The European Union on Friday dashed Ukraine`s hopes for any quick membership in the bloc, saying neither Ukraine nor the EU were ready for it to join, according to AP.

      "Ukraine is not ready, and we are not ready," European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said.

"Ukraine still has reforms to do ... and today in the European Union, the member states are not ready to assume new membership obligations."

      Barroso said during a news conference with Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, however, that his comments should not be interpreted by Ukraine as a "negative signal."

      "On the contrary, it is to encourage them to go ahead with their reforms," he said.

      Yushchenko, who was in Finland to meet European leaders at an EU-Ukraine summit, had hoped for signs that EU accession talks for his country could begin in 2008.

      No such timetable was discussed in Helsinki, but the two sides agreed to launch negotiations next year on a new economic and political cooperation agreement. They also signed an agreement on cross-border cooperation to ease visa requirements and the readmission of illegal migrants.