Insight Central Europe News

12-01-2007

Leaders of the Catholic Church in Poland met on Friday to discuss how to deal with members of the clergy who collaborated with Poland's former communist regime. The meeting of 45 bishops was called after the newly appointed Archbishop of Warsaw Stanislaw Wielgus admitted he had agreed to cooperate with the communist secret police. He resigned his post shortly before his official installation last Sunday. The head of the bishop's conference, said it was "high time" for a process in which church commissions screen local priests for collaboration.

Russia restarted the flow of oil through its main European export pipeline on Thursday after Belarus dropped an oil transit duty and agreed to return oil Moscow said it had taken illegally. Europe's Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs told a news conference that all the affected member states are now receiving oil. Poland, Germany, Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic all experienced interruptions to oil supply during the dispute between Moscow and Minsk.

The new Czech government of Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek is to face a confidence vote in parliament on Jan 19th - ten days after it was appointed by President Vaclav Klaus. Under the Czech constitution the Prime Minister has to seek a confidence vote for his cabinet within 30 days. The outcome of the vote is uncertain. In October Topolanek failed in an attempt to have a one-party minority government win a vote of confidence.

Austria's new coalition government led by Social Democrat chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer has been sworn in by President Heinz Fischer at the Hofburg palace. Thursday's ceremony was accompanied by a protest which attracted hundreds of people, most angered by what they said were unacceptable compromises by the Social Democrats in reaching a coalition agreement. Some demonstrators threw eggs and other projectiles, but police said the demonstration was mostly peaceful.

Hungary's foreign ministry is to open new diplomatic missions despite a reduction in its 2007 budget. A foreign affairs under-secretary Marta Fekszi said embassies will be opened in the Belarus capital Minsk and the Latvian capital Riga. Talks with the Austrian foreign ministry are underway which may lead to the sharing of premises in a number of countries including Kazakhstan and Indonesia. According to a ministry official about 40 thousand euros will be set aside to help rescue Hungarians caught in crisis areas.

Slovakia and Hungary are to make a joint application to UNESCO to have historic fortifications on either side of the Danube River included in the World Heritage list. The fortresses at the twin border cities of Komarom and Komarno were built in the 19th century by the Habsburg monarchy. The application document is to be signed by the cultural state secretaries of Slovakia and Hungary in Komarno on January 15th.

Two weeks after Slovenia adopted Europe's common currency, the euro, Slovene's are to say a final goodbye to their old currency, the tolar. As of Monday only the euro will be accepted as payment. Political leaders in Slovenia have praised the problem free change over to the new currency.

12-01-2007