Communiqué issued after EU-Ukrainian summit in Paris

17:29, 09 September 2008
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EU frustrates Ukraine’s membership hopes

The European Union on Tuesday declined to offer Ukraine the long-term prospect of EU membership, frustrating Ukrainian officials who said the bloc had thrown away a golden opportunity to stabilise its eastern frontier and encourage political and economic reform in Kyiv, The Financial Times informs.

A communiqué issued after an EU-Ukrainian summit in Paris set out a framework for closer political and economic ties between Kyiv and the 27-nation bloc, but omitted the crucial words “membership perspective” to describe Ukraine’s future relationship with the EU.

Ukraine, a country of 46m people wedged between the EU and Russia, had hoped that Russia’s military assault on Georgia last month, and its subsequent attempt to partition the former Soviet republic, might alert the EU to the need for a rapid and decisive show of support for Ukraine.

But Ukraine enhanced its reputation for chronic political instability last week when the ruling coalition split up and Viktor Yushchenko, the reformist president, threatened to call what would be the third parliamentary elections in less than three years.

Diplomats said Germany and the Netherlands, and to a lesser extent Belgium, were the states most reluctant to make a firm promise that Ukraine could one day join the EU.

The three Baltic states, the Czech Republic, Poland, Sweden and the UK, while recognising that Ukrainian accession was not an immediate possibility, were all sympathetic to Ukraine’s aspirations.

France, which currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency, appreciated the need to send positive signals to Kiev, but was unwilling to make a strong commitment to Ukraine without a shift in the German and Dutch positions, diplomats said.

For now, Ukraine will have to make do with the promise of an “association agreement” with the EU, a pact which for Balkan countries such as Albania, Macedonia and Serbia represents the first step on the path to eventual membership, but which in Ukraine’s case carries no such implications.

The association agreement is expected to be ready in about one year’s time, but some Ukrainian officials said their government might be wary of putting its signature to the accord, lest this be interpreted in some EU capitals as Kiev’s formal acceptance of a status falling short of possible membership.

EU officials did their best to soothe the ruffled feathers of the Ukrainians, pointing out that Tuesday’s summit communiqué did not explicitly exclude eventual EU accession.

But Ukraine’s concern is that the pressure for stronger action in support of Kiev’s EU aspirations may fade away if the crisis in Georgia steadily calms down.

By Tony Barber in Paris, The Financial Times

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