Putting Ukraine’s relations with the EU on a new footing, Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich and EU leaders have agreed to negotiate a new pact covering, among other areas, free trade and energy. It came during Yanukovich’s first visit to Brussels, where he also met NATO chiefs. External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero- Waldner said EU membership remained a long way off: “The neighbourhood policy tries to help bring countries closer to the European Union but membership is not an issue. But at the same time I can also clearly say, the future is not prejudged but at this moment, clearly, there is no membership perspective.” The pro-Russian Ukrainian leader told NATO commanders during a meeting that his country would not be joining the military alliance as there was still significant opposition to the idea at home:
“Concerning Ukraine’s integration into Nato, this is a question which has a favourable response from only a small part of the Ukrainian population,” he said. Yanukovich and Ferrero-Waldner also signed a deal on EU financing for new meters on oil and gas pipelines in Ukraine. Russia has accused Ukraine of siphoning Russian gas destined for EU nations from its pipelines. The dispute briefly led to decreased volumes of Russian gas in some European countries in January.