Insight Central Europe News

03-11-2006

Hungary on Saturday marked the 50th anniversary of the day Soviet forces crushed a popular uprising. It was on November 4th 1956 that Soviet tanks rolled into Budapest to put down anti-Soviet protests which had begun on October 23rd. In addition to government commemorations, the opposition Fidesz party planned a torchlight march which it said was to commemorate victims of recent police brutality against anti-government demonstrators. The governing MSZP and a small opposition MDF party have asked residents to place flowers on monuments commemorating the victims of 1956.

Following a meeting with the leaders of five parliamentary parties on Friday Czech President Vaclav Klaus indicated that a solution to the country's political crisis was "in the making". The president said that the party leaders had reached "a fragile agreement on a possible solution" which still needed to be approved by their respective party leaderships and that there were many questions left open. Mr. Klaus did not disclose any details of what such an agreement would entail. He said another meeting had been scheduled for Tuesday when he hoped party leaders would be able to seal the deal.

France's foreign minister and the country's minister for European affairs held talks with Polish leaders on Friday. Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy and European Affairs Minister Catherine Colonna were in Warsaw to discuss bilateral relations and cooperation within the European Union. Polish and French relations suffered when Warsaw gave its backing to the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, a war which France opposed. Relations between Paris and Warsaw have since improved.

Greenpeace has handed a petition signed by more than 16,000 people to the Slovakian Environment Ministry. It calls for an end to an internationally-funded uranium mining project by Canada's Tournigan Gold company in the eastern region of Kosice. Greenpeace claims the project could cause widespread environmental damage and pose a health threat to the local population. The company and Slovak environment officials have not commented on the petition.

The finance ministers from the Czech Republic and Germany say they are joining forces to block the EU's plans to raise the minimum level of taxes on beer. After meeting with his Czech counterpart, German Finance Minister Peer Steinbrueck told reporters his government would not approve it. He added that as Czechs have such excellent pilsner, it was understandable they shared the German position. Last month the European Commission proposed a 31 percent increase in the minimum duty on beer and spirits.

Shops in Slovenia will again be able to open on Sunday's following an agreement between unions and employers. The move comes despite a popular petition in 2003 in which a majority of Slovenes said they were against trading on Sundays and holidays. The government has wanted to introduce Sunday trading but waited until the unions and businesses had agreed a new contract.

03-11-2006