President Jerzy Buzek this afternoon welcomed Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko
to the European Parliament and urged him to step up his country's political and economic reforms which he says are necessary for Ukraine to deepen its ties with the European Union.
Both leaders spoke about economic reforms and democratic presidential elections as well as on maintenance of gas supplies, which President Buzek called "our common issue, our common threat and challenge".
Both leaders were confident of progress being made on the joint Association Agreement
, with Mr Buzek saying "I am sure that a political agreement will be reached in December [2009 - next EU-Ukraine summit], and from the level of the European Parliament we can support such an agreement."
But he stopped short of extending this agreement of even closer cooperation to future full membership focusing instead on the Union's new Eastern Partnership
, "a Euronest of inter-parliamentary cooperation" which "we count close cooperation with Ukraine as part of."
Mr Buzek refuted suggestions that Russia's presence was impacting upon relations between the two, saying: "The European Union, as a rule, is independent. The Ukraine is an independent country. So these are relations between two independent countries."
"Not one of our decisions between the Ukraine and the European Union is made against another country, and not against Russia," he said.