Coalition in peril over pension reform
The leadership of the ruling PO party (Civic Platform) has called on Prime Minister Donald
Tusk to open broad-based political discussion on government-proposed pension reform, PO
caucus head Rafal Grupinski said on 21 March. He said PO will continue to try to convince
its junior coalition partner PSL (Polish People’s Party) to support the reform aimed at
raising retirement age.
The previous day coalition partners PO and the PSL failed yet again to reach a compromise
on the shape of the pension reform. PSL leader and deputy PM Waldemar Pawlak left the
meeting with PM Tusk saying that he was not yet ready to support the reform.
The PO has been determined to implement pension reform as originally proposed, ruling out
'rotten' compromises, and might therefore look for another political partner to get the
reform approved, Justice Minister Jaroslaw Gowin said in a TV interview. The senior
coalition party PO reportedly threatened to seek support in the ranks of opposition MPs,
probably from the Palikot Movement.
Rail controller faces prosecution over train crash
A rail traffic controller is to be prosecuted over a train crash on 3 March that left 16
people dead and more than 50 others injured. Prosecutor Tomasz Ozimek said that two
officials on duty at the time of the disaster had been questioned. One would be charged
because both trains ended up on the same track. He could face eight years in jail. He has
not yet been formally accused of unintentionally causing the crash because of the state of
his health. He was said to be in a state of shock and had been taken to a psychiatric
hospital for treatment.
Two days of mourning wee being observed after two passenger trains crashed head-on near
the southern city of Krakow on the Saturday night. Flags were flying at half-mast on
In Poland's worst train accident for 20 years the two trains crashed near
the village of Szczekociny. 10 carriages were involved, carrying about 350 passengers. The
regional train travelling north from Przemysl to Warsaw was powered by a very heavy
locomotive and suffered much less damage than the southbound Warsaw-Krakow express train.
The wreckage was being investigated in an attempt to find out why both trains came to be
on the same track. Reports suggested a set of points had been installed in the area in
recent months and one of the lines of inquiry is that the points either failed or were not
set correctly. Investigators hoped that statements from the drivers and data from the
trains' black boxes would reveal whether human error was to blame.
Need to complete A2 motorway for Euro 2012
Prime Minister Donald Tusk said on 16 February that a way must be found to help
contractors complete the unfinished sections of the A2 motorway in time for the Euro 2012
football championship. He asked Transport Minister Sławomir Nowak
for a full briefing on the problems holding up the project.
Nowak had earlier admitted on TV that Poland’s two key motorways – the north-south A1
and the A4, linking its borders with Ukraine, would not be completed in time for Euro
2012. It would even be a struggle to complete the last section of the A2 motorway linking
This meant that Poland would not have a motorway connection to Ukraine, its co-host for
the European Football Championship in June.
Progress of work on the essential road-building projects have been slowed by problems with
the former contractor Chinese company COVEC, which failed to pay Polish subcontractors,
bringing the construction to a lengthy halt in May 2011. Floods later in 2011 further
hindered progress and led to drastic delays in construction.
Bill to raise retirement age ready for Parliament
The government has completed work on its bill to push the retirement age in Poland up to
67 while levelling the retirement age for men and women. Announcing this on 15 February,
Prime Minister Donald Tusk said the government would do its best to keep the bill
unchanged during a period of social consultations now about to begin.
The bill would gradually increase retirement age to 67 years for both men and women by
adding 1 month to the retirement age every four months starting from 2013, hitting the
target level for men in 2020 and women in 2040.
The reform has earned hefty criticism, among others for its disadvantages to women.
Tusk defended the proposals by citing the demographic outlook – projections suggest that
Poland could go from roughly 3:1 workers to pensioners today to 2:1 in 2040 and 1:1 in
"We can't have our current negative experiences with the labour market direct our
policy," Tusk said of a generation bred on the past twenty years of constantly high
unemployment. "But we have no doubt that the Polish reality during the 40s, 50s and
60s will be a situation in which there will be a shortage of workers."
A plan by junior coalition partner the PSL (Polish People’s Party) - to reduce the
working age for women based on the number of children they have - should be avoided, Tusk
added. Poland should "find solutions that are good for Polish families, but without
distorting the bill on pensions."
The proposals by members of the governing PO party include deducting costs of establishing
kindergartens by companies, introducing vouchers for senior care, and facilitating
self-employment for women.
