17 Dec, THE HAGUE, – The Dutch government on Friday approved a draft law needed to ratify the EU’s historic pact with Ukraine after reaching a compromise with Brussels following a referendum in which Dutch voters rejected the deal.
“We (the Dutch cabinet) find it is necessary to ratify this accord,” Prime Minister Mark Rutte said of the draft law, which still needs approval from parliament before the Netherlands can sign up to the deal with Kiev.
The European Union agreed the cooperation pact and an associated free trade agreement with Ukraine in 2014 after pro-EU protestors ousted Russia-leaning president Viktor Yanukovych who fled to Moscow.
But Dutch voters opposed the deal in April on the grounds it opened the door to Ukraine’s membership of the bloc and amounted to a defence guarantee for a country already embroiled in bloody conflict with Russia.
EU leaders late Thursday gave Rutte special pledges limiting defence commitments to Ukraine, and saying that the accord does not entail future membership for Kiev.
The Netherlands is now set to become the final EU nation to ratify the agreement.
Rutte had warned that a collapse of the deal would have been the “biggest ever present” for Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The law will now be sent to the Dutch government’s highest advisory body, the State Council, for an opinion, before being tabled for parliamentary approval.
The law is likely to be approved by the lower house and will be then sent to the upper house.
“There is however still a big question mark” whether the law will pass in the Senate, a Hague-based political source told AFP.
Rutte’s coalition government does not have a majority in the 75-seat upper house, the final hurdle before the law can be approved.
Rutte “still has a long political road” ahead over the Ukraine deal, Dutch public newscaster NOS said.
“It will probably take until after parliamentary polls on March 15 before there will be clarity whether the upper house agrees with the deal,” it added.
Rutte has been walking a political tightrope since the referendum organised by Dutch eurosceptic groups in which — despite a low turnout — 60 percent of those who voted rejected the accord with Kiev. (AFP)