EU delegation to call for full inquiry of President Leonid Kuchma

Feb 13, 2001 01:00 AM

A senior delegation from the European Union is travelling to Ukraine to meet President Leonid Kuchma, who is facing increasing pressure to stand down over his alleged role in the murder of the investigative journalist Georgiy Gongadze.
Mr Kuchma is under pressure to resign. The visit of the high-level EU team has been planned for months, but it happens to coincide with the most serious crisis of President Kuchma's political career. It also comes just one day after a summit where Mr Kuchma and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin strengthened their ties.
But unlike the Russian leader, who pointedly refused to discuss the big protests over the Gongadze affair, the EU delegation will call for a full and transparent inquiry into the journalist's disappearance. "It would be extraordinary if we didn't raise our concerns," one European official said, stressing that the partnership agreement between the EU and Ukraine has a clear clause on the respect for human rights and the rule of law.

The EU team, led by Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh, also includes her Belgian colleague Louis Michel, the EU's foreign policy chief Javier Solana and the European commissioner for external affairs Chris Patten. Georgiy Gongadze wrote about corruption in high places
Sweden, which holds the EU's rotating presidency, issued a strongly worded statement asking Ukraine to ensure that journalists can work safely and without harassment. But while Britain and Germany supported Sweden's stance, it is unclear if all 15 EU governments would agree to firmer measures.
"There is no talk of sanctions," one Swedish diplomat said. "We first have to see what answers we get in Kiev. "

As Ukraine's main trading partner outside the former Soviet Union and its biggest source of international aid, the EU will press for a continuation of stalled economic reforms. But it will tread carefully in its dealings with Ukraine, which, as the EU enlarges to the east, will become one of its largest and poorest neighbours.
In order to help Ukraine offset serious energy shortages, the EU approved a $ 600 mm loan for the completion of two new nuclear reactors after the closure of Chernobyl last year and is also funding gas imports from Russia.

Source: BBC News
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