PM to probe controversy around construction of National Stadium
All controversial matters surrounding the construction of Warsaw's National Stadium would
be carefully analysed, Prime Minister Donald Tusk said on 14 February.
Rafal Kapler, the head of the National Sport Centre, resigned the previous day. The Centre
has been responsible for overseeing the construction of the National Stadium in Warsaw –
the key venue for Euro 2012. Controversy heated up when the media reported that he would
still receive a bonus of 570,000 złoty (£113,000) in line with the contract he had
agreed in 2008.
PM Tusk said "I do not see why we must pay bonuses to people who have not done
everything they should have."
Kapler himself commented: "As an executive I am convinced this magnificent object has
the potential to become not only an entertainment and culture centre ... but also a
profitable undertaking." He had headed the National Sport Centre since 2008. Delays
around the Warsaw stadium's completion focused criticism on the Centre. A Polish super-cup
final scheduled to be played in the new arena had to be cancelled because of safety
Poland: background facts and figures
Population 38.6 million, overwhelmingly
Roman Catholic. The official language is Polish. More than a third of the population lives
in rural areas.
Geography Poland covers 312,700 square km
(120,700 square miles). It borders the Baltic Sea to the north, Lithuania and Russia's
Kaliningrad enclave to the northeast, Belarus and Ukraine to the east, Slovakia and the
Czech Republic to the south and Germany to the west (Central European
map). Poland is divided into 16 provinces.
Cities Warsaw the capital has a population of 1.8
million. Other major cities are Łódź, Kraków, Poznan, Gdańsk, Wroclaw and Katowice.
Political system Parliamentary democracy, with
a 460-seat lower house of parliament (Sejm) and a 100-seat senate elected to
four-year terms. The president, elected by popular vote, designates the prime minister and
can veto bills.
Economy Poland launched market reforms in 1990 to
transform a centrally planned economy. The government slashed subsidies, freed prices and
imposed tighter monetary curbs and wage controls to combat hyper-inflation. Rapid
economic growth of up to 7% per annum followed in the mid-1990s, but has slowed since the
1998 economic crisis in Russia.
The biggest challenge for the government has been to ease unemployment, originally at 18%,
while making spending cuts to prepare the budget for EU entry and later adopt the euro.
There has also been concern at the large numbers of Poles who have migrated to find work
elsewhere in the EU.
Polish gross domestic product per capita is 42% of the EU average.
Defence Poland has halved its military personnel to
200,000 since 1989. It has been a staunch ally of NATO, which it joined in 1999. It
recently bought 48 F-16 jet fighters from the United States, and after its support for the
war to oust Saddam Hussein, the US called on Poland to lead one of the stabilisation zones
in post-war Iraq.
History Poland was a regional power from the
14th to the 17th century. It was then carved up between Austria, Prussia and Russia at the
end of the 18th century.
It regained its independence after World War I, but was invaded by Nazi Germany and the
Soviet Union in 1939 at the start of World War Two. Six million Poles died during the war.
As Soviet forces drove the Germans out of Poland in 1944-1945, Stalin installed the
communist party in power. Part of former Poland is still in the territory of Belarus. The
party crushed workers' revolts in 1956, 1970 and 1976. General Wojciech Jaruzelski imposed
18 months of martial law from December 1981 to suppress the Solidarity free trade union.
Solidarity later helped to oust the communist regime in 1989 and Poland launched
democratic reforms, electing the union's leader Lech Wałęsa as President in 1990.
In 1995, Wałęsa lost a presidential election to ex-communist Aleksander Kwasniewski, who
was re-elected in 2000.
The social democratic party won general elections in 2001 and its leader, prime minister
Leszek Miller, completed EU accession talks. A new right-wing coalition government
took power in 2004, eventually allowing the extraordinary situation where President and
Prime Minister were twin brothers. Elections in October 2007 dismissed Prime
Minister Jarosław Kaczyński, but his brother Lech remained as President. Donald Tusk
became prime minister as leader of the Civic Platform party, allied to the agrarian party.
Polskie Radio Londyn is available on DAB digital
radio, in the London area.
