Insight Central Europe News

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EU takes Slovakia to task over attacks on ethnic Hungarians

The European Union has told Slovakia it is concerned by reports of ill-treatment of minorities in the country, after a number of attacks on ethnic Hungarians in recent weeks. European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said he had received reassurances over the issue from the Slovak prime minister, Robert Fico, at a meeting in Brussels. Mr Fico had earlier denounced the violence, though he stopped short of condemning his coalition partner the Slovak National Party or its leader, Jan Slota; Mr Slota has made a number of inflammatory statements about Hungarians.

Hungary's foreign minister, Kinga Goncz, said it was unacceptable that the Bratislava government was making ethnic Hungarians scapegoats over the row and that they needed to address the Slovak National Party. Relations between the two countries have been strained since August, when a student in the Slovak town of Nitra was robbed and beaten after being heard speaking Hungarian on her phone.

New Czech government sworn in, but faces tough confidence vote

A new Czech government was sworn in on Monday, three months after elections which left the Czech Republic's lower house split down the middle. The new cabinet is made up of members of election winners the Civic Democrats and technocrats and wants to lead the country until early elections. It must undergo a vote of confidence within 30 days, a vote it appears it will be hard-pressed to win.

Poland may re-examine secret jails claims after US admission

Poland may launch an inquiry into the existence of secret CIA prisons on its soil, after President George Bush admitted the US held terrorist suspects at undisclosed jails abroad. In June Poland was accused by the Council of Europe of housing such a detention centre, and the European Parliament has urged Poland to answer the accusations, which Warsaw has repeatedly denied. President Lech Kaczynski's foreign policy adviser, Andrzej Krawczyk, said if the issue kept arising the president would ask the appropriate services to investigate it again.

Slovenia pledges soldiers for Lebanon peacekeeping mission

Slovenia will send up to 12 soldiers to join the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Lebanon, the country's defence minister, Karel Erjavec, said on Thursday. Mr Erjavec said Slovenia would send its soldiers with a partner country chosen from the European Union, and determine the composition of the troops in line with the needs of the partner country.

Ukraine gets behind direct oil pipeline to Poland

The prime minister of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovich, has told Poland he will step up efforts to push on with an oil pipeline between the two countries; it would reduce their almost total dependence on Russian energy supplies. Mr Yanukovich made the comments at an economic forum in Poland. The Polish economy minister, Piotr Wozniak, said the two states had agreed to establish a joint commission on the pipeline.