Insight Central Europe News

Poland's presidential election set for run-off

The presidential election in Poland goes through to a second round run-off on October 23. Neither of the two right-of-centre front runners - the liberal Donald Tusk, who has a slight lead, and conservative Lech Kaczynski, received the fifty percent of the vote needed for an immediate victory. Voter turnout was just under fifty percent, the lowest in the country's history since the fall of Communism.

UNICEF report points to growing number of disabled children

A new report by the United Nations Children's Fund points to a growing number of disabled children in Central and Eastern Europe. In part the surge is due to more registrations with health authorities, but it also reflects economic hardship, resulting in poor nutrition and affecting the development of the foetus and small child. The report says that the Roma minority are the worst off. In Hungary, for instance, some seven percent of Roma children are diagnosed as disabled, while the proportion for the rest of the population is only just over one percent. The report also points to the large number of disabled children put in institutions, a legacy from the communist period.

Austrian chancellor says Vienna has changed the terms for EU expansion

The Austrian Chancellor, Wolfgang Schuessel, has said that the European Union's decision to begin entry talks with Turkey should not be interpreted as a defeat for Austria. He said that Vienna, which had strongly opposed starting talks, had been successful in changing the terms for further EU expansion. He said that the negotiating mandate now stated that the EU's ability to absorb Turkey was a condition of membership. Before the wording had only described it as an important consideration.

Slovenia and Croatia at loggerheads over Adriatic

Slovenia's parliament has approved the setting up of a protected zone in the northern Adriatic in a move strongly opposed by neighbouring Croatia. The Slovene Foreign Minister, Dimitrij Rupel said that the law would protect the country's sovereign rights on the open sea, but Croatia's Foreign Ministry said the move was legally void and unfounded. Recently Croatia and Italy, which share the largest part of the Adriatic, agreed a demarcation of territorial waters without consulting Slovenia, which has only a few kilometres of sea coast. Slovenia has proposed international arbitration to resolve the dispute.

Another Slovak minister resigns

Slovakia's Labour and Social Affairs Minister Ludovit Kanik has announced that he is to resign. This follows media allegations about his personal finances. It was reported that his family had applied for a European Union grant to renovate a hotel they owned, a decision that Kanik later acknowledged had been an error of judgment. He was appointed to the ministry by the party of Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda. His resignation comes just a few weeks after the economy minister was sacked, also over a financial scandal.

Czech upper house makes anti-communist gesture

The upper house of the Czech parliament, the Senate, has approved a proposal to make the promotion of Communism and Nazism a criminal offence, punishable by a prison sentence of up to eight years. The proposed amendment to the penal code would, among other things, force the Communist Party to change its name. The Senate proposal is considered symbolic, as it will most likely not be passed by the lower house of parliament, where left-of-centre deputies have a majority.