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Dutch website gains enough signatures for EU-Ukraine referendum

A satirical website in the Netherlands has enough supporters to force a referendum on the EU's pact with the Ukraine. The announcement suggests a rise in euroskepticism in the country.

The Dutch electoral commission said on Wednesday a group of activists had collected enough signatures to call a referendum on the EU-Ukraine cooperation agreement.

Though it's non-binding, many observers say the referendum points to a growing euroskepticism among Dutch voters.

GeenStijl, a satirical website known for tackling hot-button political issues in an irreverent and often controversial manner, led the call for signatures, helping to amass around 428,000 - far more than the 300,000 needed to hold the vote. After the announcement, the website took to Twitter to hail the vote.

"This referendum is an opportunity to give the ordinary Dutch citizen a chance to have their voice heard," GeenStijl chief Jan Roos said during a press conference after the news broke.

A growing euroskepticism?

While the website insists it has no specific political agenda, many observers see the referendum as a response to EU expansionism, also indicated by growing support for Geert Wilders' nationalist Freedom Party.

The subject of the referendum is the association agreement made between the EU and Ukraine to form closer political and economic ties. After Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine's then-president, chose not to sign the agreement in 2013, thousands of Ukrainians took to the streets, eventually leading to his overthrow. The pro-EU Petro Poroschenko then took over, spurring Russia - an ally of Yanukovych - to annex the Crimea; soon after, civil war between pro-Kyiv and pro-Moscow forces broke out in Ukraine's east.

In July 2014, a Malaysian Airlines flight carrying mostly Dutch passengers was shot down over Ukraine. A report released on Tuesday found the plane had probably been hit by a Russian-made missile, also in Ukraine's arsenal.

blc/msh (Reuters, AP, AFP)

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