00:51 GMT11 May 2021
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    Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte says that Ukraine should never be allowed to join the European Union.

    In an interview for the Dutch news portal NU.nl ahead of the upcoming advisory referendum on Ukraine's Association Agreement with the EU, Rutte explained that he was against Ukraine's accession to the supranational union because Ukraine's neutrality must be maintained.

    "…We believe that Ukraine should have good relations with both Europe and Russia. This would not be possible if Ukraine was a member of the EU," Rutte said.

    The region's history, the prime minister added, also plays into consideration. "It is also about the history of Ukraine. If you look at history, Russia also originated in Kiev and other parts of Ukraine." 

    Pro-euro protesters are seen through a European Union flag during a rally in front of the parliament in Athens, Greece, on Thursday, June 18, 2015
    © AP Photo / Yorgos Karahalis
    In this connection, he said, Russia has every right to seek stable and good neighborly relations with its neighbor. "Russia only goes too far when it says that Ukraine can maintain a good relationship only with Russia."

    Ultimately, the prime minister believes, "good relations [between Ukraine and Russia] are not possible right now, in connection with events in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, and will require some more time. But it is the long term that really matters." 

    Rutte is not the first top-tier European politician to put a check on Kiev's EU aspirations. Earlier this month, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker struck a major blow to Kiev's hopes of joining the bloc, saying Ukraine should forget about being granted membership in the EU or NATO within the next 20-25 years.

    Voters in the Netherlands are scheduled to go to the polls on April 6 to vote on an advisory referendum on whether to back or reject the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement signed between Kiev and Brussels in 2014. The Netherlands is the only EU country that has not yet ratified the deal.

    A turnout of 30 percent will be required for the referendum to be taken into consideration by the government. The government agreed to hold a non-binding referendum after over 400,000 people signed a petition to put the matter to a nationwide vote. Opinion polling from earlier this month seems to indicate that over half of Dutch voters are leaning toward rejecting the agreement.

    For his part, Rutte supports association, suggesting that it serves in the interests of ensuring "stability on the edge of Europe." The association agreement, he insists, is not a first step to membership. "This agreement is not about EU membership, not about money and not about a visa-free regime."


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    EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, EU Association Agreement, European Union, Mark Rutte, Ukraine, Netherlands
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