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New government's cautious economic plans
New Prime Minister Mihai Răzvan Ungureanu said on 9 February that while increased
salaries and pensions were the backbone of the new government's plan for the economy,
prudence and responsibility must also be the key words of this government. "I do not
come forth with unrealistic promises in these hard times. An era of prosperity will not
start tomorrow. Prudence and responsibility are the key words of this government. Salaries
and pensions will be raised only if this is possible," Ungureanu told Parliament.
The new government programme emphasises its intention to improve Romanian standards of
living by raising the population's income through salary or pension raises, decreasing
social security contributions and increasing taxes on the wealthy.
Plans also include promoting policies to stimulate economic growth and creating new jobs
by attracting EU funds to an absorption rate of 29%, or 6 billion euros, Ungureanu said. A
National Job Creation Plan will be established to encourage employment by means of
financial incentives for employers, while a "responsible" salary grid will be
conceived for state employees.
Prime Minister resigns in face of austerity protests
Prime Minister Emil Bloc resigned on 6 February amid widespread protests against his
government’s austerity measures. Boc said he was stepping down to "defuse political
and social tension" in the face of three weeks of protests. Speaking after a cabinet
meeting, he said he had given up the government's mandate as "it is the moment for
important political decisions".
President Traian Băsescu shortly afterwards nominated the country's former foreign
minister and current intelligence service chief Mihai Răzvan Ungureanu as prime minister
designate. "The ruling coalition agreed to appoint Ungureanu as prime minister
designate," Băsescu said in a statement. The nomination must then go to parliament
As prime minister Emil Boc had imposed a 25% cut in public sector wages and a freeze on
pensions. Sales tax was also increased to 24%. România's
economy actually grew last year, but it was in Europe's second poorest country. Both the
European Commission and the IMF expect România
to have a higher economic growth than the €urozone this year.
The government said it needed to implement the austerity measures in order to qualify for
the next instalment of a €20 billion bailout loan from the International Monetary Fund.
Emil Boc said that in a time of crisis, his centrist government was not in a popularity
contest but had acted to save the country. Protests broke out in January, initially
against the resignation of popular junior health minister Raed Arafat, but soon became an
expression of discontent against austerity and corruption.
Prime Minister designate Mihai Răzvan Ungureanu has a master's degree from Oxford
University and was Foreign Minister between 2004 and 2007 during Traian Băsescu's first
term of office. "Reforms will continue," he said after being nominated.
"The added value that I will bring resides in my experience as a manager."
The next elections in România are
scheduled to take place in November 2012.
2011 census shows population down 2.6 million
România has a stable population of
19.042 million people forming 7.1 million households, preliminary results of the
census which took place in autumn 2011 show. According to data from the National
Statistics Institute presented on 2 February, there are some 8.5 million homes and 5.1
million buildings in Romania.
The last time România reported a
population of about 19 million people was in 1966. The last census, which took place in
2002, reported a population of 21.68 million people in Romania.
According to the census, of the whole stable population of România,
10,058 thousand people had residence in towns and cities (52.8%), while 8,989 thousands
lived in the countryside. 22 counties reported less than 400,000 inhabitants and only two
counties had more than 700,000 inhabitants.
Bucharest has a reported population of 1.678 million people.
88.6% of the registered population declared themselves ethnic Românians, 6.5% Hungarian, and 619,000 (3.2%) declared
themselves ethnic Roma.
The census did not include people who had gone abroad for a period of at least 12 months,
nor people who were staying in România
Progress reports on EU measures
On 23 July 2008 the European Commission issued its latest reports on
progress by România and Bulgaria in meeting the measures required by the Commission when
both countries joined the EU.
According to the EC Report, România's commitment to reforms in the key
institutions was not being steadily implemented, and it needed to demonstrate its
willingness to punish high-level corruption.
The report on România condemned parliament for delaying corruption
inquiries involving the former Prime Minister Adrian Nastase and other top officials. The
report also noted that in 90% of corruption cases, lenient judges had delivered only the
Download key findings: Word
the EC monitoring report
Romanian government website
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|Serbia (Република Србија)
EU foreign policy chief backs bid for candidate status
The EU head of foreign policy, Baroness Catherine Ashton, has strongly backed Serbia's bid
to get candidate status - a key step towards EU membership. After talks with President
Boris Tadic she spoke on 27 February of progress with Serbia after months of difficult
talks. A week earlier Serbia made some concessions on Kosovo - the breakaway territory
which has been a major stumbling block. On 24 February Serbia agreed to allow Kosovo to
take part in west Balkan regional meetings, despite refusing to recognise its
self-declared independence. An EU proposal to have Kosovo's nameplate at meetings followed
by an asterisk was accepted. The asterisk will indicate a footnote explaining the
territory's disputed status.
