Insight Central Europe News

20-10-2006

Slovakia's prime minister Robert Fico announced this week that his country would withdraw its troops from Iraq in February 2007. Slovakia has around 110 soldiers - mostly army engineers - in Iraq as part of the US-led coalition. The troops, stationed in Hilla, are mostly involved in mine clearance and security work. Withdrawing the troops was one of Mr Fico's pre-election promises, although their tour of duty was eventually extended by six months. Three Slovak soldiers were killed in 2003 in an explosion at an ammunition dump.

Czechs go to the polls this weekend for Senate and local elections seen as providing a signal for how to resolve the current political stalemate. One third of the seats in the upper house will be decided in a vote with a second round runoff planned for next weekend. Thousands of municipal assembly seats will also be up for grabs. If the right-wing Civic Democrats - which formed a short-lived minority government in September - do well in the Senate, they are likely to push for early elections to the lower house, the Chamber of Deputies. President Klaus says he will wait for the outcome of the Senate elections before deciding who should form the next government.

Hungarians will mark the 50th anniversary of the start of the 1956 uprising against Soviet occupation on Monday, amid a political rift that has polarised the country. Weeks after the biggest anti-government protests since the end of communism, Hungarians are divided over the legacy of 1956, and so there will be two celebrations. The official ceremony for heads of state will be in Budapest's imposing Heroes Square, where a huge abstract monument which has offended some survivors will be unveiled. A second will be held by some freedom fighters and the right-wing opposition, near to the national radio station, the scene of heavy fighting in 1956.

Poland's first progressive rabbi since World War II is to be installed in Warsaw on Friday evening, marking a milestone in the revival of Jewish life that was shattered by the Holocaust. Rabbi Burt Schuman, a New Yorker who arrived in Poland in July, will be installed during Sabbath services at Beit Warszawa, home to Warsaw's Progressive, or Reform, community. Until the war, Poland was home to a Jewish community of nearly 3.5 million, most of whom perished in the Holocaust. Since the fall of communism, the Jewish community has slowly grown, and according to some estimates now numbers 30,000.

Slovenia's economy ministry announced this week it plans to build an artificial island on the 30 miles of coastland it controls on the Adriatic. The plan is aimed at attracting more tourists. The ministry said construction would begin in 2013 and would cost some 100 million euros. The island will be about 30,000 square meters in size, and will offer beaches, bars, restaurants, a wellness centre and a marina.

20-10-2006

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