All eyes are on Brussels today. The European Commission is reportedly issuing positive advice on the EU membership candidate for Ukraine, although additional requirements will be imposed. The desired status is a strong desire of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, but it has not yet been fulfilled. The proposal must be unanimously approved by all member states, and the Netherlands, among others, is showing restraint.
Four days after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Zelensky applied for membership in the European Union. Commission Chairperson Ursula von der Leyen was positive, but member states are to blame. This is one of the reasons why Zelensky launched a real mage attack in recent months.
For example, the President addressed the national parliaments and did not bypass the House of Representatives. In his speech, he quoted his wish with a striking sentence: “And you, my friend Mark, also know that our accession to the European Union depends a lot on you.”
It is not without reason that he addressed Prime Minister Mark Rutte directly. In Brussels, it was the Netherlands – as well as Denmark and Portugal – that showed a very conservative attitude, creating the impression that the position of the Dutch Cabinet was an obstacle to accession.
“It must still be a bit of a boring process.”
Rutte also spoke forcefully in the Netherlands about Ukraine’s EU membership. At his weekly press conference, a day after the Russian invasion and before Ukraine made a formal request, the prime minister said: “Zelensky would of course like the EU to say: You get the membership of the EU candidate. We don’t do that, that’s not the way the EU works.”
Rota has slowly turned around on this point. A month later, he said, “At a certain point there was an image that we would oppose it. We are neither against it nor against it.” Since then, both Minister Wopke Hoekstra (Foreign Affairs) and Rutte have repeatedly said that the Cabinet is waiting for the Commission’s advice. At the same time, they did not hide the fact that Holland does not rejoice.
For example, a month after the outbreak of the war, the Prime Minister emphasized that it should not become a “political process”. “It should still be a bit of a boring process in my view,” he said. Rutte believes that other options could also be explored to strengthen the ties between Ukraine and the European Union. A month ago, he said that Zelensky must first implement reforms.
Ukraine Complicated File for Rutte Because of the Referendum
One reason for the reservation suggested by Ruti himself is that before the war Ukraine still had a long way to go in terms of democratic values. In addition, there are concerns in the Cabinet about the twisted faces of the Western Balkan countries that had to fight for years before they even got a membership candidate.
But there may also be other motives. Ukraine is a sensitive issue for Root due to the events of 2016. In an advisory referendum, the Dutch expressed their negative opinion on the association agreement with Ukraine, but it was done anyway. Rutte promised that this was certainly not a precursor to EU membership.
“We should not let this be divisive, because it will basically benefit someone in Moscow.”
Woepke Hoekstra Foreign Minister
In addition, the parliamentary majority is generally against EU enlargement. At the end of March, only D66, PvdA, GL, ChristenUnie, DENK, Volt and Fractie Den Haan voted for Ukraine’s candidate membership (52 seats). Meanwhile, the CDA also believes that you should view Ukraine’s “perspective” and that you should rely on Commission advice. But VVD still holds his hand and takes the same position as the treasury.
Grant membership of a candidate with a mainly token value
France, Germany, Italy and Romania announced on Thursday that they now support granting the status “immediately”. As a result, the political pressure on the Netherlands is too great.
Minister Hoekstra said on March 10 that he found it highly desirable for Europe to act jointly. He doesn’t want to make this so divisive, because someone in Moscow would basically benefit from it.” He also admitted at the time that it was “absolutely very complicated” to refuse a country finding itself in such a situation.
If only Rota stuck to the refusal, the Netherlands would be known as the country that did not want to offer any perspective to Ukraine in wartime. Especially since granting a candidate’s membership does not guarantee true membership. Before a country can become an actual member, it must meet very strict criteria. This process will take at least ten years.
Heads of government will meet at the end of next week to discuss the advice. The government is likely to provide a response after the weekend. Rutte will then have a discussion with the Chamber of Deputies before leaving for Brussels.
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