Insight Central Europe News

15-04-2005

The Polish government has said it will pull troops from Iraq by the end of the year, making official an earlier proposal. The defence minister said that improved stability and the high cost of the mission prompted the decision. The opposition has described the statement as a populist attempt to win votes in an election year, as opinion polls suggest that the ruling Democratic Left Alliance faces an overwhelming defeat.

The Slovak Defence Ministry has said that Slovakia may also withdraw its troops from Iraq at the end of this year when their current mandate ends. Slovak peacekeepers in Iraq operate under Polish command. Slovakia has a 104 strong contingent of military engineers and a guard unit stationed in the country.

The Czech political scene was once again thrown into confusion this week, when the Social Democrats of Prime Minister Stanislav Gross rejected a deal to re-form a government of the current coalition partners under a new prime minister. The party leadership said that they were being asked to make too many concessions. The three parties have been deeply divided ever since a row over Mr Gross's personal finances broke out over two months ago. The failure of the latest deal makes early elections increasingly likely.

Poland has won its bid to have the European Union's Border Control Agency based on its soil, making it the first of the new EU members to host an EU body. EU justice and interior ministers chose Poland over Hungary, Malta, Estonia and Slovenia. The agency will monitor how EU states patrol the bloc's external borders and help train border police.

The Hungarian Prime Minister, Ferenc Gyurcsany has urged the European Union to admit Croatia and Ukraine. He criticized the EU's decision to postpone accession talks with Croatia over the country's failure to find war crimes suspect Ante Gotovina, saying that a country should not be punished for the crimes of one person. Mr Gyurcsany said that the EU also had a duty to offer Ukraine the hope of becoming a member, after supporting the so-called "orange revolution".

The Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik has said that Vienna is prepared to host talks between the leaders of Serbia and Kosovo aimed at resolving the future status of the province. She made the offer on Thursday during a visit to Kosovo, saying that Austria had the advantage of being a credible partner for discussions.

15-04-2005