Insight Central Europe News

Dozens are killed as a Polish exhibition centre collapses

At least 66 people were killed on Saturday when the snow-laden roof of an exhibition centre collapsed in Chorzow, near the Polish city of Katowice. About 150 others were injured when the modern building collapsed. They had been attending an event for international pigeon enthusiasts attended by several thousand people. As well as Poles, foreign citizens, including Czechs and Slovaks were among the dead. The Polish president cancelled a visit to Prague on Monday and ordered a period of national mourning.

The Slovak defence minister resigns after plane tragedy

The Slovak Defence Minister Juraj Liska has resigned after a military plane crash ten days ago which killed 42 people, mostly soldiers returning from a peacekeeping mission in Kosovo. He said it was not a political decision, but a decision of the heart. Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda accepted the resignation and hailed Liska's work on turning the Slovak army into a fully professional force.

Poles and Czechs block EU deal

Poland and the Czech Republic joined forces in Brussels on Tuesday in blocking an EU deal to prolong reduced rates of sales tax. The Czech deputy finance minister said the deal would have undermined special tax breaks on housing that had been approved as part of the EU membership negotiations. Other member countries reacted with fury and Austria, which currently holds the EU presidency, said that the Czech-Polish stance risked damaging the union.

Arctic temperatures take their toll

Icy weather across Central Europe has continued to cost lives. In the Czech Republic, where low temperatures forced the temporary closure of the Temelin nuclear power plant, some 20 people have died, 37 are reported dead in Romania, and in Poland, which has seen some of the lowest temperatures in Europe, nearly two hundred people have died of the cold since the beginning of the winter.

Slovenia's prime minister pays tribute to Rugova

The Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa has paid tribute to the Kosovo President Ibrahim Rugova, who died last week. Mr Jansa said that he hoped all involved in the Kosovo crisis would have the patience and courage Rugova showed in seeking a long-term solution for the region. In a statement he said that President Rugova's activities had been guided by an awareness of the need to think beyond national boundaries.

Pope to visit Poland

The Polish President Lech Kaczynski has said that Pope Benedict is to visit the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz during a trip to Poland in May, echoing a visit made by his predecessor, John Paul II in 1979. Between 25th and 28th May he is also to visit Pope John Paul's birthplace Wadowice as well Krakow, Warsaw and Poland's holiest shrine at Czestochowa.

Mozart's birthday

Major celebrations are taking place around the world this weekend to mark the 250th birthday of the great Austrian composer, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Many events are being centred on his birthplace, the Austrian city of Salzburg, and Vienna where he lived and died at the age of 35. A new museum has opened in Vienna's first district in the building where Mozart lived from 1784 to 1787 and where he composed The Impresario and The Marriage of Figaro. On the occasion of the anniversary, European leaders and foreign ministers also gathered in Salzburg for a debate about the future of the European Union under Austria's EU presidency.