Insight Central Europe News


The Hungarian parliament has voted down government plans to extend by three months the mandate of the country's contingent in the US-led military coalition in Iraq. The 300-strong transport contingent will now leave at the end of this year. This will make Hungary the third European country after Spain and Norway to withdraw troops from Iraq. Polish and US soldiers will take over from the Hungarian troops, and the Polish defence minister said that Hungary's decision would cause problems for the Polish contingent.

Despite the vote in parliament the Hungarian government has said it plans to send a new contingent to Iraq. It will guard a centre that NATO plans to establish to train the local army and police. Participation in NATO missions requires no parliamentary approval.

In another related story, the presidents of Poland and Slovakia have warned against announcing troop withdrawals from Iraq prior to the country's elections in January. At a meeting in Warsaw with his Slovak counterpart, the Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski said that such hurried decisions would increase danger and uncertainty in the region.

At least seven people, including a six-month-old child and a fire officer involved in a rescue operation, died in Poland on Thursday in gale-force winds. The baby was killed in a Warsaw park by a falling branch.

Slovenia's centre-right parties have reached a preliminary agreement to form the next government. The Prime-Minister designate Janez Jansa said that the some details still needed to be worked out. The right won last month's elections after 12 years of dominance by the centre-left.

The European Parliament has approved Jose Manuel Barroso's second attempt at putting together a new EU Commission. Among the new commissioners is Hungary's Laszlo Kovacs. This is despite controversy over his nomination due to his communist past and his weak showing during his confirmation hearing in parliament. Mr Kovacs has been given the taxation brief, instead of the energy portfolio as originally planned.


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