Insight Central Europe News

14-05-2004

The four countries of the so-called Visegrad Group, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland and Hungary, have agreed to keep the group active, even though all four countries have now joined the European Union. At a meeting in the Czech Republic the four prime ministers said that maintaining existing contacts would help them to defend their common economic interests within the union. They also agreed to work together for further EU enlargement.

The Hungarian government has set 2010 as the new target date for the country to join the eurozone. The previous goal of 2008 had to be revised because of Hungary's problems in reducing its state budget deficit. Under the Maastricht criteria, the deficit has to be brought down to a maximum of 3% of GDP for two years before the euro can be adopted. It is estimated that this year's deficit will be over twice that figure.

The Polish Prime Minister Marek Belka has described as intolerable the recent police shooting incident in Lodz, in which police shot into a crowd with live rounds. The officers had been called in to quell disturbances caused by skinheads, and shot two students dead, mistakenly thinking that they were using rubber bullets. The city police chief and his deputy have been dismissed.

Slovakia has expelled a Russian diplomat for activities incompatible with his status - usually a euphemism for spying. A Slovak intelligence service official confirmed that the service had been looking into the diplomat's activities, but declined to give details. Russia has officially protested against the move.

The European Commissioner for agriculture, Franz Fischler, has said that his own country, Austria, faces an important choice over its future: either it should invest more into its national security or give up its neutral status. In an interview for the paper Die Presse, he said that as a neutral country Austria will not be able to take part in any attempts to create EU-wide military structures.

14-05-2004

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