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EU to offer encouragement but not membership to Ukraine

 EU to offer encouragement but not membership to Ukraine
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There is no breakthrough in sight for Ukraine’s bid to join the European Union, despite a summit that is set to offer encouragement about closer ties.

Kiev wants to be put on the path to membership but at today’s gathering in Paris, no explicit pledge from the bloc is expected.

Analysts see the former Soviet republic as vital to Europe’s long-term security and economic strategy. But, for several reasons, it is being kept waiting at the door.

A political crisis that has seen the collapse of a coalition between Ukraine’s President Viktor Yushchenko and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko has reinforced EU caution. Then there is Ukraine’s poor record on reform and divisions within the EU over its eligibility.

Amid the Caucasus crisis, there is also a desire to avoid further straining relations with Russia.

But a pact governing EU ties with Kiev could be designated an “Association Agreement” – wording that can imply the possibility of membership in the future.