Insight Central Europe News


Austria, Hungary and Slovenia have rallied to Croatia's support in calling for talks to begin straight away on admitting the country to the European Union. During a visit to Bratislava by the Croatian foreign minister, Slovakia also expressed its support. Several EU countries have accused Croatia of not trying hard enough to capture war crimes suspect Ante Gotovina. The former general is indicted for alleged crimes against humanity, and Britain and the Netherlands said he had to be in The Hague before admission talks could start. The Croatian government argues that it does not know where Gotovina is hiding and that he is probably no longer even on Croatian territory.

Russia has reacted with anger to comments by Poland's Foreign Minister Adam Rotfeld who described the killing of the Chechen rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov as a crime and an act of political stupidity. The Russian foreign ministry said it was bewildered by the comments, adding that Maskhadov had the blood of thousands of Russians on his hands. The Polish Prime Minister Marek Belka tried to play down the dispute, saying that Mr Rotfeld had not intended to excuse crimes committed against Russia.

The Czech Supreme Court has overturned the conviction of a man who published a Czech translation of Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf". Last year Pavel Zitko was convicted for having the book translated and published, but the Supreme Court judge ruled that Mr Zitko had not sought to propagate the book's racist ideas. The recent publication of a Polish edition of "Mein Kampf" caused a similar controversy. The finance ministry of the German state of Bavaria, which says it has copyright over the book, called on Poland to withdraw the book from stores, and the Polish government also condemned the publication.

Figures have been published showing that Slovakia registered the fastest economic growth among the countries of Central Europe for 2004. The GDP volume went up by 5.5 percent, the fastest rate in seven years. Growth figures for most of Central Europe were well above the EU average.

Hungary has its first openly gay member of parliament. Klara Ingar from the liberal Free Democrats said that she had decided to come out because it was easier for her to say she was homosexual than to have others saying it to her. In the fifteen years since the fall of communism taboos about homosexuality have gradually broken down but it is still unusual for prominent people in much of Central Europe to say openly they are gay.

The smaller party in the Austrian ruling coalition, the far-right Freedom Party, could be on the verge of splitting after a series of electoral disasters. The party chief, Ursula Haubner, whose brother is the former party leader, Joerg Haider, said that the party needed urgently to adopt a more modern programme. She said that if it failed to do so, the current party leadership would break away and create a new political movement. Her comments are being interpreted as an attempt to alienate the more radical wing in the party.