Ukraine risks delaying EU deal for 'very long' time: EU presidency
EU president Lithuania warned Ukraine on Tuesday it risks delaying a historic EU free trade deal for years should it fail to clinch the agreement at a crucial summit next week.
"There are no guarantees that it could be signed after a year or two.... The pause in relations may take a very long period of time," Lithuania's President Dalia Grybauskaite told AFP in an interview in Vilnius, the Lithuanian capital.
Ukraine's parliament Tuesday put off for another two days a debate on a bill to let jailed former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko seek medical treatment abroad.
Freeing Tymoshenko in some form is a crucial condition set by EU leaders for Ukraine to sign an Association Agreement -- a first step to membership -- at a summit in Vilnius on November 28-29.
Grybauskaite said Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and the opposition "share the responsibility" to find a compromise on a deal allowing Tymoshenko go abroad for treatment, or else will scupper the EU agreement.
"If the law that solves the Tymoshenko issue is not adopted, EU member states will definitely not sign an agreement with Ukraine," she said.
Signing the Association Agreement would be a landmark break by Ukraine from Russia, its master both in the Tsarist and Soviet eras, which has been infuriated by the prospect of Kiev's close integration with the EU.
The chances of parliament passing the legislation remained unclear, but pro-Tymoshenko opposition leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk said there was no excuse for the ruling Regions Party to vote against it on Thursday.
Grybauskaite, whose country currently holds the rotating EU presidency, said that once the deal was signed, the EU was prepared to help Ukraine deal with pressure from "third countries".
"Europe is ready to talk to the International Monetary Fund about a loan to help (Ukraine's) economy. Europe is ready to resist any pressure that would come from third countries," she said, adding that the Association Agreement would immediately boost Ukraine's trade with the 28-member EU.
Grybauskaite also insisted Russia was making a mistake by raising the spectre of trade retaliation.
"I think that such an unconstructive stance has hit Russian prestige and had the opposite effect of what Russia had expected," she said.
© 2013 AFP