European Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, will visit Ukraine on 17 February, to meet President Viktor Yushchenko, Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko, Deputy Prime Minister on European Integration Oleh Rybachuk, and other senior ministers. The Commissioner's visit comes just days before the EU-Ukraine Cooperation Council is due to give final endorsement to an Action Plan under the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP). The visit is an opportunity to underline the EU's commitment to deepening political co operation and economic integration with Ukraine, reflecting the changed political reality in the country.
Before setting off to the region, Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said: "I look forward to getting down to work with the new government to support Ukraine's own ambitious programme of political and economic reforms. We have heard Ukraine's calls for closer relations with the EU, and we are ready to answer, with an Action Plan designed to bring Ukraine and the EU much closer together".
Following the elections held on 26 th December, Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner says the EU is ready to go substantially beyond what was originally on offer: "We have set out ten areas where the EU is ready to step up its efforts to maximise the benefits the Action Plan will bring for Ukraine. This additional offer is a powerful signal: if Ukraine wishes to move closer to the EU, and is willing to implement the necessary actions to do so, then the EU will respond. I am confident that for the immediate future, many of Ukraine's aspirations can be addressed in this framework".
Efforts will be needed on both sides. The Commission will speed up work to prepare the ground to launch negotiations for a free Trade Area once Ukraine has joined the WTO; to start negotiations on trade in steel products, and to finalise those on trade in textiles. The Commission will further step up its efforts to help Ukraine ensure that its goods meet the standards required to enter the Single Market, and help the Ukrainian government resolve the remaining questions that need to be addressed in order to qualify for Market Economy Status.
Close cooperation between the EU and Ukraine will be needed to prepare for negotiations for a simplified visa regime, including progress on an EC-Ukraine readmission agreement.
The Commissioner will seek first hand information on the government's priorities, to ensure that work with the EU builds Ukraine's own reform programme. The Commissioner will also encourage the new Government and civil society representatives to work together in implementing the objectives of the Action Plan.
The EU, already the biggest donor in Ukraine, has undertaken to increase its financial assistance to Ukraine significantly in the next budget period. In addition, the EU has suggested that the European Investment Bank should offer substantial new credits to Ukraine.
The ENP offers countries bordering the EU and who share EU fundamental values new opportunities for greater involvement in the Single Market, and a chance to participate in EU programmes. Each Action Plan is tailor-made to the country concerned, and is specifically designed to be responsive to changes in the country.
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