UKRAINIAN CABINET APPROVES ACTION PROGRAM. The government on 3 March approved the main points of its action program, which is based on President Leonid Kuchma's annual address to the parliament last month, Interfax reported. The program--called "The Reforms for Prosperity"--is to be in force throughout the term of the current government. The programs foresees a 1.2 percent increase in GDP this year and a 6.5 percent average annual increase in GDP from 2002- 2004. The government expects that the planned reforms will result in a 40 percent growth in personal income in Ukraine. The program also pledges to create market mechanisms in the energy sector and diversify energy supplies. JM

UKRAINE TO CONTINUE BORROWING MONEY ABROAD. Economy Minister Serhiy Tyhypko on 3 March said Ukraine will not stop borrowing money from international financial organizations, Interfax reported. "We need not be afraid of foreign debts-- we need to be afraid of budget deficit, inasmuch as its existence practically increases foreign debt," Tyhypko noted. Commenting on inflation in January and February (8.1 percent), Tyhypko said that figure was the result of "larger than planned" money supplies at the end of 1999. JM

The three Baltic states have all set ambitious target dates for joining the EU. They want to accede to the union within four years at the latest.

But the experience of front-runner Estonia may provide a cautionary signal to Latvia and Lithuania, which will open their own substantive negotiations at the end of this month After two years of detailed talks with Brussels, Estonia has finalized only eight of the 31 required chapters of negotiations.

In the run-up to the start of talks with Lithuania and Latvia, diplomats in Brussels from all three states spoke to RFE/RL.

The head of Estonia's mission to the EU, Ambassador Priit Kolbre, said his country is more than willing to share with its Baltic neighbors the insights gained during two difficult years of negotiations. He said there have been frequent contacts on the subject between the three governments. His personal advice to negotiators is to be "tough," although he admits that "in order to be tough and successful, you should very clearly understand what is behind the EU requirements during the negotiations, and whether they are just positions in principle, or whether there is a substantial interest to maintain."

Lithuanian diplomatic mission counselor Zigismund Pavilionis says that advice from Estonia is welcome but that his country is also receiving guidance from other countries. Pavilionis mentioned Poland--which he called Lithuania's "strategic partner"--as well as other advanced Central European candidates and Nordic countries like Finland, that have only recently joined the EU. Pavilionis is optimistic that Lithuania can catch up with Estonia's lead. He predicts that "15 negotiating positions will be ready at the actual start of the talks, though of course we will submit only those positions suggested by the EU, that should be opened during the Portuguese presidency (until 1 July) but in any case we hope that this year we will open more than half of all the negotiating chapters".

Latvian diplomatic mission Second Secretary Aldis Austers says his country would like all three Baltic states to enter the EU at the same time. He added that Latvia, too, has prepared i15 chapters for the coming negotiations with the EU and hopes to open as many as eight chapters during Portugal's Presidency.

Estonia's envoy Kolbre, however, doubts the likelihood that all three Baltic republics can be ready for accession at the same time. "In theory, the three countries could join together, but looking from the other side, I personally believe that if the EU allows Estonia to continue without any artificial delays in the negotiations, that other countries could not simply catch up [with] two years of negotiations-- it has been very tough work."

Ukraine figures in the Baltic states' considerations. Under the EU's internal single-market rules, Estonia and Lithuania will have to terminate their successful free-trade agreements with Kyiv when they accede to the EU. That means a loss both for the Balts and Ukraine, particularly for Kyiv.

Lithuania's Pavilionis says Vilnius is in contact with Kyiv and is willing to offer help wherever possible: "As you know, we have historic ties with Ukraine and that's why we would like that that country would find some new relations with the EU, because it is so important in our part of Europe."

Estonia's Kolbre notes that there are several years to go before the trade accords with Ukraine must be ended. He says much depends on how quickly businesses in the Baltics and in Ukraine can adjust to the new conditions created by the imposition of EU tariffs. If the adjustment process goes well, he adds, not all trade with Ukraine need be lost.