World News

After a year's delay, Dutch approve Ukraine treaty

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The Dutch senate on Tuesday approved a European Union “association agreement” with Ukraine, a final hurdle to the treaty, which strengthens the former Soviet republic’s ties with Western Europe and moves it further from Moscow’s orbit.

It did so following amendments made at the EU level to tak into consideration the Dutch referendum vot last year against the agreement.

“Today’s vote in the Dutch Senate sends an important signal from the Netherlands and the entire European Union to our Ukrainian friends: Ukraine’s place is in Europe. Ukraine’s future lies with Europe,” said EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

The agreement, a treaty, had already been negotiated and approved by all EU governments and by Ukraine in 2014, and had even partially gone into effect pending ratification when it was abruptly rejected by Dutch voters in a snap referendum held in April 2016.

The Dutch vote was as much a rebuke to Prime Minister Mark Rutte and the European Union as a rejection of the treaty, which focuses mostly on trade ties.

But Rutte and the European Union diplomats were forced to renegotiate parts of the treaty in order to render it palatable to Dutch parliament or risk seeing it derailed, since it cannot be ratified without support from all European Union legislatures.

Ultimately the treaty was amended to underline it does not make Ukraine a candidate for EU membership, does not entitle Kiev to financial aid or military assistance from the bloc, and does not give Ukrainians the right to live and work in EU member states.

The amended version passed Dutch parliament in March, and the Senate approved it Monday, both by comfortable margins.

Reporting by Toby Sterling Editing by Jeremy Gaunt