Insight Central Europe News

27-02-2004

Hundreds of Roma in Slovakia held peaceful demonstrations on Wednesday to protest against government welfare benefit cuts. Roma leaders called off a larger nationwide demonstration following recent violent unrest and looting. The government had deployed over 2,000 police and soldiers to quell the rioting. It's the largest deployment of law enforcement in the country since the Communist era.

A European Union report has dismissed fears that EU expansion will trigger a tidal wave of job seekers from Central and Eastern Europe. It predicted 200,000 people at most might come west in the next five years, roughly 1 percent of the total work force of the 10 countries joining the EU. The survey bolstered the view at the EU head office that steps taken by EU governments to limit the influx of nationals from new EU nations are unnecessary. Ahead of expansion, many EU governments have limited access to their labour markets and social benefits to migrants from the 10 newcomers: Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Cyprus and Malta.

The Czech parliament has approved sending more than 100 soldiers to Afghanistan. It's the first combat role for the Czech armed forces since World War Two. The soldiers will join the U.S.-led Operation Enduring Freedom aimed at finding and removing remnants of al Qaeda and the Taliban. The Czech Republic, a NATO member since 1999, sent medics and chemical detection units to the 1991 Gulf War and Iraq in 2003, but the Afghanistan contingent are the first troops to be directly involved in a combat role.

Farmers' unions in Hungary have called off nationwide protests after reaching agreement with the government on higher subsidies for their produce. An agreement was reached after the Ministry of Agriculture agreed to provide guarantees for higher subsidies for milk, pork and poultry producers. Farmers' unions have been blocking roads around the country for over a week.

The Slovenian parliament has ratified an accession charter to NATO. The move paves the way for it to join the security alliance in April. Just three of the country's 90 members of parliament opposed the move, while 68 backed the entry charter's ratification. Slovenia is one of the seven east European nations invited to join NATO, together with Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania and Slovakia.

27-02-2004

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