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ukraine-related news stories from RFE

UKRAINE'S PROPORTIONAL-ELECTION BILL SUBMITTED FOR PRESIDENTIAL APPROVAL. Verkhovna Rada speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn has forwarded last week's bill on a fully proportional parliamentary-election system in Ukraine to President Leonid Kuchma for approval, Interfax reported on 1 April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 March 2004). Simultaneously, Lytvyn sent a list of sections of the bill that the legislature's legal staff believes contravene the country's constitution. The adoption of a proportional system is a sine qua non for the Communist Party and the Socialist Party to support constitutional reforms that are being promoted by the presidential administration and the pro-government parliamentary majority. JM

EU TRADE COMMISSIONER VISITS BALTIC STATES. Pascal Lamy concluded a two-day tour of the Baltic capitals with a visit to Tallinn on 1 April, BNS reported. Lamy told a news conference the same day that talks on the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement between the EU and Russia are proceeding well, with about 90 percent of issues settled. Lamy said he expects Russia's double duties on imports from Estonia to be eliminated as of 1 May, when the country joins the EU. On 31 March, Lamy told Lithuanian officials and businessmen in Vilnius that the EU does not plan to impose new taxes on individuals or introduce uniform rates for basic taxes in EU countries. He also dashed hopes in the business community of retaining lower import duties on some raw materials from Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus. Lamy also met with Latvian Prime Minister Indulis Emsis, Economy Minister Juris Lujans, and other officials in Riga. Lamy downplayed Latvia's current-account deficit of 9.2 percent of GDP in 2003, saying that "such macro economic indicators are not surprising for a country that is carrying out as extensive a modernization as Latvia." SG