France Backs Ukraine's European Ambitions

PARIS, France -- Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko claimed Wednesday after meeting his French counterpart Jacques Chirac that Paris backs his country's international ambitions.

France "supports Ukraine's European aspirations and its wish to join the World Trade Organisation (WT0)," he told a news conference after the 90 minute meeting at the Elysee Palace.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko (L) with his French counterpart Jacques Chirac

"We are Europeans, the status we are given doesn't matter," Yushchenko said.

"But without Ukraine Europe will not be complete, and less interesting," he said in a reference to his ambitions for European Union membership one day.

Chirac was less forthright, saying only that "he understood the aspiration of Ukraine to go towards Europe," according to an Elysee spokesman.

He said Chirac "wanted cooperation to develop in this respect on both the European and bilateral levels."

He confirmed that Paris backed WTO membership for Ukraine.

Yushchenko, 51, said that "in the next two or three weeks our foreign ministers should work out an action plan... to strengthen cooperation in the energy field, that is gas, oil and nuclear."

A conference on energy is planned for September in Kiev with major French companies attending, Yushchenko said.

Ukraine, a former Soviet republic, wants to diminish its dependence on Russia for energy supplies.

Yushchenko, who came to power last year after the so-called 'orange' revolution, said in an interview with the Le Figaro newspaper he was optimistic that the current crisis in the EU -- caused by the rejection in France and the Netherlands of the new constitution -- would not deter the bloc from future enlargement to the east.

"I am persuaded that with time, things will calm down and the European project will get a second wind," Yushchenko said.

Before meeting Chirac he had celebrated the memory of a Kiev-born French queen in the town of Senlis -- 60 kilometres (40 miles) north of the French capital -- inaugurating a bronze statue of Anne of Kiev, who married King Henri I of France in 1051.

"Ukraine and France meet at Senlis to build new bridges between the banks of our history," he said.

Anne lived out the end of her life in Senlis, which has now been twinned with a historic quarter of the Ukrainian capital.

Source: The Tocqueville Connection