Insight Central Europe News

27-05-2005

Austria has become the eighth country to ratify the European constitution, with an overwhelming majority in the upper house of parliament. The country has seen little of the heated debate experienced in the run-up to France's referendum. Calls by the far-right leader Joerg Haider for an Austrian referendum were rejected by the government. All the country's main parties, including Haider's own, support the constitution.

The Czech Prime Minister, Jiri Paroubek, has threatened to ban President Vaclav Klaus from travelling abroad if the president continues to contradict the government's foreign policy. The prime minister said Mr Klaus - who, unlike the government, is opposed to further European integration and the EU constitution - was a servant of the state who should reflect the position of the government. President Klaus responded by accusing the prime minister of trying to stifle free debate.

The Polish Prime Minister Marek Belka has rejected the resignation of Interior Minister Ryszard Kalisz but fired his deputy over a series of corruption scandals involving the police. The deputy minister had been in charge of overseeing the police force, but was sacked after the newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza revealed that high-ranking police officials had links with organised crime rings. This was the latest in a series of incidents involving police corruption.

The Slovak government has said it would like to impose toll collections on major freeways in the country. The system would apply to vehicles over 3.5 tons or designed to carry more than nine people. The plan is a response to a situation where Slovakia is increasingly used as a transit country because of low costs.

The Slovenian police has brought genocide charges against a former prominent communist for his role in the massacre of German collaborators after World War Two. This is the first such move since the country broke away from Yugoslavia in 1991. Eighty-six year old Mitja Ribicic is suspected of having ordered the murder of 234 people without trial when he was deputy head of the Yugoslav communist secret service in Slovenia sixty years ago.

The smaller liberal party in Hungary's government has said it will vote against the presidential candidate put forward by the larger coalition party, the Socialists. The president has a largely ceremonial role, but failure to elect Katalin Szili on June 6th could hurt the prestige of the Socialists and the Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany. The liberals say that she is too closely identified with the Socialists' narrow party interests.

27-05-2005