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Yanukovych: Ukraine seeks clear European Union accession prospects

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Nov. 19, 2010, 7:39 p.m. | Ukraine — by Reuters

Reuters

Nov. 19 (Reuters) - Ukraine wants the European Union to treat it as a partner with the potential to become a member and not as a "beggar", President Viktor Yanukovych said in an interview on the eve of an annual EU-Ukraine summit. The bloc does not recognise Ukraine as a membership candidate or even a potential candidate but has offered the ex-Soviet nation an association agreement which includes a free trade deal.

"It goes without saying that we think this (association) agreement must reflect Ukraine's EU accession prospects," Yanukovych said on Friday in an interview with three foreign news agencies.

"This agreement is very important politically and we think its contents must be clear. We should not be in the position of humiliated beggars asking for something. We must cooperate as partners."

However, the only "breakthrough" to come out of the annual EU-Ukraine summit in Brussels on Nov. 22 is likely to be an action plan on visa-free travel for Ukrainians, Yanukovych said.

"We can reach an agreement on visa-free travel after we fulfil all the conditions of this 'road map'. This could realistically happen in 2012," he said.

Ukraine does not require visas from visiting EU citizens but the bloc wants it to improve document security, border management and other policies before dropping its own visa requirements.


FREE TRADE

Yanukovych said significant progress had been achieved in talks on a free trade agreement but it would require more time.

"One month or a few months is not the term for such an important deal. Integration is a very long process," Yanukovych said.

Ukraine's top trade negotiator told Reuters last week that Kiev and Brussels had yet to agree on terms of trade in hundreds of mostly agricultural goods.

EU ambassador to Ukraine Jose Manuel Pinto Teixeira told reporters this week that negotiations on a trade agreement between the European Union and Ukraine could be concluded next year if there is "political will".

The agreement would mean dropping most import duties in mutual trade which reached $40 billion in 2008 but fell to $22 million last year due to the global crisis.


'MOVING THE GOALPOSTS'

Commenting on Ukraine's demands for EU guarantees on issues such as visas and union membership, Teixeira this week urged Kiev to implement agreements rather than question the bloc's commitment to them.

"I think this is a problem you often have in Ukraine: once you get something, rather than... implement what is requested you start moving the goal posts and saying 'What if we do this? What if we do that?'," he said.

Teixeira also said there could be "no compromise" on the EU's "essential values" such as democracy and human rights -- areas where some Western critics fear Ukraine has gone backwards since Yanukovych's election last February. "What is at stake here is the choice of models of society," Teixeira said. "If Ukraine's people want another model... it is your free choice."
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