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EU Commission Chief 'Sad' at Netherlands Rejection of Ukraine Deal

  • VOA News

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

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

European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker is saddened by the outcome of a Netherlands referendum on an EU trade deal with Ukraine, but a spokesman says Juncker remains committed "to the development of its relations with Ukraine."

Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko also said he remains committed to the deal despite the Dutch vote, in which nearly two-thirds of the voters rejected the measure. The vote was also marred by low turnout, barely reaching the 30 percent minimum needed to validate the decision.

The referendum Wednesday was nonbinding, but it indicates popular disapproval of the Dutch government's plans to ratify the trade deal.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte casts his vote in a non-binding referendum on the EU-Ukraine association agreement in The Hague, Netherlands, April 6, 2016.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte casts his vote in a non-binding referendum on the EU-Ukraine association agreement in The Hague, Netherlands, April 6, 2016.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte said late Wednesday the Dutch government will consult with parliament and with its European partners to decide what do to next.

Rutte said the process could take "days or weeks."

Watch: Dutch Reject EU Ukraine Agreement

While the vote count is nearly complete, officials results are not due to be released until April 12. Unofficial results after polls closed Wednesday indicated that 61 percent of voters rejected the deal, while 38 percent approved it. Only about 32 percent of the Netherlands' 12.5 million registered voters participated in the referendum.

Opposition

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

The United States backs the deal. State Department Deputy Spokesman Mark Toner said Wednesday it is "in the interests of the United States, of the Netherlands, of the EU to help ensure that Ukraine becomes a democratic and economically stable country. ”

The Netherlands referendum was seen as a measure of Dutch support for the European Union in general. It came just three months before Britons are to vote in a referendum on whether to leave the union altogether, in a potential move that has been nicknamed "Brexit."

The trade bloc was formally established in 1993 with the Netherlands as one of its founding members. It is now struggling to cope with economic woes, political divisions, and the worst refugee crisis since World War II.

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