Insight Central Europe News

03-06-2005

Leaders of several Central European EU countries have expressed disappointment at the rejection of the European constitution in France and the Netherlands. The Polish president and prime minister as well as Slovakia's prime minister said they wanted the ratification process to continue, despite the two "no" votes. The Czech government was more cautious, saying that a decision would have to be taken at a Europe-wide level. The only leader in the region to express satisfaction at the outcome was the Czech President Vaclav Klaus, who has opposed the constitution from the start. He said that he now considered the whole project to be dead.

The prime ministers of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia are to meet during the coming week in Warsaw at a regular summit of the four countries, known as the Visegrad group. The Polish Prime Minister Marek Belka said that part of the meeting would be devoted to an exchange of ideas that might give new impetus to the process of European integration.

According to Eurostat the unemployment rate in Slovakia fell to 15.6 percent in April. After seasonal adjustments the number of jobless was down by 0.3 percent, a year-on-year drop of 3.1 percent. Eurostat reports that this is one of the most significant falls in Europe, matched only by Lithuania and Estonia.

Hungary's parliament has passed a law opening communist-era secret service files. The files will now be made accessible if a court rules that the legislation is compatible with the constitution. Critics claim that the law violates the protection of personal data. It grants access to files containing the names and reports of agents and collaborators with the espionage, counter-espionage and the domestic intelligence services. Earlier this year, the leaking of files containing the names of secret service collaborators caused an outcry in Hungary and pushed legislators to pass a law offering limited access.

The Austrian national postal service, Austria Post, has announced plans to expand into neighbouring eastern and south-eastern Europe. The post already has interests in parcel delivery services in Croatia, Slovenia and Slovakia and now wants to stake a claim in regular mail and advertising material delivery. The initial step this year will include the neighbouring Czech Republic and Hungary.

A Czech musician appeared on television on Tuesday to deny he was the mysterious mute pianist found last month wandering on an English beach. Tomas Strnad, a former rock musician who fellow band members claimed was the unknown pianist, appeared on three Czech television stations. After seeing photographs, that appeared in newspapers around the world, two well-known Czech musicians had claimed that the unknown man was their former fellow band member.

03-06-2005