Rutte urged to ignore Ukraine referendum and ratify treaty

61% of voters rejected the treaty in April's referendum.
61% of voters rejected the treaty in April’s referendum.

Mark Rutte’s government should ratify Ukraine’s association treaty with the EU despite the ‘no’ vote in this year’s referendum, according to its main advisory body on foreign affairs.

The Advisory Council on International Affairs (AIV) said a rejection of the treaty could damage the Netherlands’ standing and European unity, pointing out that the referendum on April 6 was advisory and not binding.

Failure to ratify the treaty would ‘probably be seen by Russia’s president Putin as a sign of weakness by Europe,’ the AIV wrote in its official advice. That, combined with ‘uncertainty over America’s position following the election of Donald Trump as president,’ would be likely to increase Russian pressure on Ukraine, it said.

Rutte is attending a summit later this month where he will try to persuade European leaders to adopt a declaration clarifying that the treaty is not a stepping stone towards EU membership, one of the concerns raised by the successful No campaign. It will also state that Ukrainian citizens will not have access to Europe’s labour market.

The prime minister has come under pressure from opposition parties, ranging from the Socialists (SP) to the progressive liberal D66 group, to respect the outcome of the referendum, in which 61% of voters said No. The Christian Democrats (CDA), who are likely to hold the balance of power when the Senate votes on the issue, have not declared their position.

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