Dutch PM schedules town hall to discuss deal with EU on Ukraine; Opposition furious

Mark Rutte (Photo: Nick van Ormondt/Wikimedia Commons)Mark Rutte (Photo: Nick van Ormondt/Wikimedia Commons)

News about the town hall, and the statement from the prime minister, were added to this report.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte and the other European Union leaders agreed on amendments the Netherlands wants to add to the association agreement with the Ukraine in Brussels on Thursday. With these amendments, Rutte hopes to put at ease the concerns of Dutch voters who voted against the agreement in a referendum in April, and still be able to ratify the agreement, NOS reports.

"Yesterday I reached an agreement in Brussels on the Ukraine treaty. I am convinced that I thus achieved the maximum result for the Netherlands." Rutte said on his Facebook page on Friday. "But I also see that there are people who totally disagree with me and that there is still many questions. I would like to talk about it. And it seems sensible to me that we do this quickly."

The Prime Minister invited Netherlands voters to join him at a town hall meeting on the issue in Zevenhuizen on Saturday. Scheduled for 11:00 a.m, Rutte will speak with no more than 80 people at the meeting. Through his party's website he invited all interested residents to send an email to try and gain access to the meeting.

The EU leaders agreed that the association agreement is not a "stepping stone" to EU membership for the Ukraine. They also agreed that the treaty contains no obligation for military cooperation and it does not mean that it will be easier for Ukrainians to work in the EU. The Ukrainians also agreed to intensify their fight against corruption.

Speaking from Brussels, Rutte stressed that the negotiations to come to his compromise were not easy or fun. According to him, the starting point for this agreement is for Europe to form an united front against Russia's destabilizing actions, such as the taking of the Crimea in 2014. He also said that he realizes not everyone is pleased with this outcome, referring to the no-voters in the Ukraine referendum. "There will always be people who continue to vote no." But the Prime Minister, in his own words, will not turn away from this responsibility. Security and stability are too important for that.

Rutte was scheduled to discuss the association agreement and its additions with the council of ministers on Friday. Then it will go to the Council of State for advice and then to the Tweede Kamer, the lower house of Dutch parliament. Rutte said he will do his best to get the Tweede Kamer to accept this compromise.

The Prime Minister has his job cut out for him. Because opposition parties in the Kamer are furious over the agreement on the Ukraine deal. 

Parliamentarian Louis Bontes of Groep Bontes/Van Klaveren said on Twitter: "With this deal the unreliable Rutte is not taking away the concerns. This deal is an afront to the NO-voter."

Jan Roos, leader of Voor Nederland, tweeted: "The only substantive answer to no is no!"

SP leader Emile Roemer tweeted: "Rutte made a deal? We already had a deal! NO = NO."

"For the ChristenUnie the priority is that the government must do right to the no-voice that sounded in April", party leader Gert-Jan Segers said to newspaper AD. "For us it is doubtful whether this agreement does that. We will debate it with the government next week and then give our judgement."

"The faction of GroenLinks believes that the statement Rutte negotiated in Brussels does insufficient justice to the outcome of the referendum", parliamentarian Rik Grashoff said to the newspaper. "The result was no, so it is difficult to explain that the agreement will simply go through with an additional statement. A statement that was not signed by the Ukraine itself. We have always substantively been in favor of European cooperation with the Ukraine ,nevertheless we don't think that after the referendum the Netherlands should still ratify the Ukraine treaty in this way. Investing in cooperation with Ukraine must and can happen in other ways."