EU-Ukraine Association Agreement Ratification: European Reforms without the European Perspective

On May 30, 2017 the Dutch Senate ratified the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the EU. The document was supported by 50 senators from the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), Labor Party (PvdA), “Demacrats-66” (D66), “Green Left” (GroenLinks), “Christian Union” (CU), Political Reforming Party (SGP), Independent Senate Group (OSF), and also by 9 members of the party “Christian Democratic Appeal” (CDA), which formally opposed the Ukrainian association. Votes to approve the agreement were more than enough with the required minimum of 38, while in February there was no confidence in supporting Association Agreement in the Senate.

The Netherlands became the last EU Member State that signed EU-Ukraine Association Agreement. In order to fully complete the ratification process only formal procedures are left such as signing the document by the King and sending ratification to the Brussels. According to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, the process of ratification will be finally completed before the EU-Ukraine summit to be held on July 13, 2017 in Kyiv. According to the EU procedures for ratifying international treaties, Association Agreement with Ukraine officially starts its work in July-August 2017. It depends on the date of the EU Council meeting where Member States will consider the issue of ratification.

It should be recalled that from November 1, 2014 and until the completion of ratification by all EU Member States the Association Agreement is provisionally applied. Under this mechanism, only those parts of the agreement are applied, which cover matters within the exclusive competence of the EU and are not related to the competence of its Member States. From January 1, 2016, with the exception of the three articles, Section 4 “Trade and trade-related issues” is provisionally applied, which regulates the functioning of free trade area between Ukraine and the EU and which is in the competence of the EU common commercial policy. After the final entry into force of the Association Agreement, those articles will be binding for both sides which are not covered by the mechanism of the provisional application and relate to the cooperation between Ukraine and the EU in the following areas: foreign and security policy, the peaceful resolution of regional conflicts, nuclear non-proliferation, disarmament, combating terrorism and also migration, asylum and border management, mobility of work force, joint fight against organized crime and corruption.

It should be noted, that the Netherlands ratified the Association Agreement for the second time. During April-July 2015, two chambers of the Dutch Parliament voted in favor of the document, with a significant number of votes (119 to 31 in the House of Representatives and 55 to 20 in the Senate). However, after the negative voting in the referendum on April 6, 2016, the ratification process was blocked. Despite the advisory nature of that referendum, PM Mark Rutte could not ignore the opinion of citizens while trying to find a mutually beneficial compromise. “The Decision of the Heads of States and Governments”, approved at the European Council on December 15, 2016 became that compromise. It additionally confirmed the provisions of the Association Agreement, in particular, that document does not guarantee the status of candidate for the EU membership, does not establish such an obligation in future, does not guarantee collective security and military assistance from the EU Member States, does not grant the right for work in the EU and does not oblige to provide additional financial assistance from Member States for the reform process. The aim of this document signing was to address the concerns of the Dutch voters and unlock the ratification process.
After reaching a political consensus in December last year, there was a number of positive trends in completing ratification of the Association Agreement. First, the Dutch lower house of parliament ratified the agreement on the last possible working day before the parliamentary elections, preventing the delay of the ratification process until the formation of the coalition and a new government. Second, the Dutch Parliament did not support the proposal of socialist and opponent of the agreement Harry van Bommel who wanted to oblige Ukraine to sign an additional document. Third, the Senate followed the example of the House of Representatives and refused to postpone the ratification. Fourth, debate in the Senate, which took place on May 23, 2017 clearly showed a convincing majority in support of the Association Agreement.

Thus, May 2017 became momentous in the history of the European integration of Ukraine. Despite many obstacles, Ukraine finally obtained visa-free regime and the Netherlands completed the ratification of the Association Agreement. For its part the EU showed practical support of the European integration of Ukraine in order to avoid the threat of establishing Euroscepticism in the neighboring state. Europe also got its benefit. It is to Europe advantage to deal with predictable partner, as Jean-Claude Juncker has said that Ukraine’s place is in Europe, bearing in mind not being within the European Union, but with the European model of nation-building outside the continental block. After all, the EU could not do otherwise, as the failure to sign the agreement three and a half years ago led to Euromaidan which due to the sacrifice of more than 100 Ukrainian patriots contributed to the change of power in the country. Kyiv, in its turn, has to show its determination in implementing European reforms for modernizing country. However, it should be based solely on national interests of Ukraine. Ukraine’s national interest towards Europe and ratified Agreement is precisely the modernization of the country, increasing its competitiveness in global markets, establishing stable democratic institutions.

Only in case of successful implementation of reforms, which requires strong political will and a minimum of 10 years, Ukraine will have grounds to initiate the next step — EU membership.

Viacheslav Holub

Expert, Foreign Relations and International Security Programmes

I was borned in 1990 in Pavlograd, Dnipropetrovsk region.


National university of Ostroh academy (2013). Specialization: master in international relations, political analyst, translator.

I have passed internships at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine (2011, 2013, 2014-2015), Committee of Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine on European Integration under Internship program at the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine administered by NGO “Intern’s League”.

Work experience:

October 2015 – August 2016 — public service at the State Agency on Energy Efficiency and Energy Saving of Ukraine.

August – December 2016 — expert in internal policy at the International Centre for Policy Studies.

From January 2017 — expert in foreign policy and international security programs at Razumkov Centre.