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Poland/Ukraine: Presidents Discuss Visa-Free Travel

Warsaw, 24 June 1999 (RFE/RL) -- On the first day of his three-day official visit to Poland, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma yesterday received assurances from his counterpart, Aleksander Kwasniewski, that visa-free traffic will stay in force for Kyiv when Poland eventually joins the European Union.

At a joint news conference, Kwasniewski said: "We shall do our best so that there is visa-free traffic for Ukrainians on the day when Poland enters the EU." Kwasniewski said Poland is against creating new barriers on its borders. He said that the border with Ukraine should be what he termed "friendly" for businessmen and tourists. But, the Polish leader added, the authorities will be tough with those who trade in drugs or otherwise violate the law.

Kwasniewski said he would not comment on the possible outcome of the presidential elections in Ukraine in October, He did say, however, that he hoped that "a big effort to make Ukraine open to the world will be appreciated."

Kuchma, Kwasniewski added, had shaped good relations with Ukraine's neighbors and strengthened his country's independence. He said: "I would like Ukraine to continue such a policy."

Kwasniewski said Ukraine's problems stem from the fact that the country lived under communism for 70 years. Kwasniewski said Ukraine "was also part of the Soviet Union and that is why transformations in Ukraine are more difficult than in Poland." Kuchma said he shared Kwasniewski views, particularly the idea that regional cooperation can help Ukraine. He said: "We shall not mark time and we shall try to find new solutions [for Ukraine]."

Kuchma also said that a 790-man joint Polish-Ukrainian military unit destined to take part in peacekeeping in Kosovo is now a reality. But he added that some legal problems will have to be overcome before it can be dispatched to the Serbian province.

Both presidents also said they want to reach a target of $2 billion in bilateral trade annually but are worried by a drop in trade last year.