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OUR UKRAINE APPROVES ELECTION LIST. A congress of former Premier Viktor Yushchenko's election bloc Our Ukraine on 16 January approved its election list, Ukrainian media reported. The first five on the list are: Yushchenko; lawmaker Oleksandr Stoyan, the head of the Trade Union Federation of Ukraine; lawmaker Hennadiy Udovenko, the leader of the Popular Rukh of Ukraine; lawmaker Yuriy Kostenko, the leader of the Ukrainian Popular Rukh; and lawmaker Viktor Pynzenyk, the leader of the Reforms and Order Party. Yushchenko told the congress that Our Ukraine pledges "to free the country from everything that hampers its development." He added that Our Ukraine is seeking to change the "ruthless, bureaucratic, and corrupt" executive power system in the country. Asked by journalists about possible allies in the future parliament, Yushchenko named the Unity bloc led by Kyiv Mayor Oleksandr Omelchenko and the pro-presidential For a United Ukraine led by Volodymyr Lytvyn. JM
UKRAINE, BRAZIL SIGN SPACE, ECONOMIC ACCORDS. On 16 January in Kyiv, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma and his Brazilian counterpart Fernando Henrique Cardoso signed a joint declaration on expanding friendship and cooperation between the two countries, UNIAN reported. The two sides also signed eight bilateral accords, including on cooperation in space industry, oil and gas prospecting and extraction, power engineering, and banking. JM
UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES CD PIRACY BILL ON FIRST READING... The Verkhovna Rada on 17 January voted by 238 to five, with four abstentions, to pass on first reading a bill on combating CD piracy, AP reported. The U.S. government has introduced trade sanctions (to take effect on 23 January) to pressure Ukraine to draft such legislation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 December 2001). The bill allows for prosecutors to enter alleged CD production premises with a warrant that is based on specific allegations. A rejected government version of the bill, which reflected the U.S. demands, would have allowed prosecutors to enter CD production facilities any time and examine documents and equipment, with or without a warrant. JM
UKRAINIAN AIRPORT EVACUATED AFTER BOMB THREAT. Authorities on 16 January evacuated all staff members and passengers from the Odesa international airport after an explosion rocked a cafe near the airport and police received information that there was another bomb in the airport, ICTV Television reported. In addition, a Vienna-bound flight from Odesa was rerouted to Graz after a bomb threat was phoned in while the plane was in the air, AP reported. Austrian Airlines announced that security officials examined the aircraft and luggage but found no explosives. JM
Romanian Prime Minister Adrian Nastase is expressing doubts over Hungary's determination to observe a bilateral memorandum stipulating the conditions under which Romania's Hungarian minority can benefit from a Hungarian law granting certain rights to ethnic Hungarians living abroad.
The Law on Hungarians Living in Neighboring Countries -- also known as the Status Law -- was passed by Hungary's parliament in June 2001. It allows ethnic Hungarians living in Romania, Slovakia, Yugoslavia, Croatia, Ukraine, and Slovenia to enjoy advantages -- including an annual three-month work permit in Hungary as well as medical care and pension benefits -- on the basis of an identity card issued by Hungarian authorities.
Romania, which is home to an ethnic Hungarian minority of 1.7 million people -- the regions' largest -- protested mainly over the provision granting working rights for ethnic Hungarians, saying it would discriminate against Romanians seeking employment in Hungary. Bucharest also objected to the stipulation in the law that would have allowed organizations representing ethnic Hungarians in Romania to issue the Hungarian ID card, saying it would have amounted to a breach of Romania's sovereignty.
But under a memorandum signed on 22 December in Budapest by Nastase and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Hungary agreed to allow all Romanian citizens -- regardless of their ethnic origin -- to apply for work permits within its territory. In addition, organizations representing the Magyars will only make "recommendations" to Hungarian authorities, which would issue the cards in Hungary proper.
However, Nastase on 11 January criticized a statement allegedly made by Hungarian Democratic Forum Deputy Zsolt Nemeth. Nemeth, whose party is a junior partner in Orban's coalition government, was quoted by Nastase as saying that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a Romanian to work in Hungary.
