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EU-Ukraine ties

June 17, 2009

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier is spending a rare one-day visit in Ukraine to examine ways the European Union can help stabilize the country.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, right, and Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski
Steinmeier and Sikorski will examine ways to help stabilize UkraineImage: AP

Ukraine has been hit hard by the global financial crisis, with bitter internal political wrangling holding up decision-making and the World Bank predicting a nine percent economic contraction this year.

Steinmeier and Polish Foreign Minister Radoslav Sikorski are to meet with President Viktor Yushchenko, Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and opposition leader Viktor Yanukovich as well as acting Foreign Minister Vladimir Handogy.

"We come as friends and our message is clear: we want to help," Steinmeier told Polish daily Gazeta Wyborsza on Wednesday.

"We want to discuss with our Ukrainian partners what we can do to cushion the impact (of the economic crisis). That can only work when we work together, and when the key political forces in Ukraine work together."

Germany and Poland, which both have closer ties to Ukraine than many other EU countries, have been especially worried about the potential consequences of a further destabilization of the country.

Letter of concern

A view of a gas pressure-gauge of the natural gas pipeline in Boyarka village near Kiev, Ukraine
Gas stoppages to Ukraine affected supplies to several EU countriesImage: picture-alliance/ dpa

The political gridlock and weakening economy in the ex-Soviet state pushed Steinmeier and Sikorski to send a joint letter to the Czech EU presidency in April calling for closer ties between the 27-nation bloc and Kiev.

Central and eastern European countries have been particularly worried about Ukraine's troubles accessing funds to purchase much-needed gas supplies from neighboring Russia.

Over 80 percent of the gas that is delivered to the EU goes through the Ukraine and Russian officials have repeatedly warned that if the Ukraine has trouble paying its bills, it could lead to interrupted gas supplies.

Last January, gas deliveries to the EU were interrupted during a dispute between Kiev and Moscow over unpaid gas bills.

Ukraine is currently seeking to borrow $4 billion (2.9 billion euros) from banks in the EU in order to replenish its gas supplies.


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