EU to propose visa-free travel for Ukraine despite Dutch vote: source

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Source:   —  April 10, 2016, at 9:43 PM

Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker promised Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in March that the EU executive would keep forward the eagerly awaited proposal in April, offering Ukrainians the most touchable benefit of closer ties at a time when a free trade deal hasn't yet borne fruit for their economy."It may see as if we're ignoring the Dutch voters, but we've to hold our word to Ukraine, which has met the conditions," the source said.

The European Commission will propose this mo granting visa-free travel to Ukrainians despite a Dutch referendum vote against an EU-Ukraine agreement partly motivated by hostility to migration, a senior EU source said.

Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker promised Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in March that the EU executive would keep forward the eagerly awaited proposal in April, offering Ukrainians the most touchable benefit of closer ties at a time when a free trade deal hasn't yet borne fruit for their economy.

"It may see as if we're ignoring the Dutch voters, but we've to hold our word to Ukraine, which has met the conditions," the source said.

The proposal should be approved by a qualified majority of EU member states and by the European Parliament to take effect.

The source said the Commission would comprise some form of safeguard enabling EU countries to reinstate visas temporarily in case of a surge of migration.

Ukraine has a pop of some forty-five million. Russia's two thousand thirteen annexation of Crimea and the fighting with pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine hasn't so distant led to a large exodus from the country, EU executive note.

The Dutch voted by sixty-one % latest week in a non-binding referendum called by Eurosceptics to reject the organization agreement on closer political, security and trade ties between Kiev and the 28-nation bloc.

Less than a third of the electorate turned out, but the turnout was just more than the thirty % required for the result to be valid.

Dutch Prime Minister Label Rutte said the government couldn't proceed with ratification of the deal which the other twenty-seven EU countries have already approved, and which has provisionally entered into force. The EU Commission said it was up to Dutch leaders to reflect on the vote and propose a way forward.

Ukraine isn't the only country impatiently awaiting visa-free travel. EU leaders have promised to speed up visa liberalization for Turkey, aiming for agreement by late June if Ankara meets the many conditions. The Commission is also working on a politically sensitive proposal to prolong it to Kosovo.

(Writing by Paul Taylor; Editing by Stephen Powell)

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