Strengthening ties with the EU is a stated aim of Ukrainian President, Viktor Yuschenko. It was the main purpose of his recent one-day trip to Brussels. It was also the first in a series of talks on drawing up a new cooperation agreement between the two sides. Despite Ukraine’s internal political turmoil and no clear promises from the EU, Yushchenko is convinced his country is making progress to closer relations with the bloc. He discussed this and other issues with EuroNews.
EuroNews: Ukraine has begun negotiations with the EU with the aim of signing a new extended cooperation agreement. Two years after the “orange revolution” your country has the potential to put relations with Brussels on a new footing. What, for you, are the most important points?
Yushchenko: This agreement should give clear answers about a kind of “road map” for the next two to three years. It has to show us what we should do starting with the area of free trade, for example, and finishing with Ukraine’s prospects for joining the EU. I would say that’s the most important and most delicate point. Because we understand the mood circulating in the EU about Ukraine. Some call it a “fatigue”, some explain it as a problem of a constitutional nature. Ukraine has a heavy responsibility in the European market. We would like to talk about the association of energy systems and we want Ukraine to be inside those European energy systems.
EuroNews: Kiev considers this new agreement with Brussels as a step on the way to a politico-economic association of Ukraine and the European Union. But the EU has given you a clear signal – no expansion in the near future. Is Ukraine prepared to wait and for how long?
Yushchenko: I think we have to say “never say never”. Ukraine is not an Asiatic country. It is a European country and, by the way, the geographical centre of Europe is in Ukraine.
EuroNews: The EU is interested in Ukraine as a stable partner, primarily as an energy partner. Any guarantees which you can give to Brussels could effect your relations with Moscow. How are you developing contacts with Russia after last year’s gas conflict?
Yushchenko: Russia is a “factor” which has to be taken into consideration, if we want to form our relationship with Russia, if we want to form our relationship with the EU. We understand very well that our way into the EU lies through good relations with Russia. Nobody in the EU wants to see one country having problems with another and we understand that perfectly. Ukraine and Russia today have a new model of relations, where principles of equality are present, as well as equality of partnership and interest. I want to say something that is well understood – relations with Russia are never simple for anybody.
EuroNews: America’s intention to place its antiballistic missile system in Eastern Europe has raised questions in the EU and drawn a very forceful reaction from Russia. What’s Kiev position?
Yushchenko: In order to be clear it’s necessary to start with the national interest of Ukraine. There are two elements to consider in this question. First of all it touches on bilateral American-Russian relations which I would not wish to comment on now. There are as well matters of a European character. I would say “a collective” character. The development of any defensive model in any region of the world, including Europe, reinforces the basis for base. If every territory, every state, is better protected, if it has its own security facilities – I underline defensive ones – the interests of peaceful co-existence can only win out. We are talking about placing components of a defensive nature which will serve the interests of not only Poland and the Czech Republic, but all Europe. The development of the collective model is always better than a development of the bipolar system of confrontation.
EuroNews: Your Prime Minister, Mr. Yanukovich, has already expressed his position about the American ABM system. And he doesn’t agree with you. How do you explain this? Is it evidence of an intensifying confrontation between the two branches of power in Ukraine?
Yushchenko: I think it’s the wrong signal. If you take a look at the history of our political relations, starting from the situation 2 years ago when the country stood on the verge of war – civil war, and finishing with the change of the constitution, it’s easy to understand why such things take place. But my main message is that Europeans must be sure that not a single democratic gain of the “orange revolution” will be relinquished, it will not be ruined. But the transition Ukraine is going through needs to be understood and respected.