Insight Central Europe News

17-12-2004

Poland is to cut its troops in Iraq by a third from next February. The pull-out will take place shortly after Iraq's elections and Warsaw will not be sending replacements. The Polish government has long been under pressure from popular opposition to its involvement. It had previously declared that troops would not stay in Iraq any longer than was necessary.

Hungary is to donate 77 old assault tanks to Iraq's new army. This was announced by Hungary's defence minister during a trip to Iraq to visit the 300 Hungarian troops stationed there. He also promised assistance in maintaining the tanks. The Hungarian contingent is to leave Iraq at the end of this month.

Central Europe's most successful commercial TV station, the Prague-based TV NOVA, has changed hands. It has been bought by the US company Central European Media Enterprises (CME) for 642 million dollars in the largest direct US investment in the Czech Republic. The sale comes two years after that the Czech state had to pay nearly 360 million dollars in compensation to CME for failing to protect its previous investment in the same station. TV NOVA's programme director has resigned, but CME management says it does not want to make big changes to the station.

Russia has promised to give Poland access to archives connected to the 1940 Katyn massacre, when thousand of Polish officers were murdered by the Soviet security police. The decision was announced at a meeting in Moscow between the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Polish counterpart Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz. Poland recently launched an investigation into the murders. Mr Cimoszewicz said that Warsaw would avoid coming to hasty conclusions about the massacre, which has sometimes overshadowed Polish-Russian relations.

Austria has introduced a pilot project for servicemen to assist in the country's prisons. Some 100 soldiers will help with security and surveillance, but they will not be acting as warders. Earlier, the Justice Minister, from the far-right Freedom Party, Karin Miklautsch, had called for such assistance from the armed forces to cope with staff shortages. These resulted from an increase in the number of inmates.

The Slovak central bank has said it is willing to intervene to stop the recent strengthening of the crown. Immediately after the announcement the Slovak crown settled, but analysts expect pressure for a stronger crown to continue in the days to come.

The Czech Republic's state budget for 2005 has been approved, despite the slim majority enjoyed by the government. It envisages a deficit of over 80 billion Czech crowns (2,700 million euros), a little more than the EU's recommended maximum. The opposition Civic Democrats criticized the budget, saying it would not foster growth and would put the country deeper into the red.

17-12-2004