Romanian government spokesman Claudiu Lucaciu told RFE/RL that such statements could lead Romanian officials to suspect that the Hungarian side agreed to the memorandum "in bad faith."
"This is an agreement between the two governments -- that is, to allow Romanian citizens to access the Hungarian workforce market -- and that is why the prime minister [Nastase] expressed a certain level of fear that if things are indeed as presented by some Hungarian political leaders, and discrimination on ethnic criteria will continue, then one could consider that the agreement was concluded in bad faith," Lucaciu said.
But Hungary's government, in response, said it will fulfill all obligations assumed in the memorandum.
Hungarian Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi told the Hungarian parliament on 11 January that Budapest is interested in fully implementing the memorandum. Martonyi said the document is good for ethnic Hungarians living in Romania, as well as for relations between the two countries.
However, Budapest said on 15 January it will limit the number of foreign workers in 2002. A government spokesman said only 81,320 foreign workers will be admitted -- a number equal to the job vacancies in 2001.
The decision -- months ahead of general elections scheduled for April -- follows harsh criticism from Hungary's Socialist-led opposition that the deal with Bucharest will cause an exodus of cheap seasonal labor to Hungary.
Controversy over the Status Law has dominated otherwise good relations between Romania and Hungary over the past year.
After World War I, Hungary lost two-thirds of its territory to newly formed Central and Eastern European states. As a consequence, some 3.5 million Hungarians live outside of their homeland.
Hungary has enjoyed steady economic growth since the fall of communism and is a front-runner to join the European Union. It says the Status Law is aimed at helping ethnic Hungarians in neighboring countries preserve their cultural and national identities and at offering them economic support to continue living in their native regions.
But Romania and Slovakia -- which hosts the second-largest Hungarian minority in the region, some 600,000 -- both complained about the extraterritorial character of the law and unofficially expressed fears that the measure might finally lead to territorial claims from Hungary.
To allay Romanian suspicions, Hungary in the December memorandum pledged not to offer any kind of support to Romania's ethnic Hungarian political organizations without prior approval from Romanian authorities.
Romanian Prime Minister Nastase and his Hungarian counterpart Orban also agreed in the document that ethnic Hungarian organizations will only be permitted to offer general information about the documentation necessary to obtain a Hungarian ID card.
At Romania's insistence, the document also stipulates that the procedure to obtain a Hungarian identity card -- the receiving of applications, issuing, and forwarding -- take place "primarily" on Hungarian territory, thus limiting what Romania calls the law's "extraterritoriality."
Bela Marko, the leader of Romania's ethnic Hungarian party, the UDMR, says his party's role will be limited to gathering application forms -- beginning on 21 January 21 -- at its local headquarters and passing them to the Hungarian authorities.
"As I said, we won't establish any separate territorial offices. We will receive people at some of UDMR's regional headquarters, where they will leave their applications," Marko told RFE/RL. "According to the agreement between the two governments, we will only inform people and will not give any recommendations."
In a move likely to cause dissatisfaction among mixed families, the memorandum provides for Romanians married to ethnic Hungarians -- who were initially supposed to enjoy the same benefits as their spouses -- to be excluded from the law's provisions. Bucharest said the exclusion is necessary to eliminate discrimination between Romanians married to ethnic Hungarians and other Romanians.
But despite obtaining some apparently important concessions from Budapest, Romanian officials still have suspicions regarding the actual implementation of the memorandum.
On 14 January, Nastase ordered the creation of a government commission to monitor the implementation process and report possible irregularities.
"This means that Romania wants to carefully monitor the implementation of the law, especially on its national territory," according to government spokesman Lucaciu. "And that is why the prime minister ordered the prefects [government's regional representatives] not to allow any initiative to establish offices meant to register applications for Hungarian ID cards or to issue these IDs."
Romanian President Ion Iliescu said on 15 January that he hopes the Hungarian side will observe and implement the memorandum "in good faith."
In the memorandum, Romania and Hungary agreed that Budapest will review the Status Law and initiate the necessary amendments in six months. But to what extent Budapest will be ready to amend the law will most likely depend on the outcome of Hungary's general elections.