Insight Central Europe News

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Poland calls for freeing of journalists held by Cuban authorities

Poland has called for Cuba to free three Polish journalists detained ahead of a meeting of dissidents in Havana. Polish Foreign Minister Adam Rotfeld said on Friday he would also discuss the incident with the European Union. Cuba had earlier expelled two Polish members of the European Parliament as well as Czech and German officials heading to the Havana conference. The detained journalists had been invited to attend the meeting as observers.

Dates for Polish general, presidential elections announced

And Poland decided on Wednesday to hold parliamentary elections on Sept. 25, followed by a presidential ballot two weeks later. Polls suggest the ruling left will lose votes to both the centre-right and the populists.

Slovak coalition parties fall out over education reform bill

Meanwhile, in Slovakia parties in the governing coalition have clashed over a planned change to the education system. After weeks of argument over legislation which would have introduced university tuition fees, the bill was scuppered when the liberal ANO party refused to back it. That led to accusations from the bill's sponsors the Christian Democrats that ANO had broken the coalition pact. However, despite their differences the governing parties say they will work together to complete their reform programme.

Euro-sceptic Czech president backing French to say No to EU Constitution

The Czech president, Vaclav Klaus, has said he firmly believes France will vote No in a referendum on the European Union's first constitution on May 29. Mr Klaus has been described as the only EU head of state who is openly opposed to the constitution. The Czech government has said it plans to hold a referendum on the issue at the same time as general elections in mid-2006, though a parliamentary vote has not been ruled out.

Hungary, Bavarian leader complain about statue of Czech war-time leader

The Hungarian government has complained to the Czech Republic about a new statue in Prague of Edvard Benes, the post-War president who expelled Hungarians for supporting Nazi Germany. Over half a million ethnic Hungarians were stripped of their property and expelled, along with some three million Sudeten Germans. Germany's Bavarian conservative leader Edmund Stoiber, whose wife is a Sudeten German, has also criticised the statue. However, Berlin has not officially complained and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said during a visit to Prague this week that it should not affect relations.

International journalists critical of plans to change Slovenian media law

The International Federation of Journalists has accused Slovenia's centre-right government of trying to strengthen its political control over state television through a proposed new law. Last month the government of Janez Jansa presented a bill which would give more authority to the director of public television, who is appointed by parliament. IFJ secretary general Aidan White said in Ljubljana that public television must not become political, but that seemed to be happening in Slovenia.