'Worried' EU to send fact-finding mission to Ukraine

'Worried' EU to send fact-finding mission to UkraineLuxembourg - The European Union has "every reason to be worried" about Ukraine's political deadlock and economic crisis, EU foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg said Monday. The EU is to organize a fact-finding mission to Ukraine aimed at establishing how the EU can help the country sliding further into the abyss, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told journalists after talks with EU counterparts.

"It is timely to explore how we can best assist the country in tackling its current difficulties," he wrote in a joint letter with his Polish counterpart, Radek Sikorski.

Sweden's influential foreign minister, former premier Carl Bildt, said that the EU was deeply concerned by the ongoing feud between Ukraine's president and prime minister, which has blocked the country's bid to bring in reforms demanded by the International Monetary Fund in return for a massive bail-out.

"There's every reason to be worried: they have a very major economic crisis ... On top of that, we have got the political divisions in the country," he said.

The country's inability to agree on IMF-mandated reforms is "more than regrettable, that is bordering on the dangerous for the country," he said.

The fact-finding mission would be put together by the EU's top diplomat, Javier Solana, in collaboration with the Ukrainian government, Steinmeier said.

Ukraine is one of six former-Soviet states which the EU has invited to join its "Eastern Partnership", a cooperation group which will be launched at a summit in Prague on May 7.

Ahead of the launch, concerns in Europe have grown over the threat of instability in Ukraine and Moldova, the state of democracy in Belarus and unresolved conflicts in Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Bildt said that those problems make the partnership "more needed than ever."

"I don't think anyone (in the EU) is under the illusion that we are entering into relations with a couple of Switzerlands," he said. (dpa)