European integration is a priority for Ukraine's foreign policy, the country's new president said in Brussels Monday, EUbusiness reported.

"For Ukraine, European integration is a key foreign policy priority," President Viktor Yanukovych told a joint press conference with EU Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso. He also said that the EU is interested in good relations between Kyiv and Moscow.

"The EU, no less than Ukraine, is interested in good partner relations with Russia, which influence many social and economic issues," Yanukovych said.

Yanukovych arrived in Brussels earlier in the day, markedly making the EU headquarters his first overseas destination since taking power last month.

The Ukrainian leader and his host fixed the objective of sealing an association agreement -- for closer trade, political, social ties -- within a year.

Discussions on the agreement, which would include the key free-trade deal, are already underway but have made little progress so far.

Yanukovych also promised that his country would in future guarantee the safe transit of Russian natural gas to Europe, after problems in recent years.

Barroso, standing beside him, stressed that "Ukraine is already a European country" but added that it was more important to help Kiev make necessary reforms rather than setting any timelines for EU membership.

"Ukraine is a European country... by its civilisation, by its culture and its history," said Barroso.

Barroso urged Ukraine to resume cooperation with the International Monetary Fund, a condition for the European Union to unblock key funding for Kiev.

The EU Commission chief also held out the prospect of future visa-free travel between Europe and Ukraine saying the EU executive would consider this possibility "in a favourable manner", a prospect which will concern those EU nations concerned at the prospect of large-scale immigration.


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