Insight Central Europe News

Polish health workers protest

Thousands of doctors and nurses marched in Warsaw on Wednesday to protest against low pay in Poland's state-run health sector. They are demanding an immediate 30% pay increase and a more than 50% rise in total spending on healthcare over the next three years. Since the country joined the European Union, it has faced a drain of medical staff to Western Europe. Poland's government has promised pay increases, but not as much as health workers are demanding. Problems over health sector funding have recently also led to unrest in neighbouring Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

Czech journalist faces prison for hiding mobile phone in Slovak PM's office

A Czech journalist faces a prison sentence in Slovakia after hiding a mobile phone in the prime minister's office. Slovak officials claim the phone could have been used as a listening device, and have called for the journalist to be prosecuted. Vaclav Nekvapil has admitted attaching the mobile to the underside of the prime minister's desk during a recent open day. But he says he was merely testing the Slovak government's security measures.

Hungary vows to end Roma segregation in schools

Hungary has vowed to end segregation of the Romany minority in schools by 2008. A fifth of the country's Romany primary school pupils go to classes for children with learning disabilities, compared to 2 percent amongst non-Roma. The Education Ministry said that a growing number of schools were accepting subsidies to integrate Roma pupils, although some local authorities continued to forego the grants because of fears that integration would bring down the academic standards of schools.

French farmers demonstrate against Slovenian bears

There have been demonstrations in southwestern France to protest against the introduction of bears from Slovenia into the Pyrenees. In a project to replenish the dwindling bear population, Slovenia has so far transported two bears to the region, but farmers in the Pyrenees have complained that they could pose a threat to local people and livestock. On the request of the French Environment Ministry, Slovenia has now temporarily stopped the programme, which was launched last year by the two countries. Slovenia has one of the largest bear populations in Europe.

Merkel praises Slovak reforms

The German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, has praised the economic reforms of the Slovak Prime Minister, Mikulas Dzurinda. During a visit to Slovakia she described the strongly pro-market reforms as courageous, saying that time would show that they had been worthwhile. The praise from the German Chancellor comes on the heels of similar comments by Britain's Tony Blair and EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso. The reforms will be one of the key issues in Slovakia's parliamentary elections in June.

Haider remains defiant over Slovenian signs

The far right Austrian politician Joerg Haider has expressed his opposition to a plan unveiled by Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel aimed at resolving a longstanding dispute over bilingual German-Slovenian signs. Mr Haider is governor of the southern province of Carinthia, which is home to a Slovene-speaking minority, and he has so far defied the Constitutional Court which has called for more bilingual signs to be set up. Slovenia's Prime Minister Janez Jansa has welcomed Chancellor Schuessel's initiative.