Merkel backs EU ‘associate’ status for Ukraine

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday said during a visit to Kiev that Ukraine should become an "associate member" of the European Union, warning that full membership was not on the agenda.

A new partnership deal is due to be discussed at the next EU-Ukraine summit in France in September. But, referring to the possibility of eventual membership, Merkel said: “This question is not on the agenda.”

“This (September) agreement will not only mean a strengthened partnership. It can also qualify as an associate member agreement,” Merkel said at a joint press conference with Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko after talks.

Merkel said the EU’s current internal disputes prevented further enlargement of the bloc for the time being. “I told the president that I am not one of those people who makes promises that are impossible to realize,” Merkel said.

Merkel also reiterated her support for Kiev’s eventual membership of NATO but did not say whether Berlin would support Kiev’s bid to gain official candidate status at a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in December.

“Ukraine will be a member of NATO…. No country that is not a member of NATO other than Ukraine can discuss this issue,” she said, in a clear reference to Russia, which is strongly opposed to Ukraine’s bid to join the alliance.