Insight Central Europe News

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Polish foreign minister accuses France and Germany of inflexibility

After a meeting in Warsaw with ministers from Germany, France and Britain, Poland' s Foreign Minister Adam Rotfeld has said that the chances of an EU budget compromise under the British presidency are shrinking. Mr Rotfeld accused France and Germany of not being open to dialogue so soon after the collapse of budget talks in Brussels last month.

Hungary says that new members' Brussels offer no longer stands

The Hungarian Foreign Minister, Ferenc Somogyi, has said that budget talks should not take for granted the recent offer by some of the new members to forego some of their EU funding. At the Brussels summit several of the new members, including Hungary, offered to give up some of their financial benefits in the hope of breaking the budget deadlock. Mr Somogyi said that the offer came under very specific circumstances, and should not be seen as a realistic starting point for further talks.

Britain's deputy PM rallies support in Central Europe

Meanwhile the British Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, was in the Czech Republic and Slovakia this week to push for Britain's planned reforms to EU finances. Mr Prescott encountered some cautious support, although after their meeting the Czech Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek refused to align himself either with Britain or any opposing views of the EU.

Cimoszewicz to stand for Polish president

The Speaker of the Polish Parliament Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz has announced his decision to run in October's presidential election. He has chosen the wife of the current president, Jolanta Kwasniewska as his campaign chief. Mr Cimoszewicz is not a member of any political party, but is a former leader of the left-wing Democratic Left Alliance. Analysts say that he will be a serious contender to the right-wing candidate, Warsaw mayor Lech Kaczynski.

Tougher asylum regulations in Austria get Social Democrat support

The governing coalition in Austria is reported to have reached agreement with the opposition Social Democrats on new asylum regulations. The draft legislation includes a number of controversial measures, including the force-feeding of hunger strikers. The opposition Green Party has sharply criticised the Social Democrats for supporting measures they had previously denounced.

Czech lower house approves smoking bill

The lower house of the Czech Parliament has approved a bill that bans smoking in some public places. If it is approved by the Senate and signed by the president, smoking will be banned in public administration buildings, schools, cinemas, sports halls, and tram and bus stops. However, Christian Democrat deputy Josef Janecek says the law is "a victory for the tobacco lobby" as it fails to introduce a total ban on smoking in theatres, restaurants and bars, and workplaces.

Terrorism experts meet in Slovenia

Experts from NATO countries and Russia gathered in the Slovenian capital Ljubljana on Tuesday to foster more international cooperation in fighting terrorism. The director of the German-American Marshall Center, which organized the meeting, said that countries needed to have a better understanding of each other's work to combat the terrorist threat. He said that countries need to pool their skills to identify solutions.