Insight Central Europe News

26-08-2005

The Slovak Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda has sacked the Economy Minister Pavol Rusko, after a bitter dispute over Rusko's personal finances. Confirming the dismissal, President Ivan Gasparovic, said that the crisis had reached such a level that it had required decisive political leadership. Rusko himself was defiant, and claimed that all corruption claims were unfounded. The sacking has thrown the government into crisis as Rusko also leads one of the ruling coalition parties, but most analysts have predicted that the right-of-centre Dzurinda government will survive. Even when it had the guaranteed support of Rusko's party, it was already working from a minority position in parliament.

The number of workers from new Central and Eastern European EU member states registered in the United Kingdom has risen significantly. According to Home Office figures there are around 14,000 newcomers each month, more than had been predicted for the whole year. Over half of the registered workers are Polish; they are overwhelmingly young and rarely claim social benefits. Just over ten percent are from Slovakia, which is in third place behind Lithuania. Seven percent are from Latvia and six percent from the Czech Republic.

The Czech government has apologised for wrongs done to ethnic Germans who remained loyal to Czechoslovakia during World War Two. Most of Czechoslovakia's German minority of around three million had supported Hitler, but thousands, including Social Democrats and Communists, had also actively resisted the Nazis. In the atmosphere of bitterness after the war they were often treated treated as second class citizens, had their property confiscated and were expelled, alongside the rest of the German minority. As part of the gesture of reconciliation the Czech government has also earmarked funds to document their fate.

Hungary has announced that it will start human trials of its bird flu vaccine as soon as the country's health ethics committee has given its approval. The chief medical officer said that animal trials had already been completed and that human tests would start in a matter of weeks.

The Austrian industrialist Mirko Kovats has called off plans to buy the troubled Bank Burgenland in Austria's easternmost province. He cited "investor-unfriendly circumstances" as the reason. He has also cancelled plans for the expansion of an automotive plant in the province of Styria. He says he will instead invest some 80 million euros in neighbouring Slovakia over the next few years, creating around 400 new jobs.

A cow from has Slovenia has been found to be infected with mad cow disease in a slaughterhouse in the southern Austrian city of Graz. The Austrian health agency said the cow had not entered the food chain. In the past few years, five cases of mad cow disease have been detected in Slovenia.

At an emergency meeting the Austrian government has pledged swift aid to homeowners and farmers as flood waters caused by heavy rain recede in the provinces of Vorarlberg and Tyrol, bordering Switzerland and Bavaria. Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel said the damage was in the hundreds of millions of euros, but that the government would leave no-one alone. Floods in the country left several people dead, and many villages were cut off.

26-08-2005