The Dutch rejection of an EU treaty with Ukraine must not be linked to the Dutch-led MH17 plane crash investigation, according to prime minister Mark Rutte.
Rutte dismissed a connection made by Ukraine’s president Petro Poroshenko while he was in Maastricht for a meeting of the European parliament’s European People’s Party group. According to the Telegraaf, Poroshenko said in a speech that not ratifying the treaty would ‘set a dangerous precedent’ and linked it to the investigation into the MH17 air disaster.
The Netherlands is leading the investigation into the crash of the plane in Eastern Ukraine in July 2014.
Asked about Poroshenko’s remarks, Rutte told reporters the two issues should not be linked. ‘It is not sensible,’ Rutte said. ‘MH17 is an extremely big issue and should not be mixed in with the treaty.’ Rutte is currently in Brussels for an EU summit.
The prime minister said he had discussed the Dutch position with other European leaders during a dinner on Thursday night.
A Dutch ‘no’ to the treaty will have consequences for the peace process and the region’s stability, Rutte told reporters. ‘The Netherlands is not an island and we have to consider both domestic and international interests,’ the prime minister said.
‘We still have seven days and a lot can happen in that time,’ Rutte said. He has pledged to report back to parliament on the official Dutch response to the referendum result by November 1.
The turnout in the April referendum was just 32%, but this was enough for the result to have legal weight. Some 62% of those who voted said no to the treaty.
Rutte said immediately after the vote that the Netherlands can no longer ratify the treaty ‘just like that’. Even though the referendum was advisory, both ministers and opposition parties have said the result should be respected.
Several referendum organisers have admitted they campaigned to hold the vote to put pressure on the Dutch relationship with the EU and force a discussion on Dutch membership of the 28-country block – which will be 27 when Britain leaves.
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