At an EU Council meeting that ran longer than initially scheduled, EU heads of state and government reached a much-anticipated agreement with the Ukraine – in addition to the Dutch demands – to ensure that all 29 European Union member states will ratify it.
According to Malta’s Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, whose country will take up the EU Council presidency on January 1, it is a “landmark deal establishing closer ties with Ukraine”.
The Ukraine-EU Association Agreement is considered a first step for this post-Soviet country towards a more European-oriented future, as demanded by the younger generations in mass protests, called Euromaidan, in 2014.
However, the Netherlands had initially rejected the deal in last April’s referendum. The Dutch, however, reversed their stance on December 15. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told reporters: “Yes, there is agreement”. Now Rutte must take the agreement to the Dutch parliament for an endorsement vote.
“Russia is an increasing risk, look what happened in Crimea and eastern Ukraine and rockets being placed between Poland and Lithuania. You cannot, as the Netherlands, break this unity, that is why I’m so motivated to get this done,” Rutte said.
According to the conclusions published, the European Council “welcomes the results of the EU-Ukraine Summit held on November 24 and stresses the Union’s continued resolve to deepen and strengthen its relationship with Ukraine in the face of current challenges.” The EU also recognised the Ukraine’s achievements in implementing reforms to meet European standards and the fact that it has met the conditions for a visa-free regime with the Union.
Council’s conclusions on Ukraine
On the amendments introduced in order to ensure Dutch approval, the conclusions state that “the Agreement does not confer on Ukraine the status of a candidate country for accession to the Union, nor does it constitute a commitment to confer such status to Ukraine in the future”.
In terms of security, even if the agreement reaffirms cooperation with Ukraine with regard to conflict prevention, crisis management and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, “it does not contain an obligation for the Union or its member states to provide collective security guarantees or other military aid or assistance to Ukraine.”
Furthermore, the agreement does not grant free movement and ability to work within EU to Ukrainians. What is more, it does not require additional financial support by the EU member states to Ukraine, retaining the member states’ exclusive right to determine the nature and volume of its bilateral financial support.
On the other hand, the Ukraine is forced to cooperate with the EU to fight corruption and will work to the further strengthening its judiciary, improving efficiency, safeguarding its independence and impartiality, and combating corruption.
“Respect for democratic principles, human rights and fundamental freedoms and respect for the principle of the rule of law,” are the last of the extra additions to the agreement that were demanded by the Dutch in order to put an end to the provisional implementation of the agreement.