UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT ELECTS PRESIDIUM. At its first session, which opened on 12 May, the new parliament elected a temporary presidium to supervise the legislative process until the election of a speaker. The presidium consists of Petro Symonenko, head of the Communist Party; Oleksandr Moroz, chief of the Socialist Party; Anatoliy Matviyenko, leader of the Popular Democratic Party; Yuriy Kostenko, former minister of environment and nuclear safety; and Pavlo Lazarenko, head of the Hromada party. Also on 12 May, the Communist faction abstained from repeating the oath of office, which was read by 78-year-old Yaroslava Stetsko, leader of the ultra-right Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists, RFE/RL's Kyiv Bureau reported. JM

KUCHMA CALLS ON PARLIAMENT TO BACK SPENDING CUTS. Addressing the opening session of the Supreme Council, President Leonid Kuchma called on lawmakers to support reducing budgetary subsidies, which account for one-fifth of Ukraine's budget. The reduction is a key condition for obtaining an IMF loan worth $2.5 billion. The president added that the cabinet is to submit a new version of the 1998 budget in which the deficit is reduced to 2.5 percent of GDP. At the same time, Kuchma appealed for the tax burden on the wage fund to be eased to 35 percent in the second half of this year. JM

JAPANESE COMPANY TO INVEST $2 BILLION IN UKRAINE. Japan's Mitsui company is to invest some $2 billion in the Ukrainian economy, ITAR-TASS reported. The company's financial director told President Kuchma on 12 May that the company is primarily interested in the joint construction of electric power stations and mineral fertilizer plants. JM

SLOVAKIA EXAMINES EXCHANGE SYSTEM AHEAD OF EURO INTRODUCTION. Marian Jusko, deputy governor of the Slovak National Bank, told a meeting of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development in Kyiv on 11 May that his country is considering changes in its foreign-currency exchange mechanisms in preparation for the introduction of the European currency in early 1999. Jusko said Slovakia will finalize those changes "within one month" and introduce the new system next year. He declined to provide further details, an RFE/RL correspondent in Kyiv reported. Slovakia's fixed exchange rate is calculated in terms of a "currency basket" based 60 percent on the German mark and 40 percent on the U.S. dollar. MS

BULGARIAN DEPUTY PREMIER ON ECONOMY. Alexander Bozhkov told the meeting of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development in Kyiv on 12 May that his country will meet the criteria for membership in the EU currency union by the year 2001. Bozhkov said this increases Sofia's chances of joining the EU in the not too distant future, an RFE/RL correspondent in the Ukrainian capital reported. He attributed the upswing in Bulgaria's economy during the last year largely to the currency board set up at the insistence of the IMF. MS