Insight Central Europe News

04-12-2004

Poland's centre-right opposition leader Jan Rokita has said that the country should only support the European Union's planned constitution once it has been confirmed by all the more established member states. Mr Rokita, who is widely tipped to become Poland's next prime minister, said it was in Poland's interest to seek to renegotiate the constitution to guarantee the country's influence. He opposed plans to hold a referendum next year, together with Poland's presidential elections. He said that if the referendum went ahead in Poland and then Britain, for example, rejected the constitution, Brussels would renegotiate the treaty on Britain's but not Poland's terms.

Austria's parliamentary parties have failed to agree a common position on Turkey's quest to join the European Union. The opposition Social Democrats remain strongly in favour of Turkish membership, while the far-right Freedom Party, the junior partner in the government, has made clear its continued opposition. In the meantime Hungary has given Turkey a pledge of support for membership, during a visit by the Hungarian foreign minister to Ankara. The 25 EU heads of government will decide at a summit in Brussels in mid December whether and when to open talks with Turkey.

Poland has reacted with shock to the Ukrainian parliament's vote to withdraw Ukraine's contingent of around 1,600 soldiers from Iraq. The Polish defence minister Jerzy Szmajdzinski said that a withdrawal would have major consequences for the functioning of the Polish-led multi-national division. He said that it would be essential for the troops to be replaced. Ukraine's decision comes a month after Hungary decided to withdraw its contingent from Iraq at the end of this year.

The Austrian defence ministry is looking into claims of abuse of soldiers at an army training camp in Upper Austria. This follows similar allegations in Germany. A video tape surfaced this week showing what was apparently the physical and mental abuse of recruits, who were bound and had bags placed over their heads to simulate the treatment of hostages. Some 80 recruits were used to recreate a hostage-taking scene. Defence Minister Gunther Platter has ordered an investigation.

04-12-2004

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