POSTS BY Peter van Elsuwege

Towards a Solution for the Ratification Conundrum of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement?

The ratification process of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement has been stalled following "No" victory in the Dutch referendum of 6 April 2016. Yesterday, the EU heads of states have adopted a decision addressing the Dutch concerns. The option which is currently on the table is by far the easiest to solve the ratification conundrum while responding to the arguments of the ‘no-camp’ in the referendum campaign. Any alternatives, such as the inclusion of formal reservations or a procedure leading to a Dutch withdrawal from the agreement, entail the risk of long-term legal uncertainty which would only be detrimental for the EU, the Netherlands and Ukraine.

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What will happen if the Dutch vote ‘No’ in the Referendum on the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement?

On 6 April 2016, a referendum on the approval of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement will be held in the Netherlands. This is the direct result of a new law that gives citizens the right to initiate a so-called ‘corrective’ referendum to refute decisions taken at the political level. If the "No" camp prevails, as polls suggest it will, that would not be a victory for democracy as proclaimed by the Dutch initiators of the referendum but rather the opposite. Allowing a relatively small part of the population in a relatively small member state to block the entry into force of an agreement which is approved by the national parliaments of 29 countries and the European Parliament would be very cynical. It would also undermine the consistency and legitimacy of the EU’s external action taking into account that other, largely comparable agreements would remain unaffected.

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Another litmus test for the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy

As NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen recently observed, the crisis in Ukraine is “the gravest threat to European security since the end of the Cold War.” It is somewhat ironic that this crisis unfolded as a result of discussions surrounding the planned signature of an Association Agreement, which essentially aims to create a zone of stability, prosperity and security on the European continent. This raises the need for self-reflection on the part of the EU. Does the crisis in Ukraine illustrate the limits of the European Neighbourhood Policy? And, how can the EU play a constructive role to solve the crisis? As NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen recently observed, the crisis in Ukraine is “the gravest threat to European security since the end of the Cold War.” It is somewhat ironic that this crisis unfolded as a result of discussions surrounding the planned signature of an Association Agreement, which essentially aims to create a zone of stability, prosperity and security on the European continent. This raises the need for self-reflection on the part of the EU. Does the crisis in Ukraine illustrate the limits of the European Neighbourhood Policy? And, how can the EU play a constructive role to solve the crisis?

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