Insight Central Europe News

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Poland likely to get extra seats in European Parliament

Poland seems likely to gain extra seats in the European Parliament as a result of a deal which gained Warsaw's backing for the new EU reform treaty. A negotiator from the parliament said it was agreed to give Poland and Spain up to 16 extra seats in the assembly. Poland had threatened to veto the new treaty unless it was given a greater say in EU affairs.

Deadly strain of bird flu in Czech Republic

Tests have confirmed that a dead swan found in the south of the Czech Republic had the dangerous H5N1 strain of bird flu. The news came after around 28,000 chickens with the same strain of bird flu had to be culled at a farm in east Bohemia. Poultry breeders in the area have been asked to count their stock and are strictly prohibited from taking the animals outside a protective zone.

Hungary's foreign minister says Central Europe is a single unit

Hungary's foreign minister says the world considers all of Central Europe, including the Visegrad states, to be a single identity. Kinga Goncz, speaking in Koszeg in western Hungary last week said "we are increasingly realising that being Central European also implies opportunity." She said she saw signs of fatigue in the Central European states after the multitude of changes of the past 17 to 18 years but added that there was reason for optimism because of what she called "new cooperation in all walks of life."

Slovenes "regret" Austria failure on Slovene language signs

Slovenia's government says it regrets the latest failure by Austria to resolve a dispute over Slovene-German place name signs in the Austrian province of Carinthia. However, Zolko Pelikan, state secretary for the Slovene diaspora complimented Austrian Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer for what he said were serious attempts to resolve the problem. The governor of Carinthia, Jörg Haider, is refusing to implement constitutional court rulings requiring more dual-language place name signs. Talks called by the Austrian Chancellor last week failed to find agreement.

Slovakia approves new labour code giving more power to unions

The Slovak parliament has approved legal changes which give workers more protection and more power to trade unions. The amendments to the labour code were one of the main promises that helped leftist Prime Minister Robert Fico take power in last years election. The changes were opposed by business and opposition parties who claimed it will make the economy less competitive.

Austria and Hungary reach agreement on Raab River pollution

Austria and Hungary have presented a joint programme to clean up the River Raab which runs between the two countries. It will require a leather factory and tanneries on the Austrian side of the border, identified as the source of pollution, to install new effluent cleaning technology. Hungarian activists had earlier threatened to call a boycott of Austrian products, saying authorities in Vienna had delayed too long on taking action on the problem.