...WHILE BELARUS SAYS BAN 'UNPRECEDENTED PRESSURE.' The Belarusian Foreign Ministry said in a 10 July statement that the EU decision to ban Belarusian officials from entering its member states was accompanied "with threats to take even tougher measures," ITAR-TASS reported. According to the ministry, the EU has taken advantage of a "relatively small problem--the change of residences--as a reason for applying large-scale, unprecedented pressure on sovereign Belarus." Speaking on national television, Lukashenka's administration chief, Mikhail Myasnikovich, called the ban an "illconsidered" decision that is economically disadvantageous for both sides. Myasnikovich added that some foreign embassies in Belarus have already denied visas to children affected by the Chornobyl nuclear accident, who had intended to receive treatment abroad, ITAR-TASS reported on 12 July. JM

KUCHMA URGES PARLIAMENT TO APPROVE REVISED 1998 BUDGET. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma appealed to the parliament on 10 July to approve a revised 1998 budget draft, submitted by the cabinet earlier this month, before the parliamentary summer recess. The draft reduces the budget deficit to 2.3 percent of GDP. The government has faced difficulties in raising funds to finance the 3.3 percent deficit for which the original budget provided. The revised budget must be passed "to alleviate tension in view of the acute economic crisis in the country," Ukrainian Television quoted Kuchma as saying. The president also asked the Supreme Council to refrain from passing bills that "require additional budget assignations or reduce budget revenues." JM

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES PERMANENT COMMITTEE HEADS. The Supreme Council has approved the heads of its 24 permanent committees, Ukrainian Television reported on 10 July. The Communist Party received six chairs, the Popular Democratic Party five, the "Hromada" party four, and the Socialists/Peasants, the Greens, and the Social Democrats three each. Former speaker Oleksandr Moroz heads the committee for agrarian policy, former Foreign Minister Hennadiy Udovenko the committee for human rights; former Prime Minister Yevhen Marchuk the committee for social policy and labor. The Progressive Socialists have strongly protested this distribution, which deprives both its deputies and non-affiliated parliamentary members of any committee chairs. JM

MECIAR ADDRESSES PARLIAMENT... Slovak Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar said on 10 July that the country's main goal is to join the EU, Slovak Radio reported. He added that Slovakia is also "interested in NATO membership," but he said that comments by former President Michal Kovac have hurt its chances for membership. He noted that relations with Poland, Ukraine, and Austria were good, although Bratislava and Vienna have "contrasting views" on nuclear energy, a reference to Austria's opposition to Slovakia's operation of the Mochovce nuclear power plant. Meciar argued that relations with Hungary have improved but are weakened by Budapest's failure to adhere to an international court verdict on the controversial Gabcikovo-Nagymaros dam. And he said that tension over the Hungarian minority in Slovakia needs to be overcome, commenting that Slovakia is responsible to international institutions but not to any other government regarding minority rights. PB