EU foreign ministers are expected to make a statement on the Serbian bid shortly.
Lithuania and Romania have been reported as still voicing concerns about granting Serbia
candidate status. Some 80 countries have recognised Kosovo since it declared independence
in 2008, but a still larger number have withheld recognition.
Catherine Ashton, who heads the EU's External Action Service, said "I have long
believed that Serbia's place is in the European Union and I really hope that tomorrow we
will see the General Affairs Council [foreign ministers] move forward on that
EU leaders will meet in Brussels later this week and Serbia's bid still requires their
approval - a formality if the foreign ministers have given the go-ahead.
Court compensates daughter of murdered Hungarian
Zombor municipal court has awarded about 750,000 dinars (£5,775) to Emma Merey Zagyva in
compensation after finding that her father was murdered by Tito's partisans in 1944.
This could be the first case in which Serbia pays compensation to the relatives of a
victim of the mass murder of an estimated 30,000-40,000 people. The verdict is still open
German diplomat suggests EU candidacy in jeopardy
Citing German diplomatic sources in Brussels on 7 February, a report suggested that Serbia
could not become a candidate for EU membership if the Serb government failed, by the end
of the next week, to reach an agreement with Priština on Kosovo's representation.
EU foreign ministers are scheduled meet on the last day of February to debate whether
Serbia has met the conditions that were put before the country by the European Council
late in 2011.
The first of the conditions is the resumption of the dialogue between Belgrade and
Priština and reaching an agreement on regional representation of Kosovo.
However, the dialogue has been suspended for more than two months now as the two sides
have been unable to reach an agreement on having “UN Security Resolution 1244” written
under the name of Kosovo.
The source recalled a recent meeting between German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle and
his Serbian counterpart Vuk Jeremić, when Westerwelle had cautioned the Serbian minister
about the deadline being close to expiry.
Other diplomatic sources also say that Serbia is unlikely to get the status if an
agreement on representation is not reached. The sources hinted that if Serbia did not get
candidate status by the end of February or early in March, the possibility would probably
not be debated prior to the EU Summit in December.
the government's chief negotiator in the ongoing Kosovo talks Borislav Stefanović claimed
that the Kosovan side was holding up the negotiations. He said that Belgrade continued to
maintain a constructive approach, insisting on the continuation of the dialogue and
providing new solutions. "We do not want to wait for the last moment (to reach an
agreement) and it is important that the entire international community sees that Serbia is
very constructive and has put forth new solutions and propositions," Stefanovic said
and added that "Serbia is not the side that is currently stalling the talks or
finding a solution - it is Priština that is doing that".
Union of Serbia and Montenegro
Area 38,900 sq miles
Population: Around 10.6 million
Ethnic groups: Serb 62.6%, Albanian 16.5%, Montenegrin 5.0%, Hungarian
3.3%, others 12.6%.
Languages: Serbian 95%, Albanian 5.0%.
Religions: Orthodox 65%, Muslim 19%, Roman Catholic 4%, Protestant 1%,
Territory: The Union covered the same territories of Montenegro and
Serbia as Jugoslavija, and included the UN-administered province of Kosovo.
Administrative centre: Belgrade.
Institutions: It has a 126-strong parliament, which chooses a president.
The President nominates a five-member council of ministers: defence, foreign affairs,
international economic relations, economy and human and minority rights. The Union will
have its own court along with an army reporting to a joint supreme defence council. A
special provision allows for rotation of the union government's five ministers with their
deputies from different member states to ensure equitable representation.
Elections: Parliaments of Serbia and Montenegro elected deputies to the
union parliament after the adoption of the union charter. Serbia had 91 seats and
Montenegro 35. After the first two years direct parliamentary elections were held.
Economy: The two member states operate a common market and seek to
harmonise their economic systems with that of the EU to overcome differences, especially
in customs and trade policy. Initial economic reforms have already been implemented.
Currency: Serbia sticks to the dinar. Montenegro uses euros. The Serbian
central bank became the Union central bank.
