13:08 Apr. 6, 2016
Mark Rutte says he is favour of the Association Agreement
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte cast his vote on Wednesday (April 6) in a national referendum on a European Union treaty aimed at deepening ties with Ukraine, while Dutch voters also began casting their ballots in a test of anti-E.U. sentiment before Britain votes on its membership of the bloc in June.
Dutch politicians say rejecting a treaty intended to bring Ukraine closer to the European Union would hand a symbolic victory to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine are widely accused of bringing down an airliner in 2014 with the loss of almost 200 Dutch lives.
Rutte's already unpopular government has lost further ground over Europe's refugee debate, and ignoring a "no" vote would be risky with national elections scheduled no later than March 2017.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte: "I am in favour of the association agreement, because I believe it is important that we have more stability on the borders of the European Union. This is about helping with the development of the rule of law, democracy, fighting corruption, also developing the economy, stronger trade relations, it is not about accession to the European Union, as some of the "against" voters are saying, it is not about collective defence, it is not about new money, it's not about the free movement of employees like with Poland or Romania who are now part of European Union."
Launched by eurosceptic groups, the referendum - whose result the government would be obliged to consider but not enforce - is the first in the country since a 2015 law made it possible to force through plebiscites by gathering 300,000 signatures on the Internet.
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