Insight Central Europe News

28-01-2005

Holocaust survivors and political leaders from Central Europe were among thousands of people from around the world who attended ceremonies in the Polish town of Oswiecim on Thursday. They were marking the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp, where up to a 1.5 million people were murdered. There were further ceremonies throughout the region to remember Jewish and Romany victims of the Holocaust. The Polish President, Aleksander Kwasniewski said that the commemorations were important to promote knowledge of Auschwitz as widely as possible and bring the truth about the camps to the younger generation.

The head of Slovakia's Jewish communities, Jozef Weiss, has expressed anger at an attempt by the government to abolish the crime of denying the Holocaust. The government says that the law, passed in 2001, is at odds with the right to free speech, but Mr Weiss said that society needed to defend itself against demonstrations of extremism. Some 136 000 Slovak Jews died during the war, and only 3000 returned from the death camps.

The Austrian diplomat and coordinator of the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe, Eduard Busek, has said that there must be a breakthrough this year in defining the future status of Kosovo. Speaking in the Slovenian capital Ljubljana, Mr Busek said that full independence was not an option. He said one possibility would be for Kosovo to have half-independent status under the monitoring of the European Union.

The Czech Finance Minister, Social Democrat Bohuslav Sobotka, has issued a more optimistic forecast for the country's economy in 2005, predicting growth of 3.8 percent over earlier forecasts of 3.6 percent. A cut in taxes paid by lower and middle-earning groups planned by the ruling Social Democrats should drive the economy's growth, Mr Sobotka told journalists. The central bank, the Czech National Bank, predicts growth between 3.2 and 4.4 percent.

Slovakia does not support a possible expansion of the Visegrad Group to include Slovenia and Austria. Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan said he was convinced that enlarging the group, made up of Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland, would be a step towards its demise. He added that he believes the Visegrad Group still has a role even now that its members have gained EU membership. He said it could present a joint platform in future EU financial agreements.

The European Court in Luxembourg has ruled that entry regulations for Austrian universities discriminate against students from other EU countries. The court said it was unfair that foreign applicants have to prove they have been first offered a study place in their own country. Austrian students are required only to present a certificate showing they have successfully completed academic secondary school education.

The flamboyant property mogul and reality television star Donald Trump has married Slovenian model Melania Knauss at a lavish social event in the exclusive Florida resort town of Palm Beach. Guests included former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani. Mr Trump has earlier romantic associations with Central Europe. His previous wife Ivana is Czech.

28-01-2005