EU grants Ukraine market economy status

"I hope and believe that this is not only the most successful summit there’s been between the European Union and the Ukraine, but also a very powerful omen for years to come," said Blair, whose country currently holds the rotating EU presidency. "And you can rest assured that in that progress towards a shared future the European Union and countries like the U.K. will be your partners."

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko said it would take one to two months to settle Ukraine’s market economy status legally.

"Most importantly, we have made a clear political decision today," he said adding that Ukraine and the EU had taken relations to a new level. He also echoed the British premier’s comments the current meeting was the most successful of its kind.

"We have received a positive signal on easing visa regulations for Ukrainians visiting the EU," Yushchenko said.

The president said his country, which has been seeking market economy status from Europe for the past four years, had fulfilled all the five technical conditions necessary and added that integration into the EU was Ukraine’s strategic goal.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said 48-million-strong nation’s future lay with Europe.

The former Soviet country’s new status will provide it with considerable advantages. Notably, it will relieve Ukrainian businesses of the need to spend additional time and money on trying to prove that they operate in market conditions and have market-based prices during anti-dumping procedures.

The EU is also expected to use the summit to declare its support for Ukraine’s bid to join the World Trade Organization and to call on the Ukrainian government to complete all the relevant measures for a free trade zone with the EU.