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Yushchenko Stresses Importance Of EU's Role In Ukraine

Viktor Yushchenko in Brussels today (official site) BRUSSELS, March 8, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- In the course of a day packed with high-profile meetings, Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko touted the positive influence the European Union can have in his country.

"I'm sure that the European Union's institutions can play an extremely important and large role today in the normalization of relations between Ukraine's institutions of power," he said during a joint news conference after his talks with EU foreign-policy chief Javier Solana.

Specifically, Yushchenko said that the EU could play an "extremely important and large role" in resolving his power struggle with Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych.

Yushchenko, who is trying to move the country closer to the West, called the power struggle with the Moscow-leaning Yanukovych "a test."

Short-Term Focus, Not Membership

As for bilateral relations, Yushchenko said Ukraine's ambitions to join the EU shouldn't be a dominant factor, as " there is no use now overloading our bilateral negotiations with emotions."

The two sides, he said, should focus on the "next year or year and a half," meaning short-term, practical goals.

For his part, Solana said political and economic reform were essential for Ukraine's stability.

He noted that the European Union is seeking to deepen its relationship with Kyiv, while stressing that it wants Ukraine's government to "be as stable and as constructive as possible."

Solana also said he and Yushchenko broached ways of giving a "new impulse" to efforts to resolve the Transdniester conflict.

New Agreement

Earlier in the day, Yushchenko met with European Parliament President Hans-Gert Poettering to discuss the status of negotiations between Ukraine and the European Union on a new, enhanced cooperation agreement.

After his meeting with Poettering, Yushchenko outlined Ukraine's goals in the negotiations, which were launched last week.

"Extremely important for Ukraine is the stage of establishing the basis and provisions of an enhanced agreement [between the EU and Ukraine]," he said. "We want the new agreement to address once again the subject of strengthening the basis for the European Union's work with new partners."

Yushchenko was scheduled to meet later today with EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner.

RFE/RL Belarus, Ukraine, And Moldova Report

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