Dutch to respond to Ukraine referendum ‘no’ by September

Ukraine Netherlands  Sign Flags ConceptThe cabinet will finalise its official response to last week’s referendum on the EU’s treaty with Ukraine by September at the latest, foreign minister Bert Koenders said on Tuesday.

Ministers have to reassess their support for ratification following the ‘no’ vote last week. In total, 32.3% of the electorate voted in the referendum, just above the threshold for the results to have legal weight.

Prime minister Mark Rutte said immediately after the vote that the Netherlands can no longer ratify the treaty ‘just like that’.

What happens next will have to be looked at ‘step by step’, the prime minister said. Ministers will talk to parliament and to the country’s European partners before deciding what to do next, he said.

However, it is unclear what, if any, room for manoeuvre the Netherlands actually has. All 27 other member states have already ratified the treaty and on Monday, Reuters quoted a senior official in Brussels as saying the European Commission will propose this month granting visa-free travel to Ukrainians.

Reuters said commission president Jean-Claude Juncker promised Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko the EU executive would put forward the proposal in April. ‘It may look as if we’re ignoring the Dutch voters, but we have to keep our word to Ukraine, which has met the conditions,’ the source told Reuters.

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