The EU’s Eastern European expansion took smaller steps forward than was hoped at a summit in the Lithuanian capital on Friday, as Ukraine failed to sign the association agreement following a threat from the Kremlin that the deal could damage economic ties with Russia.
Merkel had a 40-minute meeting with Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych on Friday morning, after which she said, "the door is still open," for Ukraine to sign a deal with the EU, and refused to put a deadline or timetable on the deal. "We have all seen that historical processes often take a very long time," she added.
For his part, Yanukovych signalled his willingness to sign the agreement “in the near future,” but called for “clear gestures of goodwill” in terms of pledges of financial support from Brussels.
The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported that Georgia and Moldova both endorsed association agreements with the EU, while Azerbaijan signed a treaty to ease visa restrictions.
Merkel also sent her foreign policy advisor Christoph Heusgen to meet with Ukrainian opposition leader and boxer Vitali Klitschko to discuss Ukrainian government repression.
EU President Herman Van Rompuy criticized Russia’s intervention in the deal with Ukrainian. He vowed: “We will not bow to Russian pressure.”
Russia, understood to be alarmed at the way more and more countries that used to be part of the Soviet Union are seeking closer ties with the West, is working to win them over by creating its own toll union.