EU urges Ukraine to embark on thorough reforms

14:04, March 02, 2010      

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The European Union (EU) is urging Ukraine to intensify economic reforms, especially to reopen talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and make rapid progress in the modernization of country's gas sector.

Ukraine's President Viktor Yanukovich (L) is welcomed by European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso (R) ahead of a meeting in Brussels March 1, 2010.(Xinhua/Reuters Photo)

"We believe Ukraine should go back on track with the IMF. This is the first step to improve the investment climate," said European Commission President Jos Manuel Barroso at a joint press conference with the new Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych on Monday.

Yanukovych, who faces a deep economic crisis, was visiting the EU on his first foreign trip since his inauguration on February 25.

After talks with Barroso, Yanukovych stated that European integration was his country's "key foreign policy priority," and the process of bringing Ukraine closer to the EU is helping his country to carry out important social and economic reforms.

Barroso made it clear that an agreement to unblock the 16.4 billion U.S. dollars IMF loan, which was suspended last year, would also unlock 610 million euros in EU aid.

He said Ukraine could join the Energy Community Treaty, which is expected to "unlock significant direct investment" in the country, provided Ukraine adopts a gas law in accordance with the EU acquis.

He expressed confidence that if Ukraine reforms its gas sector the "international financial institutions will be able to provide financial assistance" to the country.

Barroso also said that the EU-Ukraine association agreement, including a thorough free trade agreement, should be ready for signing within one year.

Yanukovych expressed hope that the dialogue on visa-free travel opened last year with the EU will intensify in the coming months, urging the EU to prepare "in the shortest time possible" a special road map outlining requirements Ukraine has to meet.

"We believe this is a very important aspiration of the Ukrainian citizens and will give a clear signal of Ukraine as a member of the European family of nations," Barroso added.

On energy cooperation, Yanukovych pledged Ukraine will comply with all its commitments with regard to the delivery of natural gas to the EU.

"In order to make that goal come true we will enhance the level of our relations with Russia," said Yanukovych, who is scheduled to visit Russia on March 5.

Yanukovych has said he wants to pursue a more balanced foreign policy than his predecessor Viltor Yushchenko, who alienated Russia with his pro-U.S. policies and sought membership in the EU and NATO.

At a separate briefing with Yanukovych, EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy called the IMF loan the top priority and " emphasized the responsibility of all political actors to make a constructive contribution to this end and reinforcing political stability."

Source: Xinhua
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