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EU sets conditions on closer ties with Ukraine

Brussels - The European Union and Ukraine initialled an agreement on Friday to establish greater political and economic integration, but EU officials said it would take effect only if the political climate in Kiev became more “European”.

The deal marks the end of technical work to draw up an association agreement, including what the EU calls a “deep and comprehensive” free trade agreement.

Ukraine is defying demands to let Yemen join the World Trade Organization and has accused other countries of violating its sovereignty and their own responsibility to remain neutral.

This covers trade in goods and services, investment and movement of capital, as well as areas such as intellectual property, a senior EU official said on Thursday. It requires Ukraine to adopt many EU regulations.

The 27 EU governments and the European Parliament have to sign the accord before it comes into force. That is currently unlikely because of EU concern about the former Soviet country's judicial system, the arrest of opposition leaders and the perceived absence of free and fair elections.

A particular problem is the seven-year jail sentence that former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko is serving for abuse of office - a case criticised by the West as politically motivated.

“The personal fate of Yulia Tymoshenko is the tip of the iceberg,” said the senior EU official. “It's about the impartiality of the judicial process in general ... We expect the adoption of European values.”

No timetable has been set out for the process of ratifying the accord, and the EU official said it was a political process that would not automatically move forward. “There is not automaticity. It will be very much influenced by the political situation in Ukraine,” the official said. - Reuters

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