Insight Central Europe News

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EU says energy supplies secure after Belarus-Russia deal

The European Commission says it does not believe a gas pricing deal between Belarus and Russia will affect supplies to Europe this winter. At a press briefing on Thursday the commission also said the decision by Belarus to impose a duty on Russian oil exports transiting the country should not affect supply. But the commission warned that the crisis between Belarus and Russia this winter underlines the need for strong cooperation on energy security and supply. A significant amount of Central Europe's oil is piped from Russia through Belarus to Poland and Germany and through a southern line to Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Hungary.

Slovenia says Euro change-over a success

Slovenes have been getting used to using euros as their currency this week after the country joined the European common currency on January 1st. The government in Ljubljana said it was the biggest national achievement since Slovenia joined the EU. A recent survey showed two-thirds of Slovenes are happy to exchange their old currency, the tolar, for the euro. The European Central Bank said the changeover is proceeding well and according to plan.

Poland - Investigation into communist past of Warsaw Bishop

In Poland two investigations are underway into the communist past of Archbishop Stanislaw Wielgus who was to be sworn in as Bishop of Warsaw on Sunday. Controversy around his nomination arose after media reports that he collaborated with intelligence services in order to travel abroad during the communist era. The Bishop has admitted to contacts with security officers but denied reporting on anybody. The case is being investigated by the Church and by the Ombudsman.

Czech roads becoming safer

The death toll on Czech roads last year dropped below 1,000 for the first time since 1993. Figures show 951 people died in traffic accidents last year compared to 1,127 the previous year. Authorities say a new penalty point system has improved the behaviour of Czech drivers. The transport ministry says the aim is to reduce the annual death toll to 650 within four years.

Slovak troops out of Iraq by end January

Slovakia is to withdraw its troops from Iraq this month. According to the foreign ministry in Bratislava around half of them should return next week with the remainder coming home before the end of January. 11 Slovak officers will remain in the country to assist in training Iraqi soldiers. De-mining devices will also continue to be made available to Iraqi forces. Slovakia has had just over 100 soldiers in Iraq since 2004. Three have died in the line of duty.

Hungary's much travelled conductor, Janos Furst, dies in Paris

Janos Furst, the Hungarian violinist and conductor who worked with orchestras around the world, has died after a long illness. He was 71. Furst died of cancer in a Paris hospital on Wednesday. He had worked with orchestras in Paris, Madrid, Prague, London and Helsinki and was music director of the Marseilles Opera for nine years.

Slight rise in Hungarian jobless numbers

Hungary's unemployment rate rose to 7.5 percent at the end of 2006, up slightly on the previous quarter, according to the Central Statistic Office. Unemployment was also slightly higher than a year earlier with 321 thousand out of work.