In Sign of Support, EU Calls Ukraine a European Country

APYushchenko and Sarkozy attending a news conference in Paris on Tuesday.
PARIS — The European Union declared Tuesday that it regards Ukraine as a European country, clearly signaling its support for Kiev amid concerns about Russian ambitions to reassert influence over its former empire.

President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, which holds the rotating presidency of the EU, said it was the first time that the bloc had expressed itself so clearly about Ukraine's place in Europe.

He spoke after a summit meeting with Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, where the EU agreed to talks to deepen ties with Ukraine by moving toward an association accord, a preliminary step toward possibly joining the EU. Full membership is a longtime goal of Yushchenko's government.

"We say solemnly that Ukraine is a European country that shares a common history and values with European Union countries," Sarkozy said. "It's the first time that the European Union has expressed itself so clearly about Ukraine's European role."

The head of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, said closer ties between Europe and Ukraine should not displease Russia.

"We don't need a Cold War in Europe. We need cool heads," he said.

Yushchenko praised the progress, saying "very few people would have thought that this was possible" — and noted that many other EU countries had reached an association accord before joining the bloc.

The association accord has three key objectives: freeing up travel restrictions to EU states for Ukrainians, pointing out that future ties remain open between Ukraine and the bloc and emphasizing that the country shares a common history and values with Europe.

The accord is not likely to be signed until next year at the earliest.

Sarkozy and Barroso on Monday finished a whirlwind trip aimed at defusing tensions between Russia and Georgia after last month's brief war. They arrived in Paris early Tuesday, and Sarkozy had the site of the long-planned summit with Ukraine moved from the Alpine resort of Evian.