The European Union’s commissioner for external relations, Hans van den Broek, completed a visit to Kiev with a statement that "a strong independent Ukraine is vitally important to the EU, which will therefore continue the policy of supporting Ukraine." Van den Broek met with the top Ukrainian leaders and signed documents envisaging approximately $700 million as a nonbinding target figure in economic and technical assistance to Ukraine for 1996-1999. He also provided assurances regarding a second tranche, worth $240 million, of a previously approved balance-of-payments-support loan; and held out the prospect of $600 million in aid toward the closure of Chernobyl nuclear power plant by the year 2000. (UNIAN, Interfax-Ukraine, September 12 and 13)
Notwithstanding the statements of intent and attendant dollar figures, the visit appeared to leave basically in suspension some major issues of pressing concern to Ukraine: ratification of the EU-Ukraine partnership and cooperation agreement (ratified by only six EU countries thus far), Kiev’s growing trade deficit with the EU and calls for a trade agreement to rectify the imbalance, and the uncertainty surrounding the promised $3.1 billion aid package for closing Chernobyl and developing compensatory power-generating capacities. The EU’s political will to adequately support Ukraine’s reforms does not yet appear to match the organization’s own assessment of Ukraine’s importance to Europe.
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