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EU: Association Agreement With Ukraine Not Final Goal

European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton casts a glance during a Foreign Affairs Council meeting at EU headquarters in Brussels on February 10.
European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton casts a glance during a Foreign Affairs Council meeting at EU headquarters in Brussels on February 10.

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BRUSSELS -- EU foreign ministers have reiterated that the European Union remains committed to signing an Association Agreement with Ukraine but that the agreement "does not constitute the final goal in EU-Ukraine relations."

The statement came in conclusions issued after an EU foreign ministers' meeting in Brussels on February 10.

When asked about whether the statement meant that Ukraine will be offered an EU membership perspective, EU foreign-policy chief Catherine Ashton remained coy.

"I think wherever people believe the future might be, everyone recognizes that there is more to be done in the relationship with Ukraine. So the words mean what they say -- that it's not the end, and there are many things that could happen in the future," Ashton said.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius, who before the meeting said it might be time to offer a "European perspective" to the bloc's eastern neighbors, was more optimistic about the meaning.

"We said that [the] Association Agreement is not the final goal of our relations with Ukraine. That means there's continuation, this is the extension," Linkevicius said. "So you can interpret whatever you like, I can say that this way is quite clear to me, this is the European way and this is the extension of that way."

There have been worries that both Georgia and Moldova might walk away from signing Association Agreements with the EU later this year because of Russian economic pressure.

A majority of EU member states are against offering EU membership perspectives, however, at least for the moment.

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In their statement, the EU foreign ministers also called for a "new and inclusive government," for constitutional reform "bringing back more balance of powers," and a "free and fair" presidential election to resolve Ukraine's political crisis.

They also said the EU was ready to help Kyiv address its economic problems, together with international partners, if a new Ukrainian government pursued economic and political reforms.

There were some discussions among ministers on sanctions, but the EU will at the moment not impose any travel restrictions or asset freezes on Ukrainian officials responsible for the crackdown on protesters in recent months.

EU officials that RFE/RL has spoken to say that EU sanctions aren't even on the table at the moment, as the EU fears an introduction of restrictive measures only would make it harder to facilitate a political dialogue in the country.

Some are also saying that EU sanctions on Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and people in his regime, imposed since 2011, have failed to have a positive effect on the country.

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said before the meeting that the EU must send a message to Kyiv in case there is further repression in Ukraine.

"I think it is important that we send a message, that we have sent before, that if there is a further repression or significant repression or violent clampdown, there will be consequences," Bildt said.

"We sent that message before, and as a matter of fact what happened was, of course, that the package of extremely repressive laws was withdrawn. That was a good thing. We have seen the resignation of a government that was fairly discredited to be quite honest. That was a good thing. But the political talks have not been moving forward. We would hope that they will be resumed. That is the only way forward."

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