Politicians sitting in the Dutch Senate voted to approve the agreement this morning, bringing to an end a year-long battle by the establishment to force it through against the will of the public.
Ironically just under two-thirds of senators cast their ballots to drag the deal over the finishing line, the exact inverse of the number of Dutch voters who opposed it just a year ago.
Jean-Claude Juncker, left, with Dutch PM Mark Rutte, welcomed today's vote
EU Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker was quick to hail the result of the Senate vote, saying it showed once and for all that “Ukraine’s place is in Europe”.
His remarks came despite the fact that prime minister Mark Rutte has tried to reassure the Dutch people that the agreement does not mean Kiev is automatically on the path to joining the EU.
Dutch senator Ben Knapen suggested the Netherlands is too weak to oppose the EU
Under the terms of the deal European investment in war-torn Kiev will be stepped up and its citizens will gain the right to travel around the Schengen zone – which does not include Britain – without a visa.
It was passed after senate members of the eurosceptic Christian Democrats defied their leader, who once pledged to respect the referendum result and “bin” the deal, to vote in its favour.
After the vote the party’s Ben Knapen, a former minister for EU affairs, admitted they had backed the deal because the Netherlands is not big enough to stand on its own two feet without Brussels.
Observing how other member states wanted the Dutch to ratify the deal, he said: “Reliability and dependability are crucial characteristics for a small country that has to rely on its European surroundings.”
Reliability and dependability are crucial characteristics for a small country that has to rely on its European surroundings
Dutch senator Ben Knapen
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His surprisingly frank remarks are likely to enrage voters who have been repeatedly promised by mainstream politicians that they will stand up for Dutch interests in Brussels.
The referendum on the EU-Ukraine treaty was triggered after a group of eurosceptic bloggers called GeenPeil organised a petition which accrued more than 450,000 signatures.
It was held in April 2016 and overall 61.1 percent of voters cast their ballots against adopting the agreement compared to 38.9 who backed it, or a turnout of 32.2 per cent.
In the immediate aftermath of the vote eurocrats insisted that the deal would still go ahead, with Mr Juncker saying there would be a “continental crisis” if the Netherlands blocked it.
The top moments from the Dutch Elections Thu, March 16, 2017
Geert Wilders is battling the current Prime Minister Mark Rutte in the Dutch Elections 2017
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Six months later EU leaders agreed to add a token text to the treaty laying out that it does not guarantee EU membership to Ukraine or oblige the Netherlands to get involved in the war against Russia.
But other than that the agreement remained entirely intact and will now come into force officially, having been provisionally ratified by the 28 heads of government in various stages since 2014.
Minutes after the result in the senate was announced Mr Juncker said: "Today's vote in the Dutch senate sends an important signal from the Netherlands and the entire European Union to our Ukrainian friends: Ukraine's place is in Europe.”