Montenegro: In June 2006 Serbia acknowledged the
independence of Montenegro, following a referendum the previous month, in which 55.5% of
Montenegrins had voted in favour of independence.
Montenegro is listed separately
News about Kosovo
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Unhappy passenger hijacks tram in Bratislava,
When some tram routes in Bratislava changed in mid March not everyone was happy. One
passenger pulled a gun on the driver after complaining the no.9 tram was going in the
The driver called the police while the gunman and his companion were still on the tram but
the pair has got off before they arrived. The driver decided it more discreet to meet
their demand by letting the pair off near a city centre square. Police are now looking for
two tall men aged around 30 wearing dark jackets.
Finance Ministry predicts GDP growth of 2.3%
The Financial Policy Institute (IFP) of the Finance Ministry has re-evaluated the possible
growth of Slovakia's GDP for 2012 and announced on 21 March that GDP was expected to
increase between 1.9 and 2.6 percent.
"It is 2.3% growth that seems most likely at the moment," the institute
reported, adding that even after taking the lower revenues from excise taxes into account,
the more dynamic economic growth could bring in €53 million more in comparison with the
The Institute chose to draft a new prognosis due to more positive results of Slovakia's
economy recorded in the 4th quarter of 2011 as well as better prospects for the eurozone
economy in the first half of 2012.
"The positive result was recorded in late 2011 mostly by Slovak exports, which
managed to see significant gains despite the worsening economic situation of our major
trading partners," the IFP said. It was this that influenced the decision made by IFP
to re-evaluate its forecasts.
MPs might donate a month’s salary to restore Krásna
Representatives of all parties in the newly elected parliament said on 21 March that they
were ready to consider an idea suggested by President Ivan Gašparovič. The President had called on MPs to donate their first
monthly salary as MPs towards restoration of the fire-ravaged Krásna
Hôrka Castle near Rožňava in the
eastern Košice region. The damage caused by the fire has been estimated at €8 million.
"Far be it from me to issue messages that may sound populist," said Pavol
Hrušovský of the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) parliamentary caucus, "but we
all feel the responsibility for this exceptional national cultural monument that has
fallen victim to irresponsible behaviour [the fire was started by youths lighting
cigarettes]. I'm not ruling out any kind of active involvement in minimising the damage.
The leader of the Ordinary People and Independent Personalities party, Igor Matovič, also embraced the idea but underlined that true charity
lies in donating funds away from the limelight. Most-Híd caucus chairman László Solymos said that his party had considered such a
fundraising drive even before Gašparovič
suggested it. Smer party MP Miroslav Číž
said that a fundraising drive among MPs would be helpful in kick-starting a nationwide
Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) leader Richard Sulík expressed his doubts over whether or
not it would actually be possible to accommodate the President’s suggestion. "I'm
not sure if parliament is able not to pay a salary and send it to Krásna Hôrka instead.
I believe this isn't possible," Sulík said but added that he has already contributed
towards the restoration work on the castle.
"I don't know what others reckon, but I have no problem with it. I hope the President
follows suit," said SDKÚ MP Magdaléna Vášáryová.
‘Gorilla’ book author appeals court's ban on publication
Investigative journalist Tom Nicholson is arguing that a court’s decision to block
publication of a book he was preparing about the ‘Gorilla file’ has restricted his
right to work. The claim is the basis of an appeal Nicholson has launched against a
preliminary injunction issued by the Bratislava I District Court based on a motion by
Jaroslav Hašcák, a co-owner of the Penta financial group whose name features heavily in
The ‘Gorilla file’ is an as-yet unverified document which was published on the
internet in December 2011 which purports to contain transcripts of conversations between
politicians, senior state officials and businessmen, including Jaroslav Hašcák, covertly
recorded by the SIS intelligence agency in 2005-06 under the codename Gorilla. The
conversations imply high-level political corruption during the second government of
"If a court bans my book, they thus ban my main source of income, and this is
anti-constitutional," the investigative journalist said on 20 March. Nicholson stated
that the contents of his book do not interfere with Jaroslav Hašcák's rights in any way.
Bratislava I District Court judge Branislav Král decided to block publication of
Nicholson’s book, which has yet to be completed or edited, by issuing a preliminary
injunction based on a motion by Hašcák.
Several journalistic organisations have criticised the judge's decision, labelling it
censorship. The judge has argued that it is not censorship, as under the present
circumstances the right to protection of one’s person prevails over the right to provide
information by publishing a book.
