Insight Central Europe News

02-05-2008

A United States Senate panel has approved a boost in funding for a planned missile defense system which will have missile bases in Poland and a radar facility in the Czech Republic. The move would more than double the budget to 712 million dollars and improves the chances of the project going ahead. The U.S Defense Department says it could begin construction late next year. The Czech government has reached a deal with the United States and expects to sign it in coming months. Negotiations between Warsaw and Washington are continuing.

Around 10,000 young Jews, Poles and World War II survivors this week took part in Poland's major event to mark the holocaust - the March of the Living. The event was held at the former Nazi death camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau that honors the memory of some 6 million Jews who perished in the Holocaust. The Israeli army chief of staff led the long column of marchers, accompanied by camp survivors. At least 1.1 million people, including Jews, Poles and Roma, perished at Auschwitz.

Austrian Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer has said everything possible will be done to support the victims of the Amstetten incest and imprisonment case. Addressing an estimated 100,000 people at the traditional May Day rally in Vienna, he also sought to minimise damage to Austria's international image saying the country was not to blame for the crimes committed by one man. Austria has been shocked by the revelation that a man imprisoned his daughter for 18 years in the cellar of their home and fathered seven children by her.

A study by the U.S. based group Freedom House says Hungary has a "consolidated" democracy. According to Freedom House's rating system, in which 1 is the best and 7 the worst, Hungary scored 2.14. It was the best rating among the Visegrad Four - The Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia. The report also expressed concern about the far-right paramilitary groups known as the Hungarian Guard and violent attacks against politicians' property and police.

Slovakia is to get a green light to join the European common currency, the euro, in 2009. The European Commission says its forthcoming report on Slovakia will show it has met the stability criteria, including debt and inflation limits. Slovakia will become the 16th country to join the euro-zone and the first of the Visegrad four to meet the criteria. Slovenia joined the euro at the beginning of 2008.

The Slovenian Presidency of the European Union says it is working on what it calls a Transport Community Treaty with the countries of south-east Europe. It says the treaty, if agreed would establish an integrated market for road, rail and maritime and inland waterway transport within the region. A meeting of transport ministers in Belgrade on May 7th will discuss the plans.

02-05-2008