Dutch PM Rutte wants 'legally binding' assurances over Ukraine deal: sources

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 28, 2016 5:06 PM

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte asked European Union leaders on Tuesday for "legally binding" assurances to address his country's concerns over a trade and association deal with Ukraine, but did not say he would block it, diplomats said.

The Netherlands is the only EU state not to have ratified the bloc's agreement on closer political, security and trade ties with Kiev following a referendum in April in which the Dutch voted overwhelmingly to reject it.

The agreement with Kiev, reached after Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in March, 2014, and then backed rebels fighting government troops in the east of the country, is being provisionally implemented for now, but its future hinges on the Netherlands.

EU leaders were meeting in Brussels on Tuesday to discuss the aftermath of a vote in Britain last week to leave the bloc.

But Rutte also took the floor to inform the other 27 leaders about the Dutch referendum on the Ukraine deal, and the concerns expressed in his country.

One diplomat said Rutte wanted a "text that would have given him 'legally binding' assurances that his concerns would be handled."

Another diplomat said Rutte did not say he wanted a change to the text of the agreement with Ukraine or that he would formally notify the bloc that the Netherlands would not ratify it, both of which could derail the agreement.

A third diplomat said Rutte wanted assurances that the agreement was "no basis" for membership in the EU for Ukraine, a country of some 45 million.

(Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Dominic Evans)