Insight Central Europe News

07-04-2006

The Polish parliament remains in gridlock after rejecting a motion to trigger a snap general election. This now puts the ruling conservative Law and Justice party under growing pressure to find partners to shore up its minority government. The two most likely options are a deal with the pro-business Civic Platform, which came second in last autumn's elections, or with the leftist Self-Defence and small political groupings on the political fringe.

Hungary's ruling centre-left has inched ahead of the conservative opposition in the first round of general elections. The Socialists of Prime Minister Ferenc Gyucsany and their liberal ally the Free Democrats captured 50 percent of the vote. The conservative party Fidesz won just over 42 percent of the vote and still stands a chance of snatching power in the second round in two weeks' time, after another conservative party, the Democratic Forum, surprised pollsters by scraping past the 5 percent threshold to enter parliament.

Central Europe is recovering from the most serious floods in the region since 2002. Water levels are now falling in most areas, and governments across the region have announced measures to help flood victims. The Austrian cabinet approved financial relief for people living along the March River and in the Czech Republic, where seven people lost their lives, the government has agreed to allocate over 150 million euros from the state budget to pay for flood damage. In Slovakia the government has promised investment in flood prevention projects. The Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, has said he will propose financial aid for flood relief in the region from the European Union Solidarity Fund.

Doctors in the Slovak capital Bratislava went on strike on Thursday to protest against the government's free-market reforms. They were demanding more investment in health facilities, an end to plans to privatise hospitals, and a 25 percent pay increase. The current stand-off with health-sector workers is potentially damaging to Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda in the run-up to June's general election. Currently the government is trailing the left of centre opposition in opinion polls.

The Czech Interior Minister Frantisek Bublan has said he has no evidence that CIA planes carrying war prisoners and suspected terrorists made secret stopovers at Prague's Ruzyne Airport. According to the human rights watchdog Amnesty International, the planes made a total of twenty stopovers in the city. Human rights organizations are claiming that the CIA used a number of European countries to transport suspects to secret interrogation centres.

The International Monetary Fund has said it is optimistic about Slovenia's short-term economic outlook, a few months before the country is set to adopt the euro. But an IMF mission in the country also pointed to longer term problems that need to be confronted. They concluded that public spending could be more efficient and that pension reform must be a high priority. They also pointed to excessive red tape as a barrier to foreign investment.

07-04-2006