Fact of the Week: European Council & Ukraine

Issues related to the EU’s relationship with Russia and the ongoing crisis in Ukraine have come to the fore in recent days, ahead of a European Council summit this week. The European Council is due to decide on the future of current sanctions imposed on Russia, as well as to make an attempt to rescue the EU’s Association Agreement with Ukraine, which was derailed by the result of a referendum in the Netherlands last year.

The Dutch question

In April, after a referendum was triggered by popular initiative, the Dutch electorate voted decisively to reject the Association Agreement, by a margin of 61% to 39%, albeit on a low turnout of 32%.

Although the referendum was technically non-binding, the Dutch government responded by freezing its approval of the Agreement. Now, the Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, has proposed the inclusion of a one-and-a-half-page statement expressing the fact that the Agreement does not grant accession candidate status to Ukraine, that it doesn’t grant Ukrainian nationals access to the EU labour market, and that it doesn’t oblige the EU to provide Ukraine with security support.

This proposed solution is now subject to the approval of both the European Council and the Dutch Parliament, and the latter must be viewed in the context of the upcoming elections next March in The Netherlands. We will soon learn more about the agreement reached at the Council level concerning this issue.