Insight Central Europe News

Jaroslaw Kaczynski's government sworn in, confidence vote next Wednesday

The new government of Poland's Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski was sworn in on Friday; a confidence vote is expected next Wednesday. According to Mr Kaczynski there will be no changes to the coalition agreement between his conservative Law and Justice party and two fringe parties - the leftist Self-Defence and nationalist right League of Polish Families. Self-Defence demanded a new agreement with the ruling conservatives as a condition for their support in a confidence vote. Jaroslaw Kaczynski was nominated for prime minister by his identical twin, Polish President Lech Kaczynski, following the resignation of Prime Minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz.

Slovak coalition party's anti-Hungarian rhetoric criticised by Hungarian foreign minister

Hungary's Foreign Minister Kinga Goncz has asked the new Slovak government to distance itself from what he says is the xenophobic and anti-Hungarian rhetoric of some of its coalition partners. After Robert Fico's Smer party won June's election in Slovakia, it formed a coalition with the centre-left party of former Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar and the Slovak National Party, known for harsh rhetoric towards the country's half a million ethnic Hungarians.

Court to rule on Polish politician's allegations of collaboration with Communist era secret police

A Polish court that vets state officials has agreed to rule on whether former finance minister Zyta Gilowska had links with communist-era secret police. Allegations of Mrs Gilowska's collaboration forced her to step down last month. The court initially refused to take up Mrs Gilowska's case on the grounds that she was no longer a state official. Mrs Gilowska was finance minister and a deputy prime minister in Law and Justice's outgoing cabinet. Respected by financial markets and investors, her departure drove the zloty lower last month.

Hungarian regional elections in October

Hungary will hold municipal elections, on October 1. The election is seen as a test of the recently elected Socialist-led coalition government's popularity. The government, which in April became the first to retain power since the end of communism in 1989, has announced a series of tax hikes to control the rising budget deficit and has seen its popularity decline as a result. Hungary has the biggest budget deficit relative to the size of the economy in the European Union and had been set to reach 10 percent of gross domestic product.

Warner Home Video closes shop in Czech Republic and Slovakia

Warner Home Video (WHV), a company responsible for the distribution of videos and DVDs in 98 countries, has decided to close its branches in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The decision reportedly comes as a result of the high degree of piracy in the two central European countries, as well as the saturation of the home video market. Sales of DVDs in the Czech Republic dropped by 19% last year, a figure that experts say illustrates the high rate of digital piracy. As of October 2006, the license for distribution of WHV programs in the Czech Republic and Slovakia will be acquired by Magic Box entertainment.

Austria govt fails to win support on Slovene rights

Austrian opposition parties have blocked a deal to raise the number of bilingual road signs where ethnic Slovenes live, saying it was not enough to end a row that has lasted decades. Opposition Social Democrats and Greens said they would withhold votes sought by the government for a consensus after Slovene minority groups, which had initially backed the deal turned against it. The proposal by Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel's centre-right government had won the key backing of rightist populist Joerg Haider, governor of Carinthia province bordering Slovenia. The deal would almost double the number of districts where signs would be written in both German and Slovenian. Initially ethnic Slovenes backed the idea because villages not covered by the new law could petition for it to apply to them. But they withdrew support on learning that regional or national governments could block the petitions. "There is no consensus on this issue," said Josef Cap, head of the Social Democrats' parliamentary faction. Rules to provide Slovenian-language schools, media and road signs have been a lightning rod for nationalist Austrians for decades. When bilingual signs were first erected in 1972, rightists roamed Austria in motorcades and took them down. Slovenians won minority rights when the allied occupation of Austria ended after World War Two, in which Slovenian partisans fought Nazi troops from Germany and Austria. Schuessel's Peoples Party urged the Social Democrats to agree a compromise by Friday.