Tiny Kox: Association Agreement with Ukraine goes further than similar EU treaties

15 February 2016

Tiny Kox: Association Agreement with Ukraine goes further than similar EU treaties

Foto: SP

Volkskrant editor Bert Lanting is unimpressed by the criticisms of the EU Association Agreement with the Ukraine lodged by Jan Roos of GeenPeil, the group whose initiative led to the referendum on the issue. That’s understandable, in that Roos boasts of never having read the text of the treaty, which is rather silly. But that Lanting himself tells us that there’s nothing wrong with the agreement, when he hasn’t bothered to look at the relevant parliamentary debate, is harder to understand.

If Lanting had read the minutes of the Senate debate of 30th June 2015, he would have seen that according to Foreign Minister Bert Koenders, the treaty goes much further than other Association Agreements and is, moreover, much more than a simple free trade accord. He would also have read that major concerns exist, and not only in the SP but in many other parties represented in the Senate, regarding the condition in which Ukraine currently finds itself.

The various political groups differed over whether the agreement which we were required to consider would contribute to an improvement in that deplorable situation, which is normal. But nobody nodded the treaty through as if it were a trivial matter, as Lanting would. To play the treaty down as a lot of twaddle about fake feta cheese, is in actual fact just as stupid as to reject it without ever having read it, like Jan Roos.

This Association Agreement is playing a major role in Ukraine, as well as in relations between the EU and Russia. It plays a role in the civil war which has been going on since 2014, costing almost 10,000 lives and putting more than a million people to flight.

I have had the opportunity to meet almost all of the main players in Ukraine. They have made one thing very clear: Ukraine sees this treaty as an irreversible step in the direction of EU membership. This conflicts with the opinion of our government, but accords with the prevalent view in Poland and the Baltic states, as our government knows.

The Association Agreement on which we are about to hold a referendum envisages far-reaching political cooperation, including over foreign and security policy, as well as defence. The treaty is aimed at the economic integration of a market of 45 million consumers into that of the European Union. This market is, however, controlled by powerful oligarchs and plagued by endemic corruption – the country currently stands at 130 in Transparency International’s corruption rankings.

Moreover, Ukraine is virtually bankrupt. What will be the results of a far-reaching economic integration? Will it quickly turn out that Ukraine’s leading export product is superfluous labour? And how great will be the frustration should the gates of the European Union not eventually open?

To say nothing of these things and kid the reader that it’s actually a lot of fuss about nothing is a great shame. Now that the people are to be asked to pass their own judgement on the Association Agreement with Ukraine, they have the right to decent information. From both sides.

This article first appeared, in the original Dutch, in the national newspaper De Volkskrant, on 15th February 2016. Tiny Kox is leader of the SP group in the Senate and chair of the United Left Group in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. It is in the latter capacity that he has visited Ukraine.

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