Insight Central Europe News

03-02-2006

One of the civil engineers who helped design the ill-fated exhibition hall in the Polish city of Katowice tried to commit suicide this week. The man, who has not been named, tried to take his life two days after the hall's roof collapsed, killing at least 63 people. On Friday a requiem mass was held in Katowice cathedral attended by the prime minister, rescue workers and victims' families. The government has accused the owners of the hall of negligence, saying there was half a metre of heavy snow and ice on the roof before it collapsed. The company insists the snow had been cleared.

The Czech Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek came under fire after a popular comedian told racist jokes during an election roadshow currently touring the Czech Republic. A daily newspaper reported that the comedian told jokes stereotyping Romanies as thieves. Mr Paroubek reportedly smiled at the jokes and said nothing. The Prime Minister later denied the show had what he called a "racist subtext", but for some the incident illustrated that racist attitudes towards the country's large Roma minority are deeply ingrained.

There were smiles all round in Slovenia after the European Commission said the country was ahead of schedule to join the euro zone next year. EU economic affairs commissioner Joaquin Almunia said on Wednesday that Slovenia was ahead of schedule for adopting the euro in 2007, but warned the country should make further efforts to improve its finances before the full impact of an ageing population hits the pension system.

One of Hungary's top Catholic clerics, Cardinal Laszlo Paskai, was named in a weekly newspaper on Thursday as a Communist-era informer, the latest in a series of high-profile names to emerge in recent years. Quoting in detail from secret police files, the paper said Cardinal Paskai started reporting on colleagues at the Central Seminary from 1965, under the code name "Teacher". The Conference of Hungarian Bishops later issued a statement criticising the allegations but which neither confirmed nor denied them.

Slovakia's tourist board was dismayed at the depiction of the country in a smash-hit Hollywood horror film. Set in Slovakia, the low-budget slasher film "Hostel" shows American backpackers being kidnapped, tortured and killed during a trip to the country. The head of marketing at the tourist board said she was saddened by the film, pointing out that Slovakia prided itself on being one of Europe's safest holiday destinations.

03-02-2006

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