Insight Central Europe News

10-02-2006

Slovakia is to have early parliamentary elections in June, after the collapse of the centre-right government of Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda. Mr Dzurinda proposed the early poll after the walkout of a junior coalition partner brought the already fragile government to crisis point. The Christian Democrats left the coalition when the prime minister's party refused to approve a treaty with the Vatican on conscientious objection. Opinion polls suggest that the left-wing opposition party Smer currently enjoys the strongest popular support.

The Polish President Lech Kaczynski has met US President George Bush at the White House, during his first official visit to the United States. As well as Polish-American relations the two presidents discussed issues related to democracy in Ukraine and Belarus, and President Kaczynski said that he had some indications of a thawing of relations between Poland and Russia. President Bush said that Poland's close links with the United States did not prevent the country being a loyal and active member of the European Union.

The United States has filed a request for the extradition of a Swedish citizen arrested at Prague airport during a stop-over in December. Oussama Kassir, who is originally from Lebanon, is accused of trying to set up an al-Qaeda terrorist camp in the US state of Oregon in 2002.

Opinion polls suggest that the Polish Prime Minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz enjoys the support of over two thirds of the country's population, a hundred days after taking office. This makes him the most popular politician in the country, despite recent controversy when his Law and Justice Party signed a cooperation deal with two smaller eurosceptic and anti-reform parties. Part of the prime minister's popularity lies in his commitment to fight corruption, and he has also won the sympathy of Poles for his uncompromising stand in the EU budget negotiations for 2007-2013.

Austria's Green party is taking the governor of the province of Carinthia, Jörg Haider, to court. They accuse him of abuse of office, after he shifted a place-name sign at a village in the province to avoid complying with a constitutional court ruling requiring its replacement with a bilingual Slovene-German sign. Mr Haider, who has often been at the centre of political controversy, has begun collecting signatures in support of a referendum on the bilingual signs, in parts of Carinthia with a Slovene minority.

A Franciscan friar from Slovenia has said that he was attacked by youths at his house in the Turkish province of Izmir, just days after a Catholic priest in Turkey was shot dead. Martin Kmetec said that seven or eight angry men grabbed him by the throat and threatened to kill him, at the same time shouting "God is greatest". Local police say they are investigating the incident. The Turkish government strongly condemned last week's shooting and has extended an invitation to Pope Benedict to visit the country.

10-02-2006