UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT PROPOSES COUNCIL ON ECONOMIC REFORMS. Leonid Kuchma on 9 July proposed the creation of a presidential council to make crucial economic decisions, Ukrainian Radio reported. The council may be given powers to approve this year's state budget. Kuchma outlined his proposal in a letter to the parliament. The proposal comes after a six-months delay by the legislature in approving the 1997 budget. Ukraine could lose up to $3 billion in credits from the IMF because of the delays. Kuchma's proposed that the council include representatives of both the presidency and the parliament. He also reiterated his suggestion to delay parliamentary elections by one year in order to give the current legislature more time to approve economic reforms. In Kuchma's view, holding the next parliamentary ballot at about the same time as the presidential elections in 1999 would save the state money. Parliamentary elections are scheduled for March 1998.

FRENCH PRESIDENT SAYS UKRAINE NEEDS TO PURSUE ECONOMIC REFORMS. Jacques Chirac told his Ukrainian counterpart, Leonid Kuchma, in Madrid on 9 July that Ukraine must speed up economic reforms if it wants more international financial aid. Reuters quoted an unnamed French official as saying that Kuchma appealed to Chirac to support Ukraine's drive for IMF loans. Chirac praised Ukraine's recent settling of disputes with Russia and outlined steps Ukraine needed to take to win further Western financial backing, including speeding up privatization and introducing structural reforms.

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT IN MADRID. Emil Constantinescu told the inaugural session of NATO's Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council on 9 July that Romania has the "irrevocable desire" to participate in deciding Europe's "security architecture" and to join NATO as soon as possible. He said Romania was rediscovering her "historical vocation as a mediator and as a point of convergence" in southeastern Europe. He added that the basic treaties signed with Hungary and Ukraine and the trilateral pacts signed with Ukraine and Moldova should help build a "flexible and lasting structure" capable of preventing or at least localizing potential conflicts. At a later press conference, Constantinescu said he assumes "personal responsibility" for the NATO-bid outcome and thanked in particular French President Jacques Chirac for his support.