Insight Central Europe News

21-01-2005

On a visit to the Czech Republic, the Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel has warned Czechs against rejecting the EU Constitution in a national referendum. He said such a move would harm the small and medium sized members of the EU and would be a major step back for Europe. His Czech counterpart Stanislav Gross agreed that putting the Constitution in question would be a mistake, but Czech politicians remain divided over the issue. Although the coalition government supports the Constitution, the right of centre opposition Civic Democrats as well as President Klaus are opposed to it.

Slovenia's foreign minister, Dimitrij Rupel, has said that the country's border disputes with Croatia should not mar good relations or Croatia's bid to join the European Union. He also struck a conciliatory note over bank debts, connected with the now defunct Ljubljanska Banka, and a nuclear power plant shared by the two countries, which once formed part of Yugoslavia.

The nephew of the last Austrian emperor, Karl Habsburg, is appealing a court decision rejecting the return of vast amounts of family property seized during the Nazi period. The lands are currently public property and an application for their return was rejected in December, citing constitutional and international law. The Nazis confiscated the lands when Germany annexed Austria in 1938.

Poland will be ready to replace its national currency, the zloty, with the euro within the next five years, according to President Aleksander Kwasniewski. He also noted that the drive to adopt the euro required further fiscal reform and close cooperation between the government and the National Bank of Poland.

Austrian Airlines has bought a 62 percent stake in the state-owned Slovak Airlines, for 2.8 million euros. The company's financial chief, Thomas Kleibl, said the stake would help the airline to expand in the Slovak air travel market, which he said held promising growth potential.

Hungary's president has pardoned a teenage girl who was sent to prison for killing her father at the age of 14. Kitti Simek said that she had suffered years of sexual harassment and beatings, before she shot her father while he was sleeping. The case had led to a nationwide debate about the rights of children and wives in the face of domestic violence.

21-01-2005