By Roman Olearchyk in Kiev

The Financial Times

Ukraine's pro-western president, Viktor Yushchenko, on Thursday called on the European Union to provide a "signal" that his country was seen as a candidate for membership in the long term, despite growing calls in Brussels for a halt to eastward expansion.

"If we look at the processes under way in the EU today, we could say that it is not the best time to talk about Ukraine's EU membership aspirations," Mr Yushchenko told the FT.

"We understand the difficulties which are under way in Europe. We are just asking to be heard. We need only one thing . . . to know and to feel through written agreements that there are prospects for Ukraine in Europe, so that we can see the horizon."

Referring to the EU as Ukraine's main trading partner, he acknowledged that his country faced a long road of reforms and preparations before realising its EU membership aspirations.

Mr Yushchenko's plea to the EU comes at a time of political uncertainty in Kiev and doubts as to whether the country's new coalition government will follow the swift western integration agenda adopted following the Orange revolution of 2004.

He stressed that his foreign policy and domestic reform plans would not be derailed, insisting he had enough powers as president, including veto rights, to steer Ukraine westward and ensure liberal reforms were implemented at home.

Mr Yushchenko said his country needed to improve often "complicated" relations with Russia, but stressed that Ukraine's future lay in Europe.


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