"Don't mention Ukraine," has been the watchword in Brussels since western-looking Viktor Yushchenko swept to power on the back of a public uprising last year, raising the thorny issue of European Union membership.
Those running the EU do not wish to countenance Kiev joining for fear of annoying Russia and inflaming euroscepticism in France (which thinks EU enlargement has gone quite far enough, thank you).
Bizarrely, the European Commission's official position is that the EU's door is "neither open nor closed".
So eyebrows were raised last Friday when a commissioner almost said that Ukraine could possibly join "by around 2015", the same time as troublesome Turkey.
The fateful sentence was in a speech by Danuta Hübner, the regional affairs commissioner, who comes from Poland, Ukraine's biggest European champion.
Yet the speech at Hübner's alma mater, Sussex University, though circulated, was never made. Why not? Hübner's spokeswoman claims the audience "was not interested . . . They wanted to hear about the constitution, the budget and regional policy" so she changed her script. A very strange bunch.
The spokesperson also denied Hübner's colleagues warned her off. Perhaps she just read the speech and pulled back from the brink.
Whatever the truth, the great irony is that her speechwriter was probably right.
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