Insight Central Europe News

25-04-2008

The countries known as the Visegrad Four, Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Poland, say they support bids by Ukraine and Georgia to join NATO. Speaking after a meeting in Prague of foreign ministers from the four countries the ministers said integration of Ukraine into NATO´s Membership Action Plan will enhance political and security cooperation in the region. They signed a statement supporting both Ukraine and Georgia's bids. All of the Visegrad Four countries are members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

Poland may receive up to three visits by German Chancellor Angela Merkel this year. Polish media reports that preparations are underway for a Polish-German summit while in June Mrs Merkel will meet Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk in the city of Gdansk. Merkel is also expected to visit in August when she will receive an honorary doctorate from Wroclaw University.

Hungary's finance minister says the government will not reduce efforts to rein in the budget deficit in the run-up to parliamentary elections in 2010. Responding to reports that Hungary would loosen the purse strings in the election year, Ferenc Pichler said the government has already paid a price in having to rein in the budget deficit. The deficit was almost 10 percent of GDP in 2006 and came down to 5.5 percent in 2007.

Slovakia plans to raise the number of its soldiers serving in Afghanistan to over 250 over the next two years. It currently has 69 troops participating in the NATO led International Security Assistance Force. Defence Minister Jaroslav Baska said the Afghanistan missions are highly dangerous and may result in some casualties.

Slovenian President Danilo Turk has expressed support for Turkey's bid to join the European Union. Speaking at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, Mr Turk said “no country can be precluded from EU membership for cultural reasons”. He called on EU countries to show pragmatism in admitting new countries. Slovenia currently holds the rotating Presidency of the European Union.

The OECD says Czechs could catch up with Western European levels of prosperity within a decade if strong economic growth continues. The organisation reported this week that growth of 2.0 percent in the euro area and 5.0 percent in the Czech Republic meant the gap could close "within a decade." Czech gross domestic product per person is currently about 75 percent of the euro-zone average.

The Austrian oil and gas company OMV has sharply criticised the management of Hungary's energy company, MOL. At the annual meeting of MOL shareholders in Budapest OMV representatives said MOL's board has shown a "disregard for corporate governance". The criticism came after MOL shareholders voted to allow management to buy back and hold up to 25 percent of the company's equity, a move aimed at blocking an Austrian take-over bid. OMV wants acquire MOL but this is being fiercely fought by MOL management with the backing of the Hungarian government.

25-04-2008