Insight Central Europe News

19-06-2006

The popular leftist politician Robert Fico and his party Smer have topped Saturday's election in Slovakia with just over 29 percent of the vote. With only 50 of the 150 seats in parliament, though, Smer falls short of a majority. Mr Fico has promised a radical break with the economic reforms of the previous government of Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda, whose party came in second with a mere 18.4 percent. Four more parties managed to pass the 5 percent threshold to be represented in Parliament - the far-right Slovak National Party (11.73%), the Hungarian Coalition Party (11.69%), the centre-left party of ex-prime minister Vladimir Meciar - the Movement for a Democratic Party (8.8%), and the Christian Democratic Movement (8.31%).

The winners of recent elections in the Czech Republic, the Civic Democrats, say they will sign a coalition agreement with two smaller parties by the end of the month. Though the three have been thrashing out issues of both policy and personnel the coalition looks doomed to fail, as it would be one vote short of a majority in the Czech lower house.

Slovenia has been given the green light to adopt the euro by a meeting of European Union leaders at a summit in Brussels. The country will join the 12-member eurozone at the start of next year, becoming the first of the 10 states which joined the EU in 2004 to adopt the currency. Slovenia has met eurozone criteria on public debt, budget deficit and interest rates; it promised its inflation would remain below the eurozone benchmark.

Meanwhile the European Commission has set a deadline of September 1 for Hungary to submit a realistic plan on cleaning up its finances. The Commission says Budapest must cut its deficit to three percent of GDP in order to get on track for euro adoption. Hungary's budget deficit is the highest in the EU at 6.1% of GDP.

Poland has rejected European Parliament allegations of a rise in racism and homophobia in the country. It invited MEPs to visit the country before making such accusations. The Strasbourg-based assembly singled out Poland, where a radical right-wing party joined the government in May, in a resolution condemning an increase in racist, xenophobic, anti-Semitic and homophobic intolerance.

Hungarian composer Gyorgy Ligeti, whose work accompanied the film "2001: A Space Odyssey," has died at the age of 83. The spiritual heir to Hungarian composer Bela Bartok, Ligeti was at the forefront of the avant-garde in the 20th century and experienced and survived both a Nazi labour camp and Hungary's communist dictatorship.

The Polish football team have had a disappointing World Cup, going out in the group stage; Poland played poorly in their opening game against Ecuador, losing 2:0, while a spirited performance against the hosts Germany also ended in defeat, with the Germans scoring the only goal of the game in the 90th minute.

19-06-2006

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