Mark Rutte-Donald Tusk.jpg
Photograph: EPA/LEX VAN LIESHOUT

The Dutch vote against strengthening ties between the European Union and Ukraine could lead to lengthy negotiations about compromises in the implementation of the association agreement, Dutch Premier Mark Rutte said on Friday.

Many different parties were involved in the complex implementation process, Rutte told Dutch news agency ANP.

"It could be months before a solution will be found," he was quoted as saying.

In a referendum held on Wednesday, 61 per cent of voters had rejected the association agreement, while only 38 per cent voted in favour.

At 32 per cent, voter turnout was only just above the participation rate of 30 per cent required for the vote to be valid.

Legally, the vote is not binding, so the Dutch government would not be obliged to follow the outcome of the referendum. In practice, however, this is unlikely.

Rutte said the Dutch Parliament would have to consider the feelings of the people who voted against the agreement when it discusses the issue in the coming week.

Experts expect large parts of the association agreement between the EU and Ukraine to be implemented without the Netherlands. However, changes to the agreement could still be made later, EU commissioner Guenther Oettinger said.

The agreement, 27 remaining EU member states have already ratified, went into effect in part on January 1 after both houses of the Dutch parliament passed the necessary acts by large majorities.

Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko on Thursday blasted the Dutch vote outcome as an "attack on the unity of Europe," while EU officials insisted that their approach towards Kiev would not change.

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