Insight Central Europe News

04-02-2005

Slovenia's Parliament has ratified the European constitution with an overwhelming majority. 79 MPs backed the document and only 4 voted against. Slovenia has thus become the third EU member state, after Lithuania and Hungary, to ratify the constitution. Only one of the seven parties in parliament opposed the ratification. The constitutional treaty needs to be ratified in all EU member states.

A list of names of communist-era security police agents and their collaborators, as well as people targeted and oppressed by the service, has been smuggled out of Poland's Institute of National Remembrance. The list, which contains 240,000 names, was taken by a journalist from the newspaper Rzeczpospolita. He said that he was frustrated over the fact that unlike other former Soviet-bloc countries, Poland did not carry out a vetting procedure to keep former communist security police agents out of public life.

Eight Central European states have launched a 10-year initiative to help millions of Roma escape discrimination, segregation and poverty. Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Macedonia, Romania, Slovakia and Serbia and Montenegro pledged new anti-discrimination laws, integration in schools, improvements to infrastructure in settlements inhabited mainly by Roma and measures to improve health standards. The initiative is the first major international initiative to confront the serious problem faced by Europe's largest single minority. There are estimated to be over 10 million Roma in Europe.

A group of mainly right wing members of the European Parliament from former communist countries has called for an EU-wide ban on communist symbols, such as the hammer and sickle. They say that the communists should also be included if legislation is passed to outlaw Nazi symbols, such as the swastika. They point to the millions of people in the Soviet Union and its satellites who were killed or tortured. An EU Commission spokesman said that such a ban could be a problem, as some Soviet-era symbols are still used by legal communist parties in the West.

Austria's coalition government of the conservative People's Party and the far right Freedom Party has marked five years since it first came to power. At the time there were large demonstrations and political sanctions were initially imposed by Austria's partners in the European Union. The Freedom Party's then leader Jörg Haider, was accused of xenophobia and of making statements sympathetic to National Socialism.

The Slovak border police are to tighten controls of vehicles and individuals at border crossings in the run-up to the Bush-Putin summit at the end of February. Similar checks will come into force at airports. An interior ministry official warned that the measures could lead to longer waits at border crossings.

The Czech international football goalkeeper, Petr Cech, has set a new record for minutes gone without conceding a goal in England's prestigious Premier League. On Wednesday Cech, who - at 22 - is young for a top-flight goalkeeper, extended the Premiership record to 781 minutes when he kept another clean sheet for his club Chelsea. The Pilsen-born player also holds the Czech league record of 903 minutes, which he set while at Sparta Prague.

04-02-2005