Insight Central Europe News

24-06-2005

Most Central European leaders have expressed support for the British Prime Minister Tony Blair's blueprint to reform the European Union. Although the new members are set to lose most in financial terms after last week's collapse of EU budget talks, the Polish Foreign Minister Adam Rotfeld said he shared Mr Blair's vision of the future. Mr Rotfeld said that Europe needed to face the challenges of the modern world. The Slovak Prime Minister, Mikulas Dzurinda said that if a later budget agreement manages to distribute funds more effectively, then the failure of last week's talks will have proved worthwhile, and Hungary's European Affairs Minister Etele Barath agreed that the structure of the budget needed to be changed.

Poland and the Czech Republic have both indicated that they will postpone a referendum on the EU constitution in the wake of its rejection in France and the Netherlands. The Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski said that a referendum in October, as originally planned, was no longer realistic. The Czech Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek said that breathing space was needed, and that he saw the end of next year as a suitable date for the Czech Republic to ratify the treaty.

The European Commission has approved plans by Germany, Hungary and Poland to grant state aid to restructure their coal industries by 2010. The Commission also agreed that Poland would be allowed to grant around 40 million euros each year from 2007 to 2010 to its 40 coal mines. Hungary, which has closed most of its mines since the fall of communism, will be allowed to grant 255 million euros in state aid to its eight pits still in operation.

The Polish Prime Minister, Marek Belka, has said he will not resign after communist era files made public on Wednesday showed he had contacts with the secret police in the 1980s. President Aleksander Kwasniewski also rallied behind the prime minister, who said that agrents had approached him, but that he had never become a spy.

Austria's political parties have agreed that women who helped in the reconstruction of Austria, clearing bomb sites after the Second World War, should receive a payment of 300 euros each in recognition of their labour. Opposition parties are criticising government plans to restrict the payment to women who were born before 1931 and who are currently drawing small pensions. Women who were active Nazis are also excluded. Around 50,000 women are expected to qualify for the payment.

A man has been killed in a freak accident in a village near the Slovenian capital of Ljubljana. Lightning struck a metal cross that he was holding during a funeral, and the 62-year-old man died in hospital a few hours later. One other person was injured.

24-06-2005