|Referendum:PM Rutte reaches nebulous EU compromise|
Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands said on Thursday that he now had the necessary guarantees to start pushing the agreement through his country’s Parliament and to overcome the objections of Dutch voters, who voted against the agreement in a referendum in April.
The Netherlands has been the lone holdout in ratifying the agreement within the European bloc’s 28 member nations.
“I am going to fight to get a majority” in Parliament, Mr. Rutte said. “We will have to see. It won’t be easy. We’ll have to work hard for it.”
If it is approved, the deal would allow the European Union to show a unified front against Russia, and to boost trade and cooperation with Ukraine, which has found it difficult to remain out of Moscow’s sphere of influence.
“The E.U. can now keep a united front against the destabilizing policies of Russia,” Mr. Rutte said.
The agreement between Ukraine and the European Union had looked like a done deal until earlier this year, when the Dutch government was forced into a nonbinding, or advisory, referendum. The rejection by voters had left the bloc in a conundrum because the agreement needed unanimous approval from member countries.
Under the compromise, Mr. Rutte obtained assurances the agreement was not a step toward European Union membership for Ukraine, and that it could not be used as one in the future. The deal does not provide a collective-security guarantee or extra money for Ukraine, and it also requires the Ukrainian government to do more to counter corruption.
The Dutch prime minister said enacting the deal was essential for national and geopolitical reasons, and pointed to Russia’s involvement in the Ukrainian conflict and its annexation of Crimea.
The Netherlands will hold national elections on March 15, and the move to sidestep the advisory referendum results with an updated agreement might not play well with an electorate that has been increasingly prone to snubbing the political elite.
In a post on Twitter, Geert Wilders, a lawmaker known for his opposition to Islam, immigration and the European Union, posted a photo of Mr. Rutte with the Dutch words for “Resign and go.”
Mr. Rutte also realized the challenge ahead.
“This is not an election-winning point,” he said. “It is not a vote winner. But my job is ultimately to make decisions in the interest of the Netherlands and our security.”
Note EU-Digest: Details of the compromise were not announced and the statement by PM Rutte of the Netherlands on this so-called compromise are still nebulous .
Read more: E.U. Reaches Compromise With the Netherlands on Closer Ukraine Ties - The New York Times