Ukraine president confident Dutch voters won't reject EU pact
Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko expressed confidence Friday that Dutch voters next week will not reject his country's cooperation deal with the European Union.
The Netherlands is to hold a referendum on Wednesday on the accord, which puts Ukraine on the path towards eventual EU membership, after a grassroots eurosceptic campaign.
Poroshenko met Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte at the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington on Friday, and afterwards stressed the friendship between their countries.
He accused the campaigners who demanded the vote of having exploited the Ukraine question in order to strike a broader blow against the European project.
"The real purpose was an internal Dutch discussion about the future of the European Union and internal political clashes," Poroshenko told reporters.
"This is very dangerous, that a 45-million-person country could become the victim of this."
Poroshenko said Ukrainian officials were in the Netherlands to point out the benefits of welcoming a new member to the union and a large new market.
"We're absolutely sure that European integration and the implementation of our association agreement will not be stopped," he said.
The vote is seen in the Netherlands as an opportunity for the Dutch to express broader concerns about the European project, but it could have deep geopolitical consequences.
Russia, which backs separatist rebels in Ukraine's east, resents Kiev's tilt towards the West and would relish a vote to prevent it from developing ties with Brussels.
Separately, the United States also urged Dutch voters to back Ukraine.
"Like any referendum the decision is for the Dutch people," State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau said.
"But we believe that an association agreement is in the best interests of Ukraine, the Netherlands and Europe as a whole."
The accord that the Netherlands will vote on came provisionally into effect on January 1, 2014 but could still be blocked by any of the 27 EU member states.
© 2016 AFP