Judges have not been unanimous on the issue. Another Bratislava judge turned down a
similar motion against the book's publication which had been lodged by the owner of the
apartment where the alleged participants in the conversations recorded in Gorilla were
wiretapped by the secret service.
New cabinet emerges
On 15 March the prospective prime minister Robert Fico had formed the larger
part of his cabinet. The head of the Smer party had been the interim Deputy Prime
Minister. He is a lawyer by profession and has also represented Slovakia at the
European Court of Human Rights.
Interior Minister Robert Kaliňák is a former interior minister holding the same post in
Fico's first government and had been a deputy prime minister. He began as a commercial
Finance Minister Peter Kazimír is a trained economist who worked in the private IT
sector. He has previously been a Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance.
Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajčák returns to a post he previously held. He is a career
diplomat and has represented Slovakia in Brussels. Recently he was the EU High
Representative for Bosnia & Herzegovina.
Krásna Hôrka Castle badly damaged by fire
A huge fire has severely damaged one of the best preserved mediæval
castles in Slovakia, Krásna Hôrka, near Rožňava
in the Košice region. The fire began on the afternoon of 10 March, and was probably
sparked by grass burning nearby.
Police in the Košice region said two boys had set fire to some tinder dry grass at the
foot of the castle after sneaking into the grounds to smoke. Police spokesman Jana
Mešarová said: “A unit sent to the site found that two local boys aged 11 and 12 were
trying to light up a cigarette and because of careless use of safety matches, they set
grass at the castle hill on fire.”
Much of the 14th-century historic castle was destroyed by the fire. According to fire
service officials, the castle's wooden roof was completely destroyed while the interior of
the building was gutted. A helicopter was called to dump water onto the flames from the
air - and 11 regional fire services helped tackle the blaze. A firefighter reportedly
suffered a minor injury.
The country's culture ministry has said the damage was serious - but could not yet
estimate the likely cost of repair. There also seems to have been a narrow escape for
several tourists, who had finished a sightseeing trip shortly before the blaze started.
Built to protect a mining trade route, the first written reference to Krásna Hôrka was
in 1333. The aristocratic dynasties of Mariassy, Bebekov and Andrassy have all owned
the castle in the course of its history.
Live news feed from
Slovakia: facts and figures
Population: 5.38 million (51.4 percent women), 84% Roman
Catholic, 7% Protestants and 4.1% Greek Orthodox. The official language is Slovak. Ten
percent of the population are ethnic Hungarians. Other minorities include Roma (or
gypsies), about two percent by official records.
Geography: Landlocked Slovakia covers 49,035 square km in central Europe.
It borders Austria and Hungary in the south, Ukraine to the east, Poland to the north and
the Czech Republic to the west.
Cities: Bratislava (population 500,000) is the largest city and the
capital. Other cities include Košice, Žilina, Banská Bystrica and Nitra.
Political system: Parliamentary democracy, with a single, 150-seat house
elected to four-year terms. The mostly-ceremonial president serves a five-year term.
Economy: GDP growth is expected to be one of the highest in central
Europe at 3.5 percent this year, inflation is benign and industry is growing steadily.
Other problems, like wide current account and fiscal gaps, are slowly improving.
What is now Slovakia was for hundreds of years a part of the Hungarian
state, which was founded and converted to Christianity by King István I, later Saint
Stephen, in 1001. The modern history of the country dates back to 1918, when the first
common state with the Czechs, Czechoslovakia, was formed.
Slovakia was split off to become a separate state for the first time in 1939, when Hitler
captured the Czech, Moravian and Silesian regions, and a Nazi puppet regime was formed.
Czechoslovakia reunited as a democratic state after World War Two but was taken over by
communist rule in 1948. It remained a Soviet satellite until 1989, when the
Moscow-supported regime fell in a bloodless revolution. In 1993, Czechoslovakia split into
two, leading to the present independent, democratic Slovakia.
For a comprehensive and excellent up-to-date history, free of ideological or
political bias, see
Kirschbaum, Stanislav J Slovakia - the struggle for
Palgrave Macmillan; revised 2nd edition 2006.
