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Poroshenko Sees Ukraine Applying For EU Membership By 2020


Ukrainian President Calls For 'Tectonic' Economic Reforms
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WATCH: Ukrainian President Calls For 'Tectonic' Economic Reforms

Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko has presented a broad plan of reforms that he said would allow Ukraine to apply for membership in the European Union in six years.

At a September 25 news conference in Kyiv, Poroshenko also said that his peace deal with pro-Russian separatists meant that the "most dangerous" part of the five-month conflict in eastern Ukraine was over.

Poroshenko said his reform plan, called Strategy-2020, included some 60 social and economic reforms and programs.

He singled out priority areas for reform, including ridding the system of corruption and decentralizing the power structures, reforming the tax system as well as law enforcement and security bodies, and working toward achieving energy independence.

Poroshenko signed the trade and economic relations portion of a key Association Agreement with the EU in Brussels on June 27. It provides for the creation of a Deep and Comprehensive Free-Trade Area (DCFTA) and closer economic integration.

Ukraine's parliament ratified the agreement on September 16.

However, the implementation of the trade part of the agreement has been delayed until January 2016 to appease Russia, which says the pact will hurt its markets.

Poroshenko on September 25 said Ukraine's only alternative to "ambitious reforms" is to be "left alone with Russia."

He also said he expects to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in the next three weeks.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said on September 25 that Ukraine should resolve all of its problems with Moscow before it can join the European Union, ITAR-TASS news agency reported.

In a written statement, EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele reiterated the EU’s support for Ukraine “in its efforts to deliver on the necessary political and economic reforms to achieve the modernization of the country.”

“It is for Ukraine to make its free and sovereign choices about its ambitions, orientation, and external relations,” he added.

Addressing the UN General Assembly, EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy said the violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity by Russia has triggered "the gravest treat to the European security order in decades."

He also stressed the need for Kyiv to "move firmly" forward on the path of economic, political, and constitutional reforms. Those reforms, he said, will determine the success of "a lasting political solution."

Poroshenko earlier on September 25 ordered a temporary closure of Ukraine's border with Russia.

A decree published on the presidential website ordered the government "to settle... the issue of temporarily closing checkpoints on Ukraine's state border with the Russian Federation to cars, sea, and pedestrian traffic."

A senior Ukrainian security source said that the border security measure was designed to halt the alleged smuggling of weapons into the separatist east and would enter into force "soon."

Also on September 25, Ukrainian parliament speaker Oleksandr Turchynov signed a lustration bill that had been adopted by parliament on September 16.

Under the law, up to 1 million public servants, including cabinet ministers, will be screened for loyalty to root out corrupt practices left over from the previous administration of pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych.

The law is expected to purge officials linked to the pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine's east and other Russian structures, including intelligence.

Officials unable to explain their sources of income and assets will be banned from public office for five to 10 years.

After signing the document at a press conference in Kyiv on September 25 in the presence of journalists and public activists, Turchynov called on Poroshenko to sign the bill into law by the end of the day.

Meanwhile, the Group of Seven (G7) leading industrialized nations has welcomed the Minsk agreements establishing a cease-fire in Ukraine as an "important opportunity" to find a political solution to the conflict.

In a statement on September 25, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United States condemned violations of the September 5 cease-fire and called on Russia to withdraw all of its forces, weapons, and equipment from eastern Ukraine.

The G7 also commended Ukraine for passing legislation on amnesty and a "special status" for parts of the country's east and welcomed the ratification of a free-trade agreement with the European Union, some provisions of which are being delayed until the end of 2015.

The countries said they would roll back sanctions against Russia when it meets its commitments according to the Minsk agreement and cease-fire.

With reporting by Reuters and ITAR-TASS
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