BRUSSELS, March 30, 2012 /PRNewswire/ --
Ukraine and the European Union have today initialled their Association Agreement in Brussels - a small but important step towards EU membership that Ukraine sees as vital to fulfilling its "European identity".
The initialling process is a confirmation that the agreement has been accepted by both sides and the next step is the full signing ceremony expected to take place before the end of this year. A signed Association Agreement doesn't guarantee EU membership but it is an essential step along the way.
A Ukraine Foreign Ministry spokesman said: "For many people in Europe, today's initialling of the Association Agreement might seem like a small formality, but for Ukraine it is a vital step towards us fulfilling our European identity."
"In the years following the collapse of the Soviet Union, our people have had time to question where they believe their future lies.
"That question is now being answered. As our President (Viktor Yanukovych) said in February, our path to the EU has 'no alternatives'", the spokesman said.
The 1700 page document lists essential criteria that must be met by both sides in the coming months and years but Ukraine has already undertaken a tranche of reforms in accordance with international standards.
"This Association Agreement doesn't exist in isolation," the Foreign Ministry spokesman said.
"We have worked with the EU to create a comprehensive free-trade area, we have carried out pension reforms in accordance with IMF guidelines and we have adopted a new parliamentary election law.
"That law will be used for autumn's Ukrainian parliamentary elections and we have already invited international observers to come and see it in operation," he said.
President Yanukovych sees that election as a chance to bring new politicians into Ukrainian politics who share his pro-European vision.
His call for new blood was made in his February speech to the Rada and has since been interpreted inside Ukraine as a challenge to those lawmakers who don't share his commitment to abolish "obsolete Soviet-era repressive rules".
The Association Agreement signing should take place after the parliamentary election - most likely in November.
SOURCE Ukraine Foreign Affairs