It looks as though Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko’s working visit to Germany was a success this time. He finally met Chancellor Angela Merkel, which he failed to do last year. On Oct. 3, 2006, Yushchenko was in Berlin to accept the Die Quadriga 2006 Prize, while Merkel was attending a film premiere at a movie theater in the capital and could not find the time to see the president of Ukraine.
Some observers claim this was Frau Merkel’s response to Yushchenko’s refusal to attend a working dinner in Berlin earlier last year. The Yushchenko-Merkel talks are important because Germany is heading the European Union and the G8. Equally significant is the fact that the Ukrainian president finally heard the leader of a highly influential EU country saying that Ukraine has a chance for EU membership.
Merkel told a joint press conference that a new, fuller, EU-Ukraine agreement will give a signal about Ukraine’s accession to the EU. As for Ukraine’s European prospects, the German leader noted that she and Yushchenko discussed the first steps, including the signing of an enhanced partnership agreement between Ukraine and the EU. Merkel recalled that Kyiv recently hosted an EU Troika-Ukraine meeting at the foreign minister-level, and she hopes that “what we are doing and what we are going to put into practice will promote our rapprochement.”
Merkel also agreed to fulfill Yushchenko’s wish to show him a beacon for Ukraine’s further movement towards the EU. “I think this kind of beacon will be created, and it will symbolize the European Union for Ukraine,” Merkel said. She promised that Germany will support the creation of a Ukraine-EU free trade area. Merkel also noted that the process should begin with simpler things. “We will begin with simple things and practical matters. We will start with visas and eventually come to the free trade area issue.”
Naturally, the two sides also discussed the energy question. The German chancellor noted that Ukraine is a reliable partner of the European Union, emphasizing that she is aware of Ukraine’s readiness to meet its commitments about the transit and supply of energy resources.
On his part, Yushchenko said that Ukraine has no doubts that it will become an EU member, but this goal cannot be achieved in the twinkling of an eye. “It takes time to lay the groundwork for a road map in this process,” the president said. At the same time he showed understanding of current EU problems that emerged after the latest members were admitted. The president is convinced that “Ukraine now has a good opportunity to focus attention on intensifying our relations by launching negotiations with the EU.”
Interestingly, in an interview with the N-TV channel after the talks with Merkel, Yushchenko gave his assurances that Ukraine will be a full-fledged EU member within 10 years.