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Dutch Vote in Referendum on EU-Ukraine Trade Deal

  • Associated Press
  • VOA News

People vote in a non-binding referendum on the European Union-Ukraine association agreement, in The Hague, Netherlands, April 6, 2016.

People vote in a non-binding referendum on the European Union-Ukraine association agreement, in The Hague, Netherlands, April 6, 2016.

Dutch voters are going to the polls to cast votes on whether to back a European Union free trade agreement with Ukraine.

The referendum is nonbinding, but it will be an important measure of EU support. It comes just three months before British voters cast ballots on whether to remain in the European Union.

Dutch opponents of the EU agreement say its ultimate goal is to bring Ukraine, which struggles with corruption and an ongoing separatist movement, into the bloc. Supporters say the agreement would aid economic development on both sides and improve human rights in the former Soviet republic.

Ukraine's president, Petro Poroshenko, has urged Dutch voters to say yes to the agreement.

Whether or not the Netherlands' voters approve or reject the agreement, it is expected to send an important signal to the Dutch government about the citizens' attitudes toward the European Union, which is struggling to cope with economic woes, political divisions, and the worst refugee crisis since World War II.

The number of registered Dutch voters is estimated at 12.5 million, but turnout is not expected to be high for Wednesday's referendum. Results from the first exit polls are expected immediately after polling stations close at 1900 GMT.

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