EU/UKRAINE : LAJCAK: ASSOCIATION TALKS MAY BE CONCLUDED BY END 2011.
The European Union hopes to conclude negotiations on an association agreement, including a deep and comprehensive free trade deal, with Ukraine by the end of this year. Addressing a conference organised on the occasion of the launch of the EU-Ukraine Forum, on 16 March in the Parliament, Miroslav Lajcak, managing director of of the External Action Service, confirmed that the talks with Kiev can realistically be concluded this year. He underlined, however, that in order to achieve this goal, Ukraine has to progress with crucial reforms, including the reform of the judicial and electoral systems in the first place. "We must see progress on reforms in Ukraine," said Lajcak.
Addressing the same event, Aleksander Kwasniewski, the former Polish president, underlined the need for legislative reforms in two other areas: decentralisation and the fight against corruption. He gave credit to President Viktor Yanukovych, who has been in office for over a year, for delivering "political stability" and "some progress on important reforms". "Let's give this administration a chance," said Kwasniewski, underlining the importance of Yanukovych's pro-European stance. "Yanukovych's key goal is European integration," said Kwasniewski, who is widely respected for his engagement in Ukraine's orange revolution', which brought about the peaceful reorientation of the country's strategic goals towards the EU and NATO.
The participants welcomed the formation of a pro-European group of deputies from different political parties in the Ukrainian parliament, on 15 March. The cross-party initiative called European choice' brings together 29 politicians. It aims to support pro-EU legislation in the Ukrainian parliament. "It is extremely good news," said Kwasniewski, underlining the importance of cross-party support for pro-European reforms in Ukraine's EU membership bid.