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EU and Ukraine likely to facilitate visa regime by end of 2007

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KIEV, September 14 (RIA Novosti) - The European and Ukrainian parliaments are expected to ratify visa facilitation agreements between Ukraine and the 27 EU member states by the end of the year, the Ukrainian president said Friday.

"The prime minister of Portugal [Jose Socrates] and I have no doubts that the European Parliament and the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine [parliament] will ratify the agreements, and that they will come into force in early 2008," President Viktor Yushchenko said at the Ukraine-EU summit in Kiev.

There are a number of issues that need to be addressed delicately, he said, adding that the parties have agreed to step up consultations with EU countries that have tightened the visa regime for Ukrainian nationals.

Socrates said the Portuguese presidency of the EU would assist Ukraine in holding bilateral talks with EU member states.

Meanwhile, European Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso said Friday that negotiations on the free trade zone between Ukraine and the EU could begin after talks on Ukraine's accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) end.

The EU and Ukraine began talks on a wider agreement, including a free trade zone and a closer EU-Ukrainian energy policy, in March 2007.

The main issues of the ongoing talks on the EU-Ukrainian free trade zone are import and export duties and additional procedures on access to the commodity market, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk said.

Yatsenyuk said the working party's report on Ukraine's accession process to the WTO is in the final stage.

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