Insight Central Europe News

17-02-2006

As suspected cases of bird flu were investigated in several countries in the region, officials in Slovenia confirmed that a swan found dead in the north of the country had the deadly H5N1 virus. Slovenia's government set up a protection zone within a radius of where the bird was found, and a 10-km surveillance zone beyond that.

Meanwhile, officials from Hungary's National Animal Health Institute said swans found to have the H5 virus were also likely to have the H5N1 virus. They said they were waiting for confirmation from a laboratory in the United Kingdom.

So far the H5N1 form of avian influenza has been confirmed in Greece, Italy, Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Romania and Croatia. Tighter measures against the disease have been adopted around mainland Europe.

Slovakia's Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda has begun campaigning ahead of early elections in June. Mr Dzurinda said re-electing him would secure continued economic boom, reduce poverty and help fight corruption. He said massive economic growth had become a symbol of Slovakia, which saw a national record growth of 7.5 percent in the first quarter of last year. However polls suggest his party the Slovak Christian and Democratic Union has just 11 percent voter support.

The Czech president, Vaclav Klaus, has vetoed legislation allowing for registered homosexual partners, saying it undermined traditional values and the institution of marriage. The bill will now return to the Czech lower chamber, where it needs a majority of all 200 deputies to become law; previously it was passed by 86 of 147 deputies present. Polls suggest some 60 percent of Czechs are for the legislation.

The non-governmental organisation Human Rights Watch has written to the Polish president, Lech Kaczynski, saying it is more important than ever to affirm the equality of all Poland's citizens. The letter comes in response to the rise to power of officials perceived as being opposed to homosexual rights. Mr Kaczynski himself banned a gay parade while mayor of Warsaw.

Polish film director Andrzej Wajda - a cinematic hero of the Cold War - has been given a prize for his life's work at the Berlin Film Festival. He made classic films including "Ashes and Diamonds" and "Man of Iron" about the Solidarity strikes in Gdansk in 1980. Speaking at the awards ceremony, he said he was proud of his contribution to the fall of the communist system. Mr Wajda, who turns 80 next month, also warned that political film making had lost its audience.

Slovakia has been celebrating its first Winter Olympic medal since the foundation of the country in 1993, after Radoslav Zidek took silver in snowboard cross on Thursday. The Slovak prime minister, Mikulas Dzurinda, sent a message of congratulations to Zidek, saying it had made Slovakia more visible in the world of winter sports, and would act as an encouragement to the rest of the Slovak team in Turin.

17-02-2006

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