s borders.”

Rutte said he wants to negotiate a revised text that makes clear that the Association Agreement is not a stepping stone toward full EU membership for Ukraine. Other amendments he plans to propose would state that the deal does not imply any collective security guarantees or obligations for military support and that it will not give Ukrainians the right to work in the EU, AP reports.

Rutte said that he would keep negotiating with his European colleagues leading up to the next EU summit on December 15-16 and believes he can win backing for the changes he is proposing. If he does, his government will introduce legislation approving the agreement. That legislation must still pass both houses of Dutch parliament.

The Day requested Mykola KAPITONENKO, Executive Director of the International Relations Research Center, to comment on this turn and say what Kyiv do in response to Rutte’s proposal to amend the agreement.

“Amending the text of the Association Agreement was, from the very outset, the likeliest scenario of solving the problems that arose after the Netherlands referendum. It is not a propagandist but a political problem that emerges from deep contradictions in the long-term interests of Ukraine and some European Union states. Working in this direction should become a top priority for Ukrainian diplomacy. If the Netherlands’ initiative brings about the provisions that the agreement is not a steppingstone toward membership, gives Ukrainians no right to work in the EU, and does not guarantee security, this will mean there is a serious occasion for reflections, debates, and political conclusions. After, and in some cases before, the Association Agreement was signed, it was considered in Ukraine as something more than just an instrument of economic rapprochement. It also has a political component which has given so much hope for democratization, overall security, and the prospect of Ukraine’s EU membership. Although now, almost three years later, it is clear to everybody that these expectations are unrealizable, they at least leave a hope for a radiant future. In other words, the political value of the Association Agreement is determined not only by its current effect, but also by the potential of future achievements, and it embodies the European idea in today’s Ukraine in precisely this way. If the abovementioned changes are introduced to the agreement, it will turn into a technical instrument. It will no longer help motivate reforms or picture a European prospect. New and perhaps irreparable damage will be done to Euro-optimists in Ukraine. If we look at the situation from a more pragmatic viewpoint and intend to save the agreement even as just an instrument, we will have to make concessions. It’s better to do this in the symbolic question of future membership which is not on the agenda in any case. If we fail to limit ourselves to this, it will be a good idea to open a dialog on security matters. The EU doesn’t want to and just cannot give guarantees in this field, while Ukraine is an important factor of security in Europe. It is very important to put this idea across to The Hague, Brussels, Berlin, and Paris. The field in which we would like to make as few concessions as possible is labor migration. This freedom forms the very foundation of European integration, and if we become part of Europe in this aspect, we will also do so in all the other, In any case, we should brace ourselves for diplomatic bargaining. The best recipe for this is a better understanding of both our partners’ and our own interests.”

By Mykola SIRUK, The Day