Insight Central Europe News

15-07-2005

The public broadcaster Slovak Radio has announced its intention to cease short-wave broadcasts in foreign languages. A public relations consultant for Slovak Radio said that the radio management decided to take this radical step to cut costs. Jozef Bednar said the radio also hopes to compensate revenue shortfalls in concession payments and payments from the state budget. Within the rationalization measures 84 employees, some 20 of Radio Slovakia International staff, are also to be made redundant as of July 31 this year.

Leaders of four Central European countries said that European Union institutional reforms should take a back seat to an EU accord on the 2007-2013 budget. The prime ministers and foreign ministers of Hungary, the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia expressed their shared view this week at a meeting of the so-called Visegrad Group. In addition to the EU budget, they also discussed the ramifications of the rejection of the proposed EU constitution by French and Dutch voters in referenda.

The Austrian leader, Wolfgang Schuessel, has praised a plan by his Czech counterpart Jiri Paroubek to make a conciliatory gesture towards Sudeten Germans who did not support the Nazi regime during World War II. Speaking after a meeting between the two men in Vienna on Thursday, Mr Schuessel said it was important that--for the first time--the principle of collective guilt was not being applied to the German minority. An estimated 2.5 million Germans were expelled from the former Czechoslovakia after the war

Mr Paroubek has not yet revealed exactly what kind of gesture he is planning. But the idea has already been rejected by Slovakia's prime minister, Mikulas Dzurinda, and a Sudeten German group in Austria. On the home front, the plan has met with anger from the two main opposition parties, the centre-right Civic Democrats and the Communists. Czech President Vaclav Klaus has likewise rejected the idea, describing it as "potentially dangerous".

A former Polish policeman was detained on Thursday under suspicion of triggering a false bomb alert in Warsaw's underground in the wake of the London attacks. If convicted, the 44-year-old man, who worked as a policeman in the 1990s, faces up to eight years in jail. The suspect used a pre-paid mobile phone to call an emergency number to set off the alarm, which led to a full-scale evacuation of the Warsaw underground on Tuesday. Warsaw was hit by several more bomb hoaxes the following day, and police said they were checking into whether he was involved in those as well. Poland heightened security at train and bus stations, airports and the underground after last Thursday's attacks on London. Alongside Britain, Poland is part of the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq, where it has about 1,700 soldiers.

Meanwhile, Central European countries on Thursday observed a two-minute silence in honour of the victims of last week's terrorist bombings in London. The attacks claimed at least 52 lives and injured some 700 people.

A leading figure in the Austrian Islamic community says four Austrian Mosques are disseminating "radical views." Omar al-Rawi, the official integration envoy for the Islamic community, called on security authorities to contact the Mosques. Speaking on national television, he said that young people should be protected from the views of some Imams. Attention has focussed on radical Islamic teachings across Europe after it was revealed that the London suicide bombers may have come under the influence of such teachings.

15-07-2005