"400 years ago, we have achieved our independence. Now Ukraine is doing exactly the same. I will vote in favour of the Association Agreement and encourage you to do the same. Explain to your friends, neighbours, that we have to do this." Martijn van Dam, Minister for Agriculture of the Netherlands.
The Mission of Ukraine to the EU has qualified as "powerful" the words of support pronounced for Martijn van Dam and has expressed its thankfulness.
A Dutch referendum is to be held next Wednesday on an EU agreement for closer relations with Ukraine after 427,000 people backed a citizens' initiative.
A new Dutch law gives any citizen the right to request a non-binding referendum on any law that has been voted on by Dutch Parliament but which hasn't become active yet.
The Dutch Parliament had already backed the Association Agreement, which removes trade barriers between the EU and Ukraine.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has warned of "major consequences" if the agreement fails. He has urged Dutch voters not to oppose the deal with Ukraine, saying such a move could open the doors to a continental crisis.
"Let's not change the referendum into a vote about Europe," Jean-Claude Juncker said adding "it is no laughing matter, however. If the Dutch vote ‘no’, Europe will have a problem. That problem is destabilisation. We need to bear this in mind, because Ukraine expects Europe to stick to what was agreed.
In reality, it is about trade and trade agreements. I can hardly imagine an old, successful trading nation like the Netherlands rejecting a trade agreement with a country, like Ukraine, that is so important for European stability."
I would therefore be happy if the Dutch voted ‘yes’, because it is about the Dutch, Europe and the other parts of Europe. Everybody who goes to the polls will be a statesman and should ask themselves what the final outcome would be if everybody else voted like them. I know the Dutch are practical people, and I expect them to vote ‘yes’ rather than ‘no’, because the last ‘no’ caused a lot of headaches in Europe."
Although the result of the poll on 6 April will not be binding on the Dutch government, it will have to be considered if turnout is above 30 per cent and a majority votes against the agreement.