Insight Central Europe News

08-04-2005

Tens of thousands of mourners from the pope's native Poland were among the 300 000 people who gathered around Saint Peter's Square in Rome for his funeral on Friday morning. At the same time 800 000 people gathered on a meadow in Krakow, where the pope once served as archbishop. John Paul II's funeral was attended by many Catholics from throughout Central Europe, as well as all the region's heads of state, and hundreds of church services have been held to honour the pope's memory.

The Austrian Chancellor, Wolfgang Schuessel has said he will try to keep the ruling right-of-centre coalition afloat, despite the split in his smaller coalition partner, the far right Freedom Party. Most of the Freedom Party's leadership, including the charismatic and controversial Joerg Haider, broke away to form a new party on Monday. The new grouping is led by Haider himself, and will take the Freedom Party's place in the ruling coalition.

The Czech Prime Minister Stanislav Gross has said for the first time that he would be willing to step down in order to solve the country's long-drawn-out political crisis. He proposed a coalition of the same three parties as in the current government, but with no-one from the current party leadership serving in the cabinet. The President Vaclav Klaus has welcomed the proposal.

The Slovenian human rights ombudsman Matjaz Hanzek has warned the government not to stigmatise Roma pupils in schools, by putting them into separate classes. 86 Roma pupils in the town of Novo Mesto boycotted classes on Monday to protest against an experimental programme that segregated them from other pupils. The separate classes were introduced after non-Roma parents had complained that the lower level of education of Roma children was affecting the quality of education for all pupils. Slovenia's president has also condemned segregation and the programme has now been suspended.

Slovakia's Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan has said that the country is not yet planning to drop visa requirement for citizens from neighbouring Ukraine travelling to Slovakia. However, he said that Slovakia would reconsider making visas free of charge. From 1st May citizens of all EU states will be able to visit Ukraine without a visa.

Hungary's public service television channel was heavily criticised by all the main Hungarian political parties this week for failing to interrupt its programmes immediately to report the death of the pope. All parties, including the ruling Socialists, who described it as a mistake of 'almost unbelievable size', have urged an investigation.

08-04-2005