A Dutch popular vote against strengthening ties between the European Union and Ukraine was an “attack on the unity of Europe,” Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said Thursday.
“The true goal of the organizers of this referendum is not the association agreement between Ukraine and the EU. … This is an attack on the spread of European values,” Poroshenko said in a statement on his website.
Dutch voters on Wednesday resoundingly rejected a referendum on the association agreement, meant to boost the EU’s political and commercial ties with the former Soviet republic.
With 80 per cent of the vote counted, about 61 per cent opposed the referendum. The vote was non-binding, but the rejection is being seen as an embarrassment to the Netherlands, which currently holds the EU presidency.
The political and free trade deal is currently being applied provisionally, pending full ratification. All of the EU’s member states, except the Netherlands, have given their final approval.
EU President Donald Tusk emphasized on Thursday that the association agreement remains valid.
“I have taken note of the reported outcome of the referendum in the Netherlands. I will continue to be in contact with (Dutch) Prime Minister (Mark) Rutte on this, as I need to hear what conclusions he and his government will draw from the referendum and what his intentions will be,” Tusk said.
Poroshenko assured that Ukraine does not consider its cooperation with the EU to be in danger.
“I am confident that this event is not a strategic obstacle for Ukraine on the path to Europe,” Poroshenko said. “We will not turn off the road of European integration.”
The association agreement went into provisional effect on January 1, after both houses of the Dutch parliament passed the necessary acts by large majorities, but a eurosceptic initiative in the Netherlands drummed up enough support to force the country to hold the referendum.
Ukraine had been “hoping for a better result” from the vote, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin said in comments carried by the TASS news agency.
“Nothing will change in the practical implementation. The deal will continue like up to now on a tentative basis,” Klimkin said.
Like Poroshenko, Klimkin saw the vote as a test of the “attitude of the Dutch towards Europe.”