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16 Dec, 2016 18:24

EU-Ukraine association deal won't make Kiev candidate member – EU Council

EU-Ukraine association deal won't make Kiev candidate member – EU Council

The European Union-Ukraine association deal does not automatically make Kiev a candidate for the bloc and does not include such a “commitment” for the future, the EU Council has stated.

The decision was listed in the Council’s conclusion on Ukraine, following a meeting of EU leaders on Thursday in Brussels. The  addressed concerns (in particularly from the Dutch) over the EU-Ukraine association agreement, which envisions closer economic and political ties between Kiev and the bloc.

In a referendum in April, 61 percent of Dutch voters spoke out against the Ukraine-EU agreement, with the “No” campaign citing security problems inside Ukraine and suggesting the deal would only cause further tensions with Russia.

In Thursday’s statement, the EU Council made it clear that “completing the ratification process [for association agreement] remains a crucial EU objective.” Yet with regard to the Dutch position, the paper now made clear that it doesn’t give “Ukraine the status of a candidate country for accession to the Union”, nor does it give such a “status to Ukraine in the future.”

Once the association agreement is ratified, it also won’t automatically “grant to Ukrainian nationals” a right to live or “work freely” in the EU, with the same applying for the Union citizens in return.

The EU has maintained its desire to jointly work with Ukraine on the matters of security, crisis management and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Despite the pledge, EU Council’s statement said that the association agreement with Kiev “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.”

Spelling out the limits of the association deal, EU has also ruled that the agreement will not guarantee Ukraine “additional financial support,” adding that “the fight against corruption is central to enhancing the relationship.”

Last week, the Netherlands threatened to veto the EU association deal with Kiev unless Brussels provided legally binding guarantees, the Financial Times reported Friday. “If we do not get this we will put a law to parliament the next day, which will state that we will not ratify the association agreement,” Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte  the FT. 

Thursday’s amendment would provide such a legally binding guarantee. However, it will only come into force “once the Kingdom of the Netherlands has ratified the [EU-Ukraine association] agreement and the Union has concluded it." 

“Should this not be the case, the Decision will cease to exist,” the paper notes.

Commenting on the EU-Ukraine deal, Rutte said that the failure to reach the agreement on it would have been perceived as “an enormous present for Russia,” Reuters reported.

The deal in question, signed in March 2014,  a free-trade area, enhancing cooperation in foreign and security policies. It will be submitted for ratification to the Dutch Parliament in January, according to Rutte. It needs the approval of all 28 members of the union to come into effect, in addition to Ukraine.