Insight Central Europe News

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Hungary, Croatia and Bulgaria recognise Kosovo

Hungary and Croatia have recognised their near neighbour Kosovo as an independent country. Bulgaria is also planning to establish diplomatic relations with Pristina. In a joint statement the three countries called on Kosovo to provide guarantees for a multi-ethnic state. Serbia has responded by immediately withdrawing its diplomats from Budapest and Zagreb. Kosovo declared independence from Serbia last month despite strong opposition from Serbia and Russia. Slovakia and the Czech Republic have yet to recognise Kosovo.

Poland to send extra troops and helicopters to Afghanistan

Poland is to send 400 more soldiers and eight helicopters to strengthen its forces in Afghanistan. Poland has already contributed about 1,200 troops to the NATO led force fighting the Taliban and supporting the Afghan government. A government statement said the Polish force will reach 1,600 soldiers and military personnel. Warsaw is asking for its entire force to be based in one province claiming this will improve its effectiveness.

Slovak oppositions continues to block EU Treaty ratification

In Slovakia opposition parties are continuing to block the government's ratification of the European Union's Treaty of Lisbon. The opposition is linking ratification of the treaty to changes it is demanding in a government sponsored media bill which has been criticised by human rights groups. The parties said amendments to the draft media law proposed by a parliamentary committee had not gone far enough to unblock the process.

EU President Slovenia wants Russia talks mandate

The European Union presidency, currently held by Slovenia, says it wants agreement next month on a mandate to negotiate a new partnership accord with Russia. A spokeswoman said Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel wants EU foreign ministers to debate ties with Moscow at upcoming talks in Slovenia next week and to give a formal decision by the end of the month. Progress on the partnership accord was blocked by Poland's previous conservative government while the new administration in Warsaw has indicated it is willing to move ahead.

Visegrad 4 should become “engine” for EU enlargement

There have been calls for the Visegrad 4 - The Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia to push for further enlargement of the European Union. Speaking at a meeting of the Visegrad countries in the Hungarian town of Eger, Matyas Eorsi, the head of Hungary's European Affairs Committee, said Europe's unification will only be complete once Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Macedonia have joined the EU.

Czech Roma apply for asylum in Canada

Over 100 Romany people from the Czech Republic have applied for political asylum in Canada since visa-free travel was introduced at the start of November. Canadian media is reporting there were no asylum applications by Czech Roma in the first ten months of 2007. The applications have raised concerns there'll be a repeat of a situation in 1996, when around 4,000 applied for asylum after Canada lifted travel restrictions.

Austrian coalition agrees to keep talking

Austria's fractious coalition government has decided to continue after holding a crisis meeting. There has been mounting tensions between the parties and widespread speculation that the government could collapse over recent weeks. In a joint declaration, Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer of the Social Democrats and deputy chancellor Wilhelm Molterer of the People's Party said talks would continue on setting legislative priorities for this year.