Yushchenko Welcomes Euro-Decision On Accession Talks

KIEV, Ukraine -- President Viktor Yushchenko welcomes a European Parliament decision to start talks on Ukraine's becoming an associated member of the EU, his press office said Friday.

President Viktor Yushchenko

"This is a triumph of Ukrainian diplomacy, Ukraine's success," said Yushchenko, adding that Thursday's decision was a major spur to the development of relations between Ukraine and the European Union.

Yushchenko said Ukraine would now focus on the three-year action plan it had signed with the EU in February 2005 to bring its standards closer to European ones. Once the plan has been fulfilled, Yushchenko said, Ukraine will seek an associated membership and later on a permanent membership in the Union.

Ukraine's Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk said late last year that Ukraine could join the EU by 2015. He also said that the former Soviet republic could create a free trade area with the EU in three years.

The EU, which admitted 10 new East European members in May 2004, is set to admit new Balkan countries and Romania in the next four years. It will also start talks with Muslim Turkey, but member countries are divided on the wisdom of further enlargement.

Opponents cite the gap in political and democratic culture with the former communist bloc countries and difficulties in running a vast territory.

Along with EU membership, Ukraine is seeking to join the World Trade Organization and NATO. Yushchenko, who came to power following a popular uprising in late 2004, said the objectives were foreign policy priorities for his West-leaning government.

Source: RIA Novosti