Ukraine has no option but to join the European Union eventually, and the bloc should say so to help the country`s leaders continue long-term reforms, Kyiv`s ambassador to Moscow said Monday, according to AFP.
"We are a European country, our place is in Europe," Konstyantyn Hryshchenko said in Brussels, on the eve of an EU-Ukraine summit in Paris.
Ukraine President Viktor Yushchenko and his foreign minister are due to attend the summit along with President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, whose country holds the EU`s rotating presidency.
"I don`t know what kind of options we have. A country of 46 million cannot be without options," he added, during a conference organized by the German Marshall Fund.
Commenting on the current political crisis back home, which has pitted Yushchenko against Ukraine`s Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and which threatens to topple the country`s coalition government, Hryshchenko said it reflected a "live democracy."
Relations between Yushchenko and Tymoshenko have recently deteriorated, with the presidency accusing Tymoshenko of "high treason" for allegedly siding with Moscow over the conflict in Georgia, a charge the prime minister denied.
The Ukraine ambassador said that while giving his country firm hopes of EU membership would not solve its problems at a stroke, a "European perspective" would nevertheless be "a pole around which Ukrainians can agree on certain long-term programs."
The EU-Ukraine summit had been scheduled to take place in Evian, on the banks of Lake Geneva, but the venue was changed at the last minute to Paris.
This was due to delays in a trip by French President Nicolas Sarkozy to Russia and Georgia intended to address the aftermath of last month`s armed conflict, his office said.
The summit has taken on greater importance in light of the conflict between Georgia and Russia and the threat it poses to other ex-Soviet areas with significant Russian populations, such as the Ukraine peninsula of Crimea.
Many analysts have called for a strong signal from the EU to Ukraine, to show Moscow that Europe is not going to allow it to control unwilling areas of its former Soviet empire.
However in a draft summit statement, the fruit of a difficult compromise between the 27 EU nations, there is no mention of the sought-after "European perspective."
The EU does though make one gesture towards Kyiv, calling a partnership deal being negotiated with Ukraine an "association agreement" - the term used for countries which do have a recognized future within the bloc.
The EU nations also recognize that Ukraine is a European country which shared a common history and values.
Poland and the Baltic countries, as well as Sweden and Britain, have always insisted that Ukraine is a European nation and therefore deserves a place at the table.
But the nations of "Old Europe," led by Germany, are opposed, amid concerns about continued enlargement, and also about irritating Russia.