ROME, March 7, 2013 /PRNewswire/ --
In the wake of the recent EU-Ukraine Summit in Brussels, which set the road map for the signing of the Association Agreement later this year, former President of the European Commission Romano Prodi has stressed Ukraine's strategic importance for the EU, and said he hoped that Kiev would continue on the path of reforms needed to achieve deeper European integration.
Mr. Prodi, who as President of the European Commission from 1999 to 2004 oversaw Europe's enlargement process, called the Association Agreement "an historic opportunity" to boost the current trade of Euros 40 billion by two or three-fold, providing "a new tool" to promote democracy in the country in line with European standards."Engagement, not isolation, is the way forward," Mr. Prodi said on Wednesday during a conference on Ukraine held in Rome. Mr. Prodi also pointed out that deeper trade and political ties with Ukraine are ultimately in the best interest of Europe, given the country's geographical position, its vast agricultural resources, shale gas deposits and its role for EU's energy security. " Ukraine can become an important strategic partner of Europe and a geopolitical bridge between Russia and the EU," Prodi said. Also commenting on the Brussels Summit of Feb 25 th, former Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski noted Kiev's commitment to improve its election law and judicial system, following EU recommendations. Kwasniewski, who is serving as co-head of the European Parliament's Monitoring Mission to Ukraine, welcomed a statement by President Viktor Yanukovych last week that he would be willing to consider a pardon of Yury Lutsenko, the former Minister of Internal Affairs. Also at the Rome conference, Yulia Lyovochkina, a Ukrainian MP and a leading voice of her country's delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, said that Ukraine is on course to implement "all necessary steps" to finalise the Association Agreement. "There is no Plan B," she stated. "For us, Europe is a strategic choice." Noting that the Association Agreement would also help create greater regional stability and democratic governance in Ukraine, former Austrian Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer said that it was important that individual court cases do not derail the process of European integration. SOURCE Ukraine Monitor