A Canadian of Slovak origin, Kirschbaum is Professor of International Studies at York
University, Glendon College, Canada. He is also the author of a Historical Dictionary
The Illustrated Encyclopædia of Monuments in Slovakia
introduces the artistic and architectural sights of the country in the context of their
respective regions. The authors work with regions divided geographically into South-West,
North-West, the Cradle of the Country, South of Central Slovakia, Central Slovakia,
Northern Slovakia, East of the Tatras and Eastern Slovakia. The encyclopædia can be ordered on-line.
The path to EU entry
27 June 1995 - Slovakia applies for EU membership.
15 February 2000 - Slovakia starts EU accession negotiations.
December 2002 - EU Copenhagen summit gives the final green light to enlargement from May
9 April 2003 - European Parliament officially approves the accession of 10 countries
1 May 2004 - Slovakia joins the European Union.
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Janković returns as Mayor of Ljubljana
In the mayoral elections for the capital Ljubljana held on 25 March the former mayor won
just short of 61% of the vote, rendering a second round of elections unnecessary. The
elections had been called after Janković,
who had won in the parliamentary elections in December, was forced to resign from his
position since a new law decrees that nobody can simultaneously be an MP and a mayor.
Mojca Kucler Dolinar, the joint candidate of the coalition New Slovenia (NSi) and
Democrats (SDS), picked up 25.8% of the vote. There were a total of eight candidates on
the ballot. Miha Jazbinšek, councilman for the Greens, won 6.5% and Vito Rožej of the
Zares party 4.1% - all other candidates won around or below 1%. Turnout in the election
Janković said he was "pleasantly
surprised" to have won over 60% despite the disappointing turnout, adding that this
was the third election in a year and a half that he and his party won. "It is
unbelievable," he said.
Janković will return as mayor after a
three-month break. He had to leave City Hall after he was elected MP on the slate of his
Positive Slovenia grouping, due to a law that bans MPs from serving as mayors. He will
return to the same environment he was in when he was first elected mayor in 2006: with
Democrat (SDS) leader Janez Janša as prime minister.
Between 2006 and 2008 tense relations between national government and the capital led the
the government cutting funding for the capital. The relations "cannot be worse than
they had been," Janković said.
"If we want to emerge from this crisis as winners, we must work hand-in-hand."
Janković will also continue to lead Positive
Slovenia, the biggest party in Parliament, from City Hall.
Family Law struck down in referendum
In a referendum on 25 March the proposal that gay couples should be given almost the same
rights as married partners was voted down. A majority of 55% of the vote was against the
proposed Family Law. The law would also have introduced a number of other far-reaching
Most opinion polls ahead of the referendum suggested the law would be
endorsed in the Sunday referendum, but they also projected a higher turnout than the
actual 30%, which may be one of the reasons why only 45% backed the controversial piece of
Out of the eight electoral districts only the traditionally liberal-minded central
Ljubljana voted ‘yes’, along with many of the urban districts in other electoral
units. The highest percentage of opponents was in the north-eastern Ptuj district, where
more than 64% voted ‘no’.
Aleš Primc of the civil initiative that had demanded the referendum said the vote showed
that citizens "respect motherhood and fatherhood", a reference to the definition
of family in the law as a "community of a child or children with one or two parents
Similarly, the Archbishop of Ljubljana Anton Stres said that a majority of voters had
recognised the "irreplaceable role of family" in life. The Catholic Church,
along with the Muslim and Serbian Orthodox churches had publicly called on voters to
reject the law, while the Lutheran Evangelical Church endorsed it.
The family law, which would be a first comprehensive overhaul of family legislation in 35
years, was passed by Parliament in June 2011 after almost three years of debate. The
proposed law had included a number of far-reaching changes, notably with respect to
protection of children. Debate had however largely focused on same-sex couples.
One of the issues in the final days of campaign was the suggestion made by the opponents
that the law would allow gay couples to have children born by surrogate mothers abroad,
although the family law does not deal with the issue and surrogacy is explicitly banned in
the infertility treatment act.
Meanwhile both the pro- and the anti- camp called for a fresh debate to find a consensus
on a new family law. Miha Lobnik of the Movement for the Family Law called on the ministry
to draft a new law that would build on common ground shared by both opponents and
supporters of the rejected legislation.
Several years ago the Constitutional Court had decided that same-sex couples must be given
the same rights as heterosexual couples, and that ruling has yet to be.
