Insight Central Europe News

11-02-2005

The Polish president, Aleksander Kwasniewski, has held talks with US President George Bush in Washington. The two leaders agreed on a 'road map' proposal to ease restrictions on Polish citizens travelling to the United States; the fact Poles need visas to enter the US but Americans do not need them to visit Poland has been the source of a longstanding dispute. President Bush also promised 100 million dollars in US aid to help Poland modernise its armed forces.

Meanwhile, the Slovak prime minister, Mikulas Dzurinda, says that a summit between Mr Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin taking place in Bratislava on February 24 crowned the transformation of Slovakia from a one-time pariah of Europe into a mainstream Western country. Mr Dzurinda recalled that seven years ago, when Vladimir Meciar was prime minister, Slovakia had been described by the US secretary of state as a "black hole"; now the country has become a loyal and solid ally of the US, he said.

The Hungarian prime minister, Ferenc Gyurcsany, came under fire after a comment he made following a football game between Hungary and Saudi Arabia in Istanbul. Speaking at a conference of the ruling Socialist Party in Budapest, Mr Gyurcsany said the Hungarian team had achieved a fantastic result against the many terrorists playing for the Saudi team. He later apologised, and said his words had been taken out of context.

Slovenia has decided to re-examine an agreement under which its air space is protected by Italy, after Rome asked it to pay for the service. Slovene Defence Minister Karl Drnavec said talks had been opened on the issue. The country was invited to become a member of NATO in March last year. As Slovenia does not have its own fighter aircraft, Italy has been protecting its airspace free of charge for the last eleven months as part of a NATO defence programme.

The Czech Prime Minister, Stanislav Gross, said this week he would take legal action against two newspapers which questioned how he financed the purchase of his luxury Prague flat. He has strongly denied allegations that the flat cost more than he had officially earned, but the issue continues to dominate the Czech media. A poll published Friday suggested around 60 percent would like Mr Gross to resign.

The film version of the novel "Fateless" by the Hungarian Nobel laureate Imre Kertesz opened at cinemas around Hungary on Thursday. "Fateless" mirrors the author's own experiences as a boy in Nazi concentration camps. Mr Kertesz, who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 2002, said the film's makers had succeeded in capturing the essence of the novel.

11-02-2005