Insight Central Europe News

10-06-2005

Hungary's ruling socialists are still reeling from the shock of seeing their candidate for president defeated by the conservative opposition's nominee. The new President, Laszlo Solyom, is a constitutional lawyer and former dissident with no political background. In a parliamentary vote he beat the socialists' candidate Katalin Szili, after the liberal junior coalition partner the Free Democrats refused to back her. The vote has led to speculation that the ruling coalition could be weakened or even break up altogether.

The Prime Ministers of Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary have agreed that the process of ratifying the EU constitution should continue despite the 'no' votes in France and the Netherlands. The Polish Prime Minister Marek Belka said that the results should not be become an excuse to abandon the constitution project altogether. The four leaders also discussed the EU budget for the years 2007-2013. Prime Minister Belka said that he hoped a draft budget would be agreed at the EU summit in Brussels next week. The leaders agreed to increase contributions to the Visegrad Fund, which supports various cross-border projects between the four countries.

The late Pope John Paul II's long-time personal secretary, Polish Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, has said that he will preserve the pope's personal papers. In his testament the pontiff has requested that they be burned, but Archbishop Dziwisz said that the papers should be kept for posterity. He said that the pope had given him the right to decide on their fate.

The Czech economy grew by 4.4 percent year-on-year in the first quarter of 2005. With the exception of neighbouring Slovakia, which enjoyed growth of over 5 percent this was the highest rate in the region. The Czech Statistical Office said that GDP growth in the Czech Republic was pulled by a strong foreign trade surplus.

Two Slovak miners died on Tuesday in an accident at a coal mine near Karvina, in the east of the Czech Republic. The accident happened over 700 metres under ground. A spokeswoman for the mining company OKD said that an investigation was under way. Many miners working in the region come from Slovakia and Poland.

The chairman of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Slovenia's Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel, has called on member states to step up the fight against racism. Addressing an OSCE conference in Spain, he said that more effective anti-racism legislation needed to be adopted in the organisation's 55 members. He appealed to more states to keep statistics of crimes of intolerance. At the same meeting the Spanish Foreign Minister, Miguel Angel Moratinos said that European states shared a common objective to fight anti-Semitism and all forms of intolerance and discrimination.

10-06-2005