Insight Central Europe News

09-12-2005

Poland's outgoing President Aleksander Kwasniewski has rejected as false reports that the country housed a secret CIA prison for al Qaeda leaders. After a meeting with the United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Thursday, the Foreign Minister Stefan Meller said he was satisfied that such a prison had never existed. Last month the Washington Post alleged that prisons had been set up in several eastern European countries, a claim that Secretary of State Rice would neither confirm nor deny.

Central European countries have rejected the British Prime Minister Tony Blair's plans for reforms to the EU budget. The plans would involve a cut in development aid to the new members from the region. Poland and Slovakia both said that they would expect a better offer in time for next week's EU summit, but the Czech Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek was a little more accommodating, saying that the proposal was "worth discussing".

The first piece of a gas pipeline passing under the Baltic Sea between Russia and Germany has been laid, despite complaints from Poland and the Baltic States. On a visit to Warsaw, German Chancellor Angela Merkel promised she would not go over Poland's head in dealing with Russia, but anger remains in Warsaw that the pipeline is to bypass Polish territory.

The Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao has visited Slovakia and the Czech Republic as part of a trip to Europe. Talks focused mainly on trade, but the visit did also arouse controversy. A Czech-Chinese agreement on promotion and protection of investments was criticized by the Czech Foreign Minister, Cyril Svoboda and by some other politicians and human rights organizations as it does not include a basic security clause as required by European Union rules.

Slovenia has welcomed the arrest in Spain of the fugitive Croatian war crimes suspect Ante Gotovina. Prime Minister Janez Jansa said that Slovenia had been proved right when it supported Croatia to start accession talks with the EU. He said Slovenia had not believed that Gotovina was still in Croatia.

Hungary's Speaker of Parliament, Katalin Szili has urged Slovakia and Ukraine to open a crossing at a village straddling the border of the two countries so that the mostly ethnic Hungarian inhabitants can visit each other over Christmas. The village, known as Szelmenc in Hungarian or Slemence in Slovak, was divided between Slovakia and Ukraine after World War Two. A new checkpoint has been erected on the village's only street but it has not yet been opened.

09-12-2005