German Chancellor Endorses Ukraine's Integration Hopes

BERLIN, Germany -- Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany has told Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko that she supports Ukraine's aspirations for closer integration with Europe.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, left, and Ukraine's President Viktor Yushchenko, right, shake hands after their talks in the Berlin Chancellery on Thursday

During a press conference following their talks in Berlin today, Merkel, whose country holds the EU's rotating Presidency, said she discussed with Yushchenko the first steps toward such integration, including a new agreement on enhanced cooperation.

Yushchenko has made EU membership a priority for Ukraine, but the bloc has so far suggested only a strengthening of partnership.

In a reference to a cutoff in gas supplies last year following a dispute between Russia and Ukraine, Yushchenko said his country is "conscious" of the responsibility to ensure a steady flow of energy to Western Europe.

"Ukraine understands its important role in the formation of Europe's energy-security policy and is conscious of its responsibility," he said. "I know that last year's story perhaps wasn't always presented [in the media] with complete objectivity, but I want to stress that Ukraine fully complies with its obligations under the Energy Charter."

On February 10, Yushchenko is to attend the Conference on Security Policy in Munich. He is expected to meet with NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

Source: Radio Free Europe