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UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT PASSES 2003 BUDGET. The Verkhovna Rada on 26 December voted 348 to 37, with three abstentions, to adopt a deficit budget for 2003, UNIAN and AP reported. The bill sets revenues at 50.02 billion hryvnyas ($9.38 billion) and expenditures at 52 billion hryvnyas, representing nearly a 4 percent deficit. The budget assumes that Ukraine's foreign debt will not exceed $8.59 billion by the end of 2003. Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych has described the budget as "socially oriented." The Communist Party caucus boycotted the vote, saying the budget's social outlays are insufficient. AM
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT ORDERS PROBE INTO AIR CRASH IN IRAN. President Leonid Kuchma has called for an investigation into the crash of a Ukrainian Antonov 140 in Iran on 23 December that killed 44 people on board, most of them engineers and executives from Ukraine's Kharkiv aircraft plant, the "Financial Times" reported on 27 December. The aircraft crashed into a mountainside while approaching Isfahan airport. The Ukrainian aviation specialists were expected to attend the maiden flight of the Iran 140, a version of the Antonov 140, built under license in Iran. AM
CZECH PREMIER CONFIDENT EU MEMBERSHIP WILL BE ADVANTAGEOUS. Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla in an interview with the daily "Hospodarske noviny" of 23 December said he is confident EU membership will benefit his country, CTK reported. Spidla said that throughout history, Czechs have fared well when they have Europe behind them and badly when they are isolated. Spidla said "European integration is in fact a new civilization project" and "an original contribution of our continent" aimed at overcoming "narrow nationalism and conflict by the mutual opening of states to one another." The premier added, "I really would not like us to stand alone between the EU and Ukraine." He dismissed claims that small EU members do not enjoy membership benefits, emphasizing that "not even one germ of a movement calling for withdrawal from Europe has appeared in any of the countries that [have] joined the EU." Spidla said he cannot think of any negative aspect membership in the EU will entail, although he realizes that "competition pressure" from other members will have an effect. However, he added, Czechs have faced competition from other Europeans "for 1,000 years, and I cannot see what will be different in that." MS