Europe

Polls open in Dutch referendum on EU-Ukraine trade deal

  • Firebrand Dutch lawmaker Geert Wilders casts his vote in a non-binding referendum on the EU-Ukraine association agreement in The Hague, Netherlands, Wednesday, April 6, 2016. The vote is seen by opponents of the 28-nation EU bloc as an opportunity to express their anger at what they consider unwanted expansionism and a lack of democratic rights for EU citizens.(AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

    Firebrand Dutch lawmaker Geert Wilders casts his vote in a non-binding referendum on the EU-Ukraine association agreement in The Hague, Netherlands, Wednesday, April 6, 2016. The vote is seen by opponents of the 28-nation EU bloc as an opportunity to express their anger at what they consider unwanted expansionism and a lack of democratic rights for EU citizens.(AP Photo/Peter Dejong)  (The Associated Press)

  • Firebrand Dutch lawmaker Geert Wilders casts his vote in a non-binding referendum on the EU-Ukraine association agreement in The Hague, Netherlands, Wednesday, April 6, 2016. The vote is seen by opponents of the 28-nation EU bloc as an opportunity to express their anger at what they consider unwanted expansionism and a lack of democratic rights for EU citizens, three months before British citizens decide in their own referendum whether to leave the EU altogether. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

    Firebrand Dutch lawmaker Geert Wilders casts his vote in a non-binding referendum on the EU-Ukraine association agreement in The Hague, Netherlands, Wednesday, April 6, 2016. The vote is seen by opponents of the 28-nation EU bloc as an opportunity to express their anger at what they consider unwanted expansionism and a lack of democratic rights for EU citizens, three months before British citizens decide in their own referendum whether to leave the EU altogether. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)  (The Associated Press)

  • Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte leaves the polling station after casting his vote in a non-binding referendum on the EU-Ukraine association agreement in The Hague, Netherlands, Wednesday, April 6, 2016. The vote is seen by opponents of the 28-nation EU bloc as an opportunity to express their anger at what they consider unwanted expansionism and a lack of democratic rights for EU citizens, three months before British citizens decide in their own referendum whether to leave the EU altogether.(AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

    Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte leaves the polling station after casting his vote in a non-binding referendum on the EU-Ukraine association agreement in The Hague, Netherlands, Wednesday, April 6, 2016. The vote is seen by opponents of the 28-nation EU bloc as an opportunity to express their anger at what they consider unwanted expansionism and a lack of democratic rights for EU citizens, three months before British citizens decide in their own referendum whether to leave the EU altogether.(AP Photo/Peter Dejong)  (The Associated Press)

Polls have opened in a Dutch referendum on a far-reaching free trade deal meant to foster closer ties between Ukraine and the European Union that has run into opposition in the Netherlands where many see it as evidence of unwanted EU expansionism.

Wednesday's non-binding vote in the Netherlands exposes deep divisions about this country's place in Europe and comes less than three months before British citizens decide in their own referendum whether to leave the EU altogether.

Dutch opponents of the EU-Ukraine association agreement argue its ultimate goal is bringing Kiev into the EU. Supporters say it is not a membership stepping stone and will boost trade and help battle corruption and improve human rights in the former Soviet republic on Europe's eastern edge.