Insight Central Europe News

09-07-2004

Heinz Fischer has been officially sworn in as the new Austrian federal president in a sombre ceremony overshadowed by the death on Tuesday of his predecessor Thomas Klestil. The ceremony at a joint session of both houses of parliament was trimmed to the bare essentials as Austria observed four days of mourning. The Social Democrat Mr. Fischer said he would seek to be above party politics.

Leaders around the world have paid tribute to Thomas Klestil. The United States sent the the Austrian-born governor of California, Arnold Swarzenegger, to represent the country at his funeral. Former Czech President Vaclav Havel, who knew the Austrian President for many years, described him as a great statesman, a good diplomat and a good personal friend.

The acting leader of the Czech Social Democrats, Stanislav Gross, has said he is confident of forming a new government after the resignation of his predecessor Vladimir Spidla as Prime Minister. Mr Gross appears to have secured the support of just over half the deputies in the lower house of parliament, for a coalition of the same three parties that made up the previous cabinet.

A renowned Polish child psychologist accused of paedophile offences has admitted his guilt. Fifty-seven-year-old Andrzej S. was arrested last week, after pornographic pictures of children were found at a rubbish dump close to his home and in his apartment. The case has shocked the Polish public, as the psychologist was a well-known public figure, and author of several best-selling books.

Slovenia has a new foreign minister, career diplomat Ivo Vajgl. He said that Slovenian foreign policy had been successful over recent years, with the country joining NATO and the EU, and did not need drastic changes. Vajgl's predecessor Dimitrij Rupel, was sacked, after his centre-left Liberal Democrats accused him of flirting with the conservative opposition.

The ruling Socialist Party in Hungary has drafted a series of new policies calling for social justice to be put at the heart of economic policy. The draft marks a shift in the party to the left, in favour of what it describes as an "assertive leftist economic policy".

The Slovak cabinet has approved the country's entry into the European Defence Agency, a new European body, which aims to coordinate defence research and development in the European Union. Costs related to Slovakia's participation will be covered from the Defence Ministry budget.

09-07-2004

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