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Wearily the EU-UA Association Agreement progresses toward ratification

May 30, 2017

30th May witnessed the Senate in The Netherlands finally provide the last positive vote required in a long and weary ratification journey of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement.

It now remains for the King of The Netherlands to apply his signature to the statute and the subsequent publication in the official Netherlands media.

Thereafter the Netherlands duly submits its ratified (and the last of the EU Member States) instrument to the European Council.

Following that, the EU also makes official publication of the fully ratified status of the Agreement in the official EU media outlets, and on the first day of the second month after that publication the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement finally comes into full and binding effect.

Only activation of the “get out clause” within the text by either party will cast this Agreement asunder.

Bravo!

It remains to be seen just how swiftly The Netherlands will be in concluding its domestic bureaucratic necessities and deposit the final ratified instrument.

The EU however, is likely to be rather swift thereafter in completing its own bureaucratic requirements in order to make the first day of the second month from publication one that is sooner rather than later – presumably 1st September or 1st October will be the date when ratified Association Agreement obligations fully take effect.

Something of an albeit wearisome win for all concerned – unless a reader happens to be a holder of vested interests in Ukraine or a feckless Verkhovna Rada parliamentarian, as there is much Ukraine obligates itself to do, some of which has quite distinct timetables.

Those ratified obligations and timetables will be rather irritating for the most populist of politicians as delaying much needed (if painful and temporarily unpopular) reform, legislative and regulatory approximations et al, would mean defaulting on the ratified obligations that so many of them actually voted for at a time when Ukraine was in a far worse position, and far less able, than it is at the time of writing.

They may very well cause the current authorities difficulties too.

Scheduled elections are but 2 years away.

Renegotiating this Agreement is so difficult as to be (almost) impossible, and universal goodwill by way of timetable extensions will be quite difficult to come by.

In short whoever wins future elections has the choice of implementing the Association Agreement as obliged, or instigating the “exit clause” should goodwill toward more flexible timetables be absent – as it often will be.

The last time a Ukrainian politician tried to exit the Association Agreement (before it even began) it was a catalyst for mass protests, eventually people died, the entire regime collapsed and self-exile followed.  The Rubicon was irreversibly crossed.

A Ukrainian politician enacting the “exit clause” at the time of writing is entirely unthinkable – particularly with the very capable level of self-organisation within Ukrainian society and notwithstanding a now war-forged population.

No Ukrainian politician with a chance of leading the nation would want to be doing so and be faced with the prospect of the Europeans instigating the “exit clause”.

There will naturally be much political fanfare once another major European event comes into full legal force.

With elections but 2 years away President Poroshenko will want to be associated as the man that brought Visa-free and the Association Agreement into being – despite both having been long negotiated prior to his election.   To be fair he has done his bit as far as both EU orientated events are concerned, and politics is often about timing.  Somebody has to be in charge and sign negotiated agreements when they get over the final and official finish lines, even if they had little or no input into the negotiations themselves.

However as 11th June and the implementation of Visa-free is perhaps more symbolic than anything else in manifestation, the 1st September/1st October, when a reader can reasonably expect the Association Agreement to finally take full effect, is far more structural.  In fact it is all structure and process reliant on legislation, regulation and implementation.

How swiftly the political shine wears off of the day to day slog in meeting Ukrainian obligations under the Association Agreement will be as interesting to observe as the political populist electioneering that will have be contained within ratified Ukrainian obligations.

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