Information about Slovenija
Index to Slovenian government sites (right hand
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Storms leave 86 towns and villages without
A total of 86 towns and villages in eight regions in Ukraine were left without electricity
in the early hours of 26 March because of heavy rain and strong wind gusts, the Ukrainian
Emergencies Ministry reported. Power crews were working to restore electricity supply in
Some 28 towns and villages were left without electricity in Cherkasy region, 22 in
Zhytomyr region, 12 in Rivne region, seven in Kirovohrad region, six in Volyn region, five
in Chernihiv region, four in Kyiv region, and two in Dnipropetrovsk region.
Prison doctors say Tymoshenko gradually improving
Former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko was sentenced to seven years in prison on abuse of
office charges in a signing a gas deal with Russia in 2009 and subsequently lost her
appeal. She has since been serving the sentence in the Kachanivska penal colony in
Concern was expressed later by her supporters and other European organisations about her
deteriorating health. On 26 March the State Penitentiary Service issued a statement
claiming that Tymoshenko "had no complaints, the patient's condition has not
deteriorated, and she is moving around the room using a walking frame, gradually extending
her moving regime.”
The statement also said that Tymoshenko had again refused to undergo treatment and medical
examinations by doctors from the medical unit of Kachanivska Penal Colony.
Army reform to cost 155 billion hryvnia
A substantial increase is to be allocated by 2017 for army reforms planned by the Defence
The newspaper Dzerkalo Tyzhnia quoted on 24 March a document stating that the
strategy cross-references to European practices and promise to bring the level of military
spending to 1.4% of GDP. At the same time, the planned defence budget for 2013 at 17.4
billion hryvnia (£1.35 billion) is to be increased to 19.7 billion, and in 2014, instead
of the planned 21.3 billion, it is to be raised to 25.8 billion hryvnia
"As for the future provision of the Ukrainian Armed Forces with weapons and military
equipment," the statement read, "a lot of priority areas are envisaged until
2017, for example, the modernisation and procurement of combat aircraft, helicopters,
ammunition, the modernisation of air defence missile systems and missiles for them, as
well as the creation of high-precision weapons and an air surveillance radar system, the
procurement and joint production of multi-purpose unmanned aerial vehicles. Thorough
re-equipment is scheduled from 2014."
Council of Europe condemns jailing of former interior minister
The Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly has condemned Ukraine for jailing former
Interior Minister Yuri Lutsenko, saying he did not receive a fair trial. Jean-Claude
Mignon, President of the Parliamentary Assembly, urged Ukraine to free him.
Lutsenko, who served under jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, was sentenced on
27 February to four years imprisonment for abuse of office and embezzlement. Lutsenko was
convicted of giving illegal bonuses and perks to his driver at the expense of the state.
He maintained his innocence, saying he had been the victim of a show trial.
He was also ordered to pay the equivalent of £73,000 to compensate for misused funds,
including some spent on celebrating the police force's professional day.
Former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko was jailed for seven years in October 2011 for
abuse of office, at a controversial trial. She and Lutsenko were allies during the Orange
Revolution which overturned the discredited presidential election result of 2004, ejecting
Viktor Yanukovych from office.
Two years ago Viktor Yanukovych won the last presidential election, legitimately this
time, defeating Tymoshenko.
The Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly President, Jean-Claude Mignon, said the
charges on which Lutsenko was convicted were "absolutely no justification for a
prison sentence". He suggested that the trial had been politically motivated.
"It is unacceptable for former members of the government of a Council of Europe
member state to be prosecuted for political reasons. This practice is contrary to the rule
of law and takes Ukraine further away [from] the principles of our organisation as well as
the European integration to which this country aspires."
Yulia Tymoshenko herself praised her former minister for his courage on trial. She and
other political prisoners, she said, were struggling for "liberation" from
President Yanukovych's rule. "Today we are behind bars," she was quoted as
saying, "but if this is the price we should pay for the liberation of the country, we
agree to pay it. "
Yulia Tymoshenko’s husband Oleksander was granted political asylum in the Czech
Republic. He had stood by his wife in court during her trial. The Czech interior ministry
confirmed his request for asylum had been granted on 24 February. He has Czech business
interests, a stake in the Czech company International Industrial Projects. In 2011 the
Czech republic also granted asylum to Bohdan Danylyshyn, a former economy minister in
Yulia Tymoshenko's cabinet.
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