Ukraine's president has strongly defended a pact his country signed with the European Union, calling it "the last farewell to the Soviet Union, the last farewell to Communism."

Petro Poroshenko's comments Thursday came during a visit to the Netherlands, which is holding a non-binding referendum next year on whether the Dutch government should support the association agreement with the 28-nation bloc.

After talks with Poroshenko, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte sought to allay fears in the Netherlands that the deal is a step toward EU membership for Ukraine, saying it is aimed at boosting trade and democratic reform and helping to buttress Europe's borders.

Rutte said that "we need stable neighbors. We live in a world where there's a lot of unrest particularly around Europe."