Juncker hopes for finalization of Ukraine-EU deal ratification by mid-July

The upper house of Dutch Parliament has approved ratification of a pact between the European Union and Ukraine, despite voters in the Netherlands rejecting the so-called Association Agreement in an advisory referendum previous year.

Lawmakers in the lower house approved ratification three months ago.

The referendum saw a turnout of 32.3%, passing the legal threshold of 30%, and 61% voted against the deal leaving the Netherlands to remain the only European Union member state not to have ratified the Ukrainian deal.

"This is the last parliamentary step", for the amended deal to be approved, senate spokesman Gert Riphagen said.

The treaty, which is now applied provisionally, has already brought benefits to the East European country, Poroshenko said, pointing that Ukraine's exports to the EU countries increased by nearly 25 percent since partial implementation of the deal.

Russian Federation has long tried to hinder closer relations between Ukraine and the West.

On his Facebook page, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko thanked Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and his country for their support, hailing the agreement as "a guarantee of our freedom, independence, and territorial integrity".

European diplomats speaking on condition of anonymity have told RFE/RL that it could be ratified during an EU-Ukraine summit in July and would enter into force in early autumn.

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In April 2016, it was rejected by a majority of the Dutch voters in a non-binding referendum.

But Rutte and the European Union diplomats were forced to renegotiate parts of the treaty in order to render it palatable to Dutch parliament or risk seeing it derailed, since it can not be ratified without support from all European Union legislatures.

"Reliability and dependability are crucial characteristics for a small country that has to rely on its European surroundings", said Knapen.

Dutch voters on Wednesday (6 April) rejected a European pact with Ukraine in a referendum seen as a barometer of anti-EU feeling, dealing an embarrassing blow to the government in charge of the rotating EU presidency, sending shockwaves throughout the Union.

"The Netherlands will soon convey the instrument of ratification to Brussels".

The vote sent "an important signal from the Netherlands and the entire European Union to our Ukrainian friends: Ukraine's place is in Europe".

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the ratification of the accord "will give the authorities in Kyiv a bit more time to cultivate the fable of a "bright European future", according to Russian news agencies.

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