Insight Central Europe News

Budapest favourite for EU research institute – but Warsaw blocks

Budapest looks certain to be home to the European Union's new research institute after all but one of the 27 member countries backed its bid. Diplomats who attended an informal meeting of research ministers say only Poland, which has also campaigned for the institute, is withholding its support. Bratislava and Vienna mounted a joint bid to host the institute which is designed to boost European competitiveness in new technologies. Unnamed diplomats say there is still no final agreement but that Budapest remains the firm favourite.

Brussels threatens Poland over shipyard subsidies

The European Commission says Poland's shipyards will have to repay hundreds of millions of euros in state subsidies. The commission says the subsidies, to state-controlled shipyards in Gdansk, is illegal under the rules of the EU's single market. A number of shipyards are likely to be bankrupted if the order goes ahead. Polish Treasury Minister Aleksander Grad has played down the Commission's threat and announced more aid.

Czechs continue hunger strike protest over US radar bases

Two Czech activists who are on a hunger strike say they will continue their protest against the United States' missile defense plans after meeting with their country's foreign minister. The activists, Jan Tamas and Jan Bednar, said Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg dismissed their proposals to break off talks with the US and call a special parliamentary session on the issue. Most Czech's oppose the radar bases which will be linked to missile bases in Poland.

Transparency: Graft hitting Hungary’s competitiveness

The corruption watchdog, Transparency International, says corruption has become an obstacle to competitiveness in Hungary. The head of the Hungarian chapter of Transparency, Noemi Alexi, said graft is making public procurement up to 25 percent more expensive than they should be She said a key problem is the campaign financing of political parties with illegal contributions as high as 90 percent.

Slovakia devalues the koruna to fight inflation

Slovakia's currency started trading at a higher value against the euro last week after the country won EU approval to re-value the Slovak koruna upwards by nearly 18 percent. The move should help Slovakia tackle surging inflation as it prepares to join the European common currency, the euro, in 2009.

Amnesty: Slovenia’s "erased" still suffering discrimination

Amnesty International has again criticised Slovenia over its treatment of thousands of people removed from the registry of permanent residents in 1992. In its annual report Amnesty says the group, known as "the erased" continue to be denied access to full reparation and compensation. Over 18,000 people, mostly from the former Yugoslavia, lost their residency rights in 1992 in what amnesty has called a "black stain" on Slovenia's human rights record.

Austria welcomes agreement on cluster munitions ban

Austrian foreign minister Ursula Plassnik has welcomed agreement on a treaty to ban the use of cluster munitions, reached at a meeting of more than 100 nations in Dublin. Ms Plassnik described the treaty as a milestone and the most important disarmament move since the Ottawa Convention on Landmines. Austria has taken a leading role in the campaign to ban cluster bombs and was one of the first countries to adopt legislation against the weapons.