Insight Central Europe News

07-07-2006

Jaroslaw Kaczynski is expected to be confirmed as Polish prime minister this week after the surprise resignation on Friday of Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz. The two men had argued over state appointments. The new prime minister's twin brother Lech is Poland's president, and the opposition Civic Platform has expressed fears that, with the two brothers consolidating their hold on power, the country could move towards a more nationalist and anti-European stance. The brothers have rejected these fears, saying that they are good Europeans, but are simply more assertive in defending national interests.

The head of Slovakia's left-of-centre Smer party, Robert Fico, has been appointed prime minister, less than three week's after the country's general election. He has formed a coalition with two marginal parties, including the far-right Slovak National Party. Because of the nationalists' presence in the government, the Socialist caucus in the European Parliament demanded that Smer be excluded from the Party of European Socialists, the umbrella group for EU left of centre parties. Mr Fico has vowed to reverse sweeping liberal reforms, introduced by his predecessor, Mikulas Dzurinda, saying that only a few had benefited from economic growth.

The Czech Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek has reversed a decision to resign this week, after losing a general election at the beginning of June. He changed his mind after being criticized by the president and from within his own cabinet. To prevent political instability the government will now continue as the country searches for a way out of a post-election stalemate. The right of centre opposition Civic Democratic leader Mirek Topolanek has put together a coalition with two centrist partners, but they do not enjoy majority support in parliament.

A monument has been unveiled and a group of trees planted in memory of the pogrom of Jewish Holocaust survivors in the city of Kielce in central Poland in 1946. The pogrom took place when a Polish mob of several hundred people attacked a house inhabited by Jews. The reasons have never been fully clarified, but it is known that anti-Semitic rumours had been spread that local Jews had kidnapped a Christian child for his blood. As a result of the attack 39 people were killed and many others were seriously wounded.

The Hungarian Prime Minister, Ferenc Gyurcsany, has revised downwards a government estimate for economic growth next year from 2.5% to just 2%. This comes just a few weeks after the original estimate was published. Mr Gyurcsany was recently reelected to office, with promises of tighter fiscal discipline, to bring down the country's huge budget deficit. Hungary is currently lagging well behind Slovakia, Poland and the Czech Republic in the pace of economic growth.

Austria has passed on the six-month presidency of the European Union to Finland. The Finnish Prime Minister, Matti Vanhanen, immediately made it clear that Finland was far more sympathetic to Turkey's ambitions to join the EU than Austria, which had tried unsuccessfully to introduce new tougher criteria for Turkey to join. Mr Vanhanen said he would see it as a person defeat if talks with Turkey were suspended on his watch.

Two Slovene organizations in the southern Austrian province of Carinthia have walked away from a compromise reached last week on dual language road signs. They refuse to accept the deal on account of a provision giving governments at the local and provincial level in Carinthia a form of veto over the erection in future of signs in German and Slovene, in addition to the 141 agreed. Governor Jörg Haider and the Alliance for Austria's Future have made this a pre-condition for their support of the solution. The Slovene organizations fear this would rule out further signs after 2010.

07-07-2006

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