Ukraine's EU hopes set to take a knock

09:46, 04 September 2008
World
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European diplomats say

Ukraine`s hopes of becoming a candidate for EU membership, heightened by the conflict in Georgia, are set to be deflated at an EU-Ukraine summit next week, European diplomats said Wednesday, according to AFP.

France, which holds the EU`s rotating presidency, recently warmed to Ukraine`s candidature, according to the French ambassador here, and Kyiv had hoped that Russia`s intervention in Georgia may have tipped the scales in its favour.

However after fresh talks by ambassadors of the 27 EU nations on Wednesday, a draft declaration prepared for an EU-Ukraine summit in Evian, France on September 9 tells another story, according to diplomats close to the issue.

On the plus side, the EU member states agree that the partnership agreement currently being negotiated with Ukraine should be called an "Association Agreement" -- the term used for similar pacts with Balkan nations which have a recognised future within the European bloc.

However the draft summit declaration makes no mention of the key "European perspective" for Ukraine, which Kiev had been hoping for and which is familiar eurospeak for an eventual goal of EU membership.

The EU has been divided over whether the former Soviet state should be allowed to enter, perhaps even more divided than it is over strife-torn Georgia.

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, which has flexed its energy and political muscles, as well as its military ones recently.

Ukraine had been hoping that after Moscow`s military intervention with fellow EU and NATO hopeful Georgia would work in its favour as fears of grow of a resurgent Russia seeking renewed inflence in its former Soviet satellites.

However in the draft statement -- drawn up for French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Ukraine`s President Viktor Yushchenko and EU Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso to approve -- the EU simply acknowledges "the European aspirations of Ukraine" rather than sharing them, and "leaves open the way for further progressive developments in EU-Ukraine relations".

If the Georgian conflict has had any impact on Europe`s attitude to Ukraine it is "in the fact that we have held to our pre-summer position," said one diplomat.

One consolation for Kyiv is that the Europeans are prepared to discuss conditions for an eventual visa-free travel deal with Ukraine.

However even this falls well short of a commitment amid EU fears of a new illegal immigration problem.

AFP via EU Business

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