Finnish PM to visit Ukraine for talks on EU aspirations

Finnish Prime Minister planned to visit Ukraine on Wednesday for talks on ex-Soviet republic's EU aspirations.

Ukraine was encouraged by the European Union's decision Tuesday to open membership talks with Turkey and Croatia. Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko has made EU membership a goal, and signs that EU is becoming reluctant to consider new members are a concern here.

Matti Vanhanen, whose nation will take over the EU's rotating presidency in July, was expected to hold talks with Yushchenko, Prime Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov and Parliament Speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn.

Last week, a senior Finnish lawmaker said in Kiev that Finland hoped to lead discussions on Ukraine's membership prospects during its EU presidency.

For Ukraine's western-leaning leadership, closer links with the EU are seen as a way to offset the still considerable influence of Moscow. But while younger Ukrainians support EU membership, many in Ukraine's Russian-speaking east are hostile to the idea.

A poll by Ukraine's respected Razumkov center, released this week, found that only 33.3 percent of Ukrainians consider this nation of 47 million to be a European state. Most cited the country's economic and social conditions, which remain far below EU standards. The poll of 2,011 people had a margin of error of 2.3 percentage points.

The Finnish prime minister was also expected to use his visit to discuss trade and business relations with his Ukrainian counterparts, reports the AP.


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