Central Europe has again been hit by floods, with rivers bursting their banks in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Austria and Germany. In the south of the Czech Republic and in south-eastern Poland thousands of people had to be evacuated and numerous roads were closed. The floods have been caused by a combination of heavy rain and mild weather causing snow to melt.
The Belarusian opposition leader and unsuccessful presidential candidate, Alexander Milinkevich, has thanked Poland and Poles for their support before and during the election in March. During talks with Polish politicians in Warsaw Milinkevich asked for Poland's continued help in building a civic society in Belarus. Poland has also offered university places to students expelled from universities in Belarus because of their political activities.
A first case of bird flu has been confirmed in the Czech Republic. The virulent H5N1 strain was confirmed in a swan found in the south of the country, and tests are being carried out on two others found in the same area. The country has announced plans to stock up on anti-viral drugs thought to be effective against bird flu.
Statistics published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development suggest that Slovakia is outstripping its neighbours in the rate at which labour productivity is increasing. The average GDP per hour rose by 6 percent between 2002 and 2004. The Czech Republic and Poland were close behind with productivity growth between four and five percent, while some EU countries, like Italy and Portugal saw a decrease in productivity.
Hungary's socialist Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany has launched his harshest attack yet on his conservative rival ahead of next week's parliamentary elections. In a newspaper interview he branded the Fidesz party leader, Viktor Orban, as a populist who flirts with nationalism. This was the first time that the prime minister retaliated against frequent opposition attacks on his character. Many analysts have attributed Fidesz's recent fall in poll ratings to their largely negative campaign.
The Austrian government has announced plans to clamp down on doping in sport. A proposed new law will enable sports organizations to obtain state financing only if they conform to anti-doping regulations. An independent doping control authority will also be set up. The bill comes on the heels of a doping scandal involving Austrian athletes at the recent Winter Olympics in Turin. The government hopes that it will be approved by parliament before the summer recess.
The Slovenian parliament has unanimously passed legislation which changes the official name by which the European single currency is known in the country. In order to conform to European Central Bank rules, the currency has to be known as the euro in all countries that use it. Slovenia hopes to adopt the currency in January 2007, and up to now has called it the "evro".
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