Ukraine's President in France to discuss EU hopes with Sarkozy

13:48, 09 September 2008
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The E.U. does, however, make one gesture towards Kyiv...

French President Nicolas Sarkozy meets his Ukrainian counterpart, Viktor Yushchenko, Tuesday for a summit that`s expected to offer Ukraine closer ties with the European Union but no immediate prospect of joining the bloc, according to AFP.

Ukraine had been hoping that Moscow`s actions in Georgia, a fellow E.U. and North Atlantic Treaty Organization hopeful, would work in its favor as fears grow of a resurgent Russia seeking renewed influence in its former Soviet satellites.

Kyiv`s ambassador to Moscow said Monday his country had no option but to one day join the E.U., urging the bloc to send a positive signal on future membership to advance the cause of reform in Ukraine.

"We are a European country, our place is in Europe," Konstyantyn Gryshchenko said.

Ukrainian leaders are concerned that its mainly Russian-populated autonomous region of Crimea may fall under Moscow`s influence in the same way as Georgia`s breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

E.U. Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn has said that the E.U. should clearly signal its support for Ukraine`s future membership to prevent it from becoming Russia`s "next target."

But this possibility appears to have been shelved after lengthy debate between the 27 current member states, routinely at odds over how to deal with the former Soviet republic.

An official at the French presidency said Tuesday`s summit would lay down the "political framework" for a reinforced partnership deal with Ukraine, set to be finalized "in 2009, if all goes well."

A draft summit statement, drawn up for Sarkozy, Yushchenko and E.U. Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso to approve, makes no use of the key phrase "European perspective," eurospeak for an agreed goal of eventual E.U. membership.

The E.U. does, however, make one gesture towards Kyiv, calling its partnership with Ukraine an "association agreement" - the term used for countries which do have a recognized future within the bloc.

The E.U. nations will 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 the U.K., have always insisted that Ukraine is a European nation and, therefore, deserves a place at the table.

But other European nations, led by Germany, are opposed to the idea amid concerns over continued enlargement, and fears of irritating Russia.

Bitter infighting between Ukraine`s Western-oriented president and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, sharpened by divisions over ties with Russia, has done little to advance the cause of E.U. membership.

Relations between Yushchenko and his one-time ally have badly deteriorated, with the presidency accusing Tymoshenko of "high treason" for allegedly siding with Moscow over the Georgia conflict.

The French presidency official said the summit, which kicks off at 1130 GMT, was a "chance to send a political message to Ukraine from the whole European continent," defending the decision to uphold the talks despite the political turmoil in Ukraine.

"Ukrainian society is maturing fast, its economy is doing pretty well, but its political life is having trouble finding stability," the official said.

"If we waited for it to stabilize before holding a summit between the E.U. and Ukraine, we would not see each other very often."

AFP via Nasdaq

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