Insight Central Europe News

10-09-2004

The countries of Central Europe have been sending help to victims of the hostage crisis in the southern Russian town of Beslan. Poland sent a military plane with medicines and medical equipment, and the Czech Republic offered help with trauma counseling for the children who survived. Charities from throughout the region have also been sending aid. The Vienna-based Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe expressed solidarity with Russia over the recent spate of terrorist attacks.

Six British soldiers died in the Czech Republic on Thursday, while taking part in a joint military exercise with Czech troops. Their LYNX helicopter was flying close to the ground at the time of the crash. It burst into flames on impact, killing everyone on board. Eyewitnesses say the helicopter may have become caught in high voltage wires. Troops from fellow NATO countries regularly take part in exercises in the Czech Republic.

A new World Bank report concludes that Slovakia has made considerable progress over the last twelve months in improving its business climate. The report praises the country for passing reforms to fiscal and labour policy, reducing the time needed to set up new businesses, reducing red tape and improving the debt collection system.

Hungary is seeking international support to protect ethnic Hungarians living in Vojvodina province of northern Serbia. The outgoing Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy asked the European Union's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana and NATO's secretary general Jaap de Hoop Scheffer to do their utmost to stop attacks on the minority, which he said were being carried out by local Serbs. Serbia's Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica said that there had only been isolated incidents, which did not warrant such international protests. Ethnic Hungarians make up about fifteen percent of the population of Vojvodina.

The Austrian Finance Minister Karl-Heinz Grasser has acknowledged that Austria will not meet the European Union's budget deficit target for next year or the year after. Mr Grasser said a zero budget deficit was out of reach until 2008. The opposition Social Democrats' parliamentary chief, Josef Cap, has attacked budget policy, saying Austrian taxpayers are paying higher taxes than ever before but the government is still creating new debt.

Eighteen people, most of them Turks, and their Slovenian guide have been arrested in northern Croatia while trying to enter Slovenia illegally. During the arrest, a police officer and the guide were slightly injured. Illegal immigrants often use Croatia and Slovenia as transit countries on their way to western European destinations, although tighter border controls over the past two years have led to a significant fall in numbers.

10-09-2004

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