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Europe

EU Makes Positive Noises But Offers Only Vague Deal to Ukraine

The EU and Ukraine will sign an "association agreement" after a meeting between European leaders and the Ukrainian president in Paris. But the bloc did not mention concrete security guarantees or membership prospects.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, center, and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, left, welcome Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko

Yushchenko got warm words and handshakes -- but not much else

Probably the most heartening words from the summit for Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko came at the concluding press conference, when summit chairman and French President Nicolas Sarkozy said that, in the eyes of Europe, Ukrainian territorial integrity was "non-negotiable."

The meeting between Yushchenko and representatives form the EU's 27 member states came in the aftermath of the Russia-Georgia conflict and amidst Ukrainian worries about Moscow's motives.

In a joint statement, EU member states "recognized that Ukraine, as a European country, shares a common history and common values with the countries of the EU."

The "association agreement" that emerged form the summit offers Kiev enhanced status in its dealings with the EU. But it does not say anything about whether Ukraine could possibly join the bloc some day.

Indeed the agreement, as Sarkozy stressed to the press, "neither opens nor closes any route."

For his part, Yushchenko told reporters he was convinced that his country and the EU would sign "a very symbolic document cementing relations."

"The main thing is that today we qualified as a European country," Yushchenko added. "This is the first step of this great road that all countries which then became EU members, walked on."

European divisions

A column of Russian troops on the move

The Russian-Georgian conflict has everyone worried about Eastern Europe

But if the post-summit tone was warm, the statements and the agreement emerging from the meeting reflected the fact that the EU is not at all of a single mind as to where it stands vis-à-vis Ukraine and Russia.

"There are differing positions within the European Council," Sarkozy said. "And we explained to President Yushchenko that this was the maximum we could promise him."

Britain, Poland and Sweden have been pushing the bloc to deepen ties with Kiev to offset pressure from Moscow.

But member states like Germany, Italy and the Benelux countries want the EU to be more cautious and take more account of Russia's interests in Eastern Europe.

There are even questions as to whether the people of Ukraine, with its heavy Russian-speaking population, would truly welcome a more hard-line course toward Moscow.

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