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Ukraine Handed November Deadline on EU Association Pact

Ukraine must seal a delayed accord to bolster ties with the European Union at a November summit or risk waiting years to sign the pact, the 27-member bloc said.

The former Soviet republic must demonstrate “swift and tangible progress” on issues from selective justice to the “shortcomings” of parliamentary elections held in October, according to European Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule.

“We can’t wait -- the window of opportunity is open now,” Fule told reporters today in Ukraine’s capital, Kiev, after meeting Prime Minister Mykola Azarov. “Timing matters in politics. And to generate a new political momentum, it will take months if not years.”

The EU postponed indefinitely a planned Association Agreement with Ukraine, including a free-trade accord, after ex-Premier Yuliya Tymoshenko was jailed in a case the bloc deems politically motivated. President Viktor Yanukovych has pledged to resolve the Tymoshenko issue, even as prosecutors threatened last month to imprison her for life for alleged murder.

“We can’t fail to react to the EU’s constant criticism on this question,” Yanukovych said yesterday in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius before a Feb. 25 meeting with the EU in Brussels. “It’s taking time to ensure the solutions we adopt in the near future are in accordance with our legal and judicial framework.”

Ukraine is scheduled to take part in the Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius in November, when Lithuania will hold the EU presidency. Yanukovych has targeted that meeting to sign the Association Agreement.

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