Dutch Senate approves EU-Ukraine Association Agreement

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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 last year.

Dutch senators approved ratification in a vote Tuesday, three months after the lower house of Parliament gave it the green light. The 27 other European Union member states already have ratified the pact, which aims to boost trade and fight corruption.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker says the vote “sends an important signal from the Netherlands and the entire European Union to our Ukrainian friends: Ukraine’s place is in Europe.”

Dutch lawmakers approved the deal after Prime Minister Mark Rutte got assurances from EU leaders that it is not a stepping stone to EU membership.

Frozen war

The term ‘frozen war’ is often used to describe the stalemate between soldiers and anti-Kiev separatists in Eastern Ukraine, but three years of conflict continue to spread fear and poverty among a forgotten population.

The rebels who control part of the Donbas region in Eastern Ukraine are locked in a stand-off with Ukrainian forces and there’s little sign of progress towards peace. The opposing sides exchange artillery fire nearly every night, with devastating consequences to residents stuck in the crossfire.