EU Won’t Back Ukrainian Free Trade Before Association Agreement

The European Union rejected a proposal by Lithuania, which assumes the 27-member bloc’s rotating presidency in July, to grant Ukraine a free-trade accord before it signs a planned Association Agreement.

“The mandate of the member states is clear -- we are signing the Association Agreement, including” the free-trade accord, Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule said today in an interview in Georgia’s capital, Tbilisi. “I do not see pragmatically and politically any need to divide those ideas.”

Lithuania urged EU leaders Feb. 25 to approve free trade with Ukraine to show that the bloc is serious about pursuing closer ties with the former Soviet republic. The signing of the Association Agreement, scheduled for 2011, has been delayed because the bloc objects to the jailing of opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, a former prime minister.

The EU has also criticized Ukrainian authorities for failing to conduct October parliamentary elections in line with international democratic standards. The Association Agreement may be signed at a Vilnius summit in November if Ukraine meets all the EU’s requirements, the bloc has said.

“We expressed ourselves clearly on those expectations related to the elections” and “selective justice,” Fule said. “None of those issues are new.”

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