The EU and Ukraine agreed on Friday to commence negotiations at the beginning of 2007 on a joint free-trade area. The agreement was reached between the Ukrainian president, Viktor Yushchenko, and EU leaders at the EU-Ukraine Summit in Helsinki, STT reports.

Finland's prime minister, Matti Vanhanen (centre), and the president of the European commission, José Manuel Barroso, reminded Ukraine that it would, however, first need to secure membership of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) before a free-trade area could be brought into existence.

The future possibility of EU membership for Ukraine was not discussed at the meeting. According to Mr Barroso, the EU has not closed its doors to Ukraine, but the country still has a long way to go in order to meet the conditions for accession.


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