Ukrainian Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk has said that Kiev aims to join the EU as a full member by 2015, and added that his country was not pursuing a status similar to that devised by the EU for the states in northern Africa and the southern Caucasus region. Tarasyuk said that he would press for a formal application by Kiev for EU membership before the end of 2006. Ukraine also aims to join NATO by 2008.

However, so far the EU has ruled out membership for Ukraine. As part of the Union's plan for closer relations with Kiev, Ukraine was granted market economy status in 2005 and negotiations are underway on a visa accord, EuroActive reports.

Speaking in Kiev during her visit, External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldnersaid that the European neighbourhood framework provided a chance for Ukraine to move closer to the EU. This, she said, "does not prejudge the future."

Also in Kiev, Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik reiterated that "Ukraine is an esteemed partner in the framework of the European neighbourhood policy."

In the run-up to the meeting, Plassnik expressed her firm conviction that “the elections on 26 March in Ukraine will be free, fair and conducted in accordance with international standards. The European Union is confident that Ukraine will continue on its path to reform and stand by its democratic achievements. Economic and social reforms, firm action to control corruption and measures to reduce poverty will remain major challenges after the elections".

"Ukraine is a friend, and as such we take a very benevolent interest in its development. This country is moving closer to the European values-based society. The Ukrainian people demonstrated this in an impressive manner during the orange revolution a year and a half ago. The future government, too, will have to do justice to the people’s desire for a modern, transparent democracy and policies geared to economic and social success”, the Foreign Minister stated.

"For the European Union, Ukraine is an esteemed partner in the framework of the European neighbourhood policy. We are working together on an ever closer network of relations, which includes greater political cooperation as well as economic integration”, she continued.

She added that "we are working together on an ever closer network of relations."

Ukraine is preparing to hold parliamentary elections on 26 March.


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