The EU has said it's ready to resume talks with Ukraine. However, the bloc emphasized that, while the door remained open to Kyiv, it was "not necessarily" still open to its current Moscow-aligned government.
President Dalia Grybauskaite of Lithuania, which holds the rotating EU presidency, indicated at an EU summit in Brussels on Friday that the EU would resume its work with Ukraine, but not without conditions.
"Europe is open for [the] Ukrainian people, but not necessarily for this government. That's the message," Grybauskaite said, referring to the government of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.
"This government is not signing because it doesn't want to sign," she said, adding that its "credibility is already lost."
At later press conference in Brussels, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she would not make such a differentiation. "The door remains open without time constraint," she said.
Earlier this week, the 28-member EU blocfroze negotiations over a trade pact
with the eastern European country, citing Yanukovych's refusal to reach a compromise with anti-government protesters.
Just ahead of an intended association agreement signing with the EU at the end of November, Yanukovych shelved the long-awaited deal.
The decision, which Ukrainians attributed to Moscow's influence,sparked mass protests in the capital.
The EU also criticized the use of police force against peaceful demonstrators.
'We're not carpet traders'
At the summit's final day on Friday, Luxembourg's new prime minister dismissed suggestions by Ukrainian leaders that the EU should have offered more money if it wanted Kyiv to enter into a trade agreement.
"We are not carpet traders. It's not a question of offering more," Luxembourg Premier Xavier Bettel said on Friday.
Despite public outcry, Yanukovych and Premier Mykola Azarov agreedthis week to a $15-billion- (11-billion-euro) loan from the Russian government
That deal included a temporary discount on imports of Russian gas. The decision further fuelled demonstrations and renewed concerns that Kyiv would enter into a Russian-led customs union, whichsome fear would resemble Soviet-era relations with Moscow
Responding on Thursday, Yanukovychaccused foreign envoys,
such as EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and US Republican Senator John McCain, of meddling in Ukrainian politics. Both have travelled to Kyiv in recent weeks, where they met with politicians and protesters.
"I am categorically against other coming to our country and teaching us how to live," Yanukovych said in a televised address.
The EU responded tothe downgrade of its credit rating from AAA to AA+
by Standard and Poors on Friday.
"The Commission disagrees with S&P that member state obligations to the budget in a stress scenario are questionable," EU Economic Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn said.
S&P issued its revised assessment earlier on Friday, citing deteriorating financial arrangements and "cohesion among [members states]."
kms/ipj (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)