In a move predicted to improve trade relations and draw Ukraine closer to the European mainstream: the European Union has recognised the ex-Soviet state as a market economy. Prime Minister Tony Blair of the current EU president Britain and Ukraine’s President Viktor Yushchenko signed the papers at a special gathering in Kiev.
The EU is Ukraine’s largest trade partner, with a turnover of around 20 billion euros per year. European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso announced the decision:
“The future of Ukraine is in Europe and now we are building that future with concrete steps : market economy status today, accession to the WTO, possibility of a free trade agreement.”
The major steel producer shares a border with four countries in the enlarged EU. The pro-Western president in Kiev has kept membership in the EU and NATO his main reform focus, in spite of a turbulent first year in office. In November he celebrated the first anniversary of his 2004 election win, assisted by a wave of “Orange Revolution” protests against poll fraud by the Moscow-oriented former regime.