Insight Central Europe News

Spain to open labour market to EU newcomers in May

Spain is to open its labour market from May 1 to workers from the European Union's former communist states, following the lead of Britain, Ireland, and Sweden. Finland and Portugal are also expected to open their doors to workers from the new members when a two-year transition period ends in May. Germany, Austria, and France have indicated that they will probably uphold their restrictions.

Poland's President in Berlin to mend relations

On his first visit to Germany, the Polish President Lech Kaczynski, has said it is time to mend relations between the two neighbours. He said talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Horst Koehler had been very open and constructive. Poland's relations with Germany soured under Merkel's predecessor Gerhard Schroeder, whom Warsaw saw as too supportive of Moscow. On Thursday several dozen gay rights protesters confronted President Kaczynski in Berlin, accusing him of trampling on the rights of homosexuals in Poland.

Blair criticizes Iran from Bratislava and Prague

During a visit to Slovakia and the Czech Republic, Britain's Prime Minister, Tony Blair, has repeated his strong criticism of Iran. He called on the country to respect its international commitments on nuclear non-proliferation, saying that Iran had a right to nuclear power, but also obligations. In the course of the visit Mr Blair described both the Czech Republic and Slovakia as strong and reliable allies in the European Union and NATO.

Slovenia's president calls for patience with Hamas

Slovenia's President Janez Drnovsek has said the door for Middle East dialogue must be kept open regardless of who is in power in the Palestinian territories. During a three-day visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories, he said that an outright rejection of dialogue with Hamas would inevitably lead to continued violence. The Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas echoed his words, saying that Hamas should be given a chance to reform gradually.

Record Czech economic growth

The Czech economy grew by 6.9% in 2005 - the fastest annual expansion in the country's history. Exports shot up by more than 12%, and higher investment and household spending also contributed to the fast pace of economic growth. The figures took most economists in the country by surprise.

Austrian economic climate improves

There was good news on the Austrian economy. The Economic Research Institute in Vienna says that low inflation has strengthened consumer buying power and the business community has shown signs of increased investment. Economists also predict a fall in unemployment.

Poll points to nostalgia for communism

A survey of former communist states in Europe suggests that a quarter of Hungarians and nearly a third of Slovaks still believe that the old regime was better than today's democracy. In Hungary a further 36 percent said they did not feel democracy to be an improvement. The Czech Republic was the only country among the eleven surveyed by the Hungarian-based Tarki research institute, where over 50% of respondents said they preferred democracy.