Ukraine’s president optimistic about EU membership within five years

April 28, 2015 7:10 am

’s president said at a high-level summit with
officials Monday that his country will be able to meet conditions to
apply for EU membership within five years.
While Kiev looks to
the distant future, however, anxiety is heightening over the souring
security situation in the east of the country, where fighting continues
to rage between government and separatist forces.
Speaking at the
start of talks in Kiev, President Petro Poroshenko called on the EU to
support his initiative to deploy international peacekeepers in
war-stricken regions. European leaders have to date resisted such
appeals.

French National Assembly Speaker Claude Bartolone, right, welcomed
Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko in Paris April 22. Photo / AP

Guiding Ukraine toward integration with was at
the heart of the movement that culminated in last year’s toppling of
former President Viktor Yanukovych, who provoked anger by canceling
plans to deepen trade ties with EU.

In an opinion piece published in The Guardian newspaper
before the summit, Poroshenko described the revolt against Yanukovych
as “an affirmation of the European values of fairness and the rule of
law.”
Ukraine last year reversed track and sealed an association
agreement with the EU. European Council President Donald Tusk said at a
conference after the talks that Brussels wanted a “deep and
comprehensive free trade agreement to apply as of Jan. 1”.
Poroshenko said Brussels had an important role to play in ensuring that Ukraine’s course toward the EU was smooth.
“Help
from the EU should enable strengthening the faith of Ukrainians in the
irreversibility of Ukraine’s future in the EU and the need to endure a
sometimes painful but not insurmountable process,” he said.
Efforts
to reform Ukraine’s corruption-ridden economy to become more compliant
with European standards have been slow, however, since Poroshenko came
to power.
Ukraine has qualified for billions in international
credit by agreeing to implement deep structural reforms and slash
government spending.
The visit to Kiev by top European officials,
who also included EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, came as
the security situation remains tense in the east.
A Ukrainian
military spokesman said Monday that the town of Avdiivka, near the rebel
region’s largest city of Donetsk, was hit by Grad rocket fire, the
first use of that weapon in the conflict since February. Casualty
information was not immediately available.
International
observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe
said in a daily report that they saw intense clashes Sunday at a
flashpoint in the seaside village of Shyrokyne. Monitors described the
clashes as the worst it had seen since fighting began in the area in
mid-February 2015.
The mission said it observed dozens of tank
shots and the deployment of plenty of other weapons proscribed under a
February peace deal agreed by the warring sides and overseen by France,
Germany and .
US State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke
said in Washington that Russia has deployed more air defence systems
into eastern Ukraine and positioned several near the front lines.
Kiev
would like to see international peacekeepers on the ground, but that
proposal has been greeted with hostility by Russia and coolness by
Western countries.
Tusk said he was concerned about the renewed unrest and urged Russia to abide by its commitments to uphold the peace process.

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