Merkel dampens Ukraine's EU aims

28th February 2007, Comments 0 comments

28 February 2007, Berlin (dpa) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday dampened Ukraine's hopes of European Union membership during talks with Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich in Berlin. Merkel did, however, back a free-trade agreement between the EU and Ukraine. She said Europe was not ready for further expansion in the near future, after the taking on board the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, which increased the number of members to 27. "The European Union is at a stage in which

28 February 2007

Berlin (dpa) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday dampened Ukraine's hopes of European Union membership during talks with Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich in Berlin.

Merkel did, however, back a free-trade agreement between the EU and Ukraine.

She said Europe was not ready for further expansion in the near future, after the taking on board the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, which increased the number of members to 27.

"The European Union is at a stage in which it needs to establish the effectiveness of an enlarged Union," Merkel said.

She said talks due to begin March 5 on an expanded cooperation agreement with Ukraine showed that the former Soviet republic "enjoys a special relationship with the EU."

Yanukovich said Ukraine was undergoing a reform process that was irreversible, adding that the country was now stable after a period of uncertainty.

But he made no mention of the constitutional wrangles between the parliament, President Viktor Yushchenko and himself over who has the authority to make key cabinet appointments.

The pro-Western president favours Ukraine applying for membership of NATO, but Yanukovich said this was a matter for the country's parliament to decide.

Merkel welcomed Ukraine's plans to join the World Trade Organization, and both leaders stressed the role of Ukraine as an important partner for German investors.

"We will expand our economic relations," the chancellor said, adding that Economics Minister Michael Glos will travel to Ukraine at the end of May to discuss closer cooperation in the energy sector.

Before the talks, Yanukovich met German business leaders about the possibility of increased investments.

"Ukraine is already an important economic partner for Germany and is set to grow in this role," said Klaus Mangold, head of the powerful East Committee of the German Federation of Industry.

Mangold said it was important for Ukraine to maintain political stability and to remain on course with its programme of economic reforms.

Yanukovich, whose visit comes less than three weeks after his rival President Yushchenko paid a call on Merkel, has been in power since last year.

In an interview with the German business daily Handelsblatt on Tuesday, said that although his country was keen on EU membership, it still needed a strategic partnership with Russia.

Yanukovich said Europe should be interested in good, stable relations with Russia, adding that "Ukraine wants to act as a bridge" between the two.

DPA

Subject: German news

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