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Ukraine's 'European' Status To Remain Elusive At Summit

It appears that Ukraine and its supporters within the EU have lost the argument -- this time around, at least.

Diplomats in Brussels said Ukraine would not win formal recognition as a "European country" at a Paris summit. At best, the EU is expected to "acknowledge" Ukraine's "aspirations."

There is always the chance a last-minute charm offensive on the highest level at Evian itself could change things, but EU officials say this is a very remote possibility.

Putting Ukraine on the road to EU membership is a step too far for many EU member states. The Netherlands has been Ukraine's leading nemesis in the discussions held within the EU over the past weeks and months, but it serves as a front for a larger bloc of countries for which any suggestion of further enlargement beyond currently agreed limits is anathema.

The summit is likely to agree to call the new partnership agreement currently being negotiated between the EU and Ukraine an Association Agreement. That term conjures up parallels with the EU's new, eastern member states, which all signed Association Agreements with the EU.

But precedents alone will mean little to Kyiv -- especially when the joint summit declaration is set to confine itself rather redundantly to noting that the agreement "will open the way for future developments."

There will also be a joint declaration on Georgia. Officials say there will be no direct references to Russia, but underscore that the text "will address Ukrainian sensitivities."


Diplomats in Brussels say Ukraine had also acquiesced to the EU's insistence that visa-free travel will remain a "long-term" prospect between the two sides. Coming after reported walkouts and other brinkmanship on the part of the Ukrainian delegation at talks with the EU, these retreats underscore a recognition by Kyiv itself of its increasingly precarious position on Europe's fringes.

Ukraine has been fazed by EU requests that the new partnership agreement commit it to the protection of minorities. Kyiv would like its obligations in this field to be limited to the nondiscrimination of minorities, fearing an active commitment to "protection" would force it to extend special privileges to Russian speakers.

Kyiv has been trying to insert into the new treaty a reference to the parties' sovereignty and territorial integrity -- a request which the EU, in its turn, is trying to sidestep out of concern that Kyiv might interpret it as amounting to a security guarantee.

Ukraine's supporters in the EU -- mostly eastern member states, but also Sweden and Britain -- had argued Russia's conflict with Georgia makes sending a strong signal to Kyiv all the more urgent.

But that argument cuts both ways. Skeptics of expansion bolstered their case with warnings that bringing Ukraine closer at this particular point in time could further complicate the EU's already dismal relationship with Russia.

Ukraine's case also has been undermined by the domestic political turmoil in the country. Many EU capitals fear the destabilization of the country is a real possibility as President Viktor Yushchenko and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko remain on a collision course.