Insight Central Europe News

22-04-2005

Church and political leaders throughout Central Europe have congratulated the German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger on his election to the papacy. The Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski said that the new pope had been sent an invitation to Poland, and added that he hoped a visit to the country would be one of the pontiff's first pilgrimages, as a tribute to John Paul II. The election of Cardinal Ratzinger is seen as a chance for further Polish-German reconciliation, although one Polish church leader said it would initially be hard for Poles to embrace a German pope.

There has been speculation in Vatican circles that the primate of Austria's Roman Catholic Church, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, may be appointed head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a post held since 1981 by the new pope Benedict XVI. Cardinal Schönborn himself has declined to comment.

A new Czech prime minister should be appointed on Monday, ending a prolonged dispute between the parties of the country's government. The new cabinet will be led by Jiri Paroubek from the same party - the Social Democrats - as the outgoing Prime Minister Stanislav Gross. Mr Gross had come under huge pressure to resign from within the ruling coalition over a scandal involving his family's personal finances. Most ministers in the outgoing government are expected to keep their posts.

The foreign minister of Slovenia, which is currently chairing Europe's main democracy and human rights watchdog, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, has said that an end is in sight to a crisis in the OSCE's budget. The crisis has crippled the organization for several months. At the same the minister, Dimitrij Rupel, warned that the solution was only short-term.

A long dispute between the Slovak government and landowners on the site of a planned Kia car factory near the town of Zilina has been resolved. The government caved in to the owners' demand for just under 9 euros per square metre. Other owners, who had already sold their land for a lower price, have expressed anger, saying that they will demand compensation.

The European Commission has approved the sale of the Czech petrochemicals company Unipetrol to the Polish giant, PKN Orlen. The decision to sell the 63 percent state share in Unipetrol was taken last year, and PKN Orlen is to pay a total of around 430 million euros for the company. An earlier attempt to privatize Unipetrol was unsuccessful.

22-04-2005