BRUSSELS, Feb. 21 (UPI) -- The European Union said it could sign an association agreement with Ukraine provided Kiev takes political reform and justice concerns seriously.
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych leads a delegation to Brussels next week for the 16th annual bilateral summit.
"The main focus of discussions at this summit is expected to be Ukraine's reform agenda, linked to the possible signature of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, which will also provide for the establishment of a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area," the European Union said.
Both sides previously announced plans to find new ways to solidify bilateral relations. Ukraine hosts much of the natural gas bound for European economies and the European Union in 2011 was Ukraine's second-largest commercial partner after Russia.
Last year, the European Union expressed concern about the conduct of Ukraine's parliamentary elections and has stated its frustration with what it sees as selective justice targeting opponents of Yanukovych.
Opposition leader and former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko is serving a seven-year prison term after being convicted on charges she abused her power in a 2009 deal with Russian energy company Gazprom.
The European Union said the partnership agreement could be signed at a November conference in Lithuania if "tangible progress" is made in selective justice and international election standards.
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