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29 Jun, 2007 17:54

Ukraine's dream of EU membership dominates Yalta summit

The fourth annual Yalta European Strategy (‘YES’) summit has taken place in the Crimean resort of Yalta. It is the largest informal gathering of international politicians, journalists, businessmen and researchers in Ukraine.

This year's summit has been attended by a clutch of former world leaders, including Bill Clinton from the United States, Germany's Gerhard Schroeder, and Aleksandr Kwasniewski from Poland. The participants were debating the possible entry of Ukraine into the EU.

The summit was held in Yalta’s Livadia Palace, where in 1945  Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin held their second post-war conference to discuss world politics and the division of Germany. Following their pattern, leaders attending the current summit were also pulling in different directions.

The former Chancellor of Germany, Gerhard Schroeder, called on Ukraine not to forget Russia on its way to the EU.

“The priority of the European Union is to expand the area of security and stability. We want to intensify the EU neighbourhood programme and policy with the countries of Eastern Europe.  We also want to deepen the EU’s strategic partnership with Russia.  The foreign minister spoke about the historically close relations between Russia and Ukraine –and he is right,” he said.

The ex-president of Poland, however, advised his neighbouring country to pull away from Russia’s influence.

Bill Clinton, for his part, spoke about global warming and bird flu, trying to point everyone’s attention at more important things than Ukraine’s difficult choice between Russia and the EU.

The former Soviet state is not yet even an EU candidate member. Experts say Ukraine will be able to apply for membership only in 2011, during Poland's presidency of the Council of the EU. According to the latest opinion polls, Poland is the strongest supporter of Ukraine’s admission to the European Union.

But to do that, Ukraine will have to meet all the necessary conditions, which will include significan social, administrative and judicial reforms.

Some analysts say Ukraine should enter the WTO as soon as possible in order to boost its chances of joining the EU, while others believe membership of NATO will help.

However, NATO membership is a very sensitive question for many Ukrainians. According to opinion polls, almost 50% of the country’s population support its bid for EU membership, while 70% are against joining NATO.