Around Slovakia

Pay or plant trees

DRIVERS who commit minor traffic offences will soon be able to choose their own punishments, or at least to a certain extent. A new traffic law that will come into effect this summer includes the introduction of a new form of punishment in Slovakia - community service.
"We want to have three different types of punishments - fines, driver's licence confiscation, and work that benefits society," Interior Minister Robert Kaliňák told Hospodárske Noviny daily.
"There are cases where people overlook a 40km speed limit outside of built-up areas and receive a fine. Community service will be an option for people who wouldn't be able to afford to pay such a fine," Kaliňák added.
At the same time, the police plan to come down hard on anyone who commits serious traffic offences. Kaliňák said that anybody who jumps a red light or drives through a railway crossing illegally will automatically lose their driver's license.
Fines will also be increased for serious offences such as gross speeding violations.

30 hectares of GM maize grown in Slovakia

THREE FARMERS started a trial plantation of genetically modified (GM) maize on 30 hectares last year.
Experts say that Slovakia has potential for growing GM sugar beets, which might prove to be profitable due to the expected pressure on sugar beet prices following the EU sugar regime reform.
According to Graham Brookes of PG Economics, a British organisation that has completed a study of biotechnologies in the Slovak agriculture sector, GM crops provide lower costs, higher harvest per hectare, and a lower environmental impact, the SITA news wire wrote.

Rural landowners complain to Brussels

THE COUNCIL of Associations of Slovak Forest Owners has sent a complaint to the European Commission's environment directorate, in which they claim that their basic rights as forest owners are being violated by the establishment of European nature reserves through the Natura 2000 and Protected Bird Territories programmes.
The council represents owners of private municipal and church forests from around Slovakia.
The council pointed out that after all the forests concerned have been declared protected territories, more than one quarter of the territory of the Slovak Republic and 41 percent of the country's forests will become land where economic activities are restricted.
The council said that the establishment of EU protected territories does not take into consideration the justified economic, social, and cultural requirements of the inhabitants of the rural areas affected.
They continued that the areas that will be declared protected and the regulations that will apply to them go against local residents' traditional ways of using and preserving the natural resources.
The council also warned the European Commission that the concept of environmental preservation in Slovakia is based on an incorrect foundation that prefers a quantity to a quality of protective measures.
The council complained that the opinions of the inhabitants of the rural areas involved have been ignored in creation and approval of these nature reserves.

Ash Wednesday starts 40 days of Lent

SLOVAKIA's Roman Catholics celebrated Ash Wednesday on February 20, marking the end of the carnival season and the beginning of Lent - the 40-day period of fasting leading up to Easter, the most ancient Christian festival.
For Catholics, Ash Wednesday is a day of strict fasting and abstinence from meat. The day's main purpose is to remind people of the importance of repentance and self-denial, which can help increase their faith in God and love for others.
At masses celebrated on this day, the faithful are blessed by the priest or a minister who draws a cross on each person's forehead with ashes and recites: "Remember that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return," or "Repent, and believe in the Gospel."

Fashion fair

A competition by young Slovak and Czech designers was part of the Trenčín, City of Fashion fair.
photo: ČTK

A BI-ANNUAL two-day textile fair called "Trenčín, Mesto Módy" (Trenčín, City of Fashion), opened its doors on February 21.
The fair featured exhibitors from Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Austria, and India.
Filling 1,230 square metres, the fair hosted 63 companies specializing in the manufacturing and importing of women's, men's, and children's clothes, including knitwear, leather, fur products and fashion accessories.
Event attendees had the opportunity to attend a trade seminar financed by EU grants on Slovakia's potential in the textile, clothes, leather, and shoe-making industries. There was also a workshop held by the Textile and Clothing Industry Association set up in conjunction with the Slovak Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
This year, for the first time in its history, the exhibition organizers staged a golf show to coincide with the fashion fair. This show featured, among other attractions, an indoor driving range where those interested were able to have a go at teeing off.

Patient with mad cow disease in Komárno hospital

KOMÁRNO HOSPITAL in southern Slovakia is currently treating a 53-year-old man for Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease, the human variant of what is known as "mad cow disease" (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy - BSE), the Nový Čas daily reported on February 21.
Tests, however, have since shown that in this case, the illness had a genetic cause, meaning that there is no threat of infection. Experts say that the disorder can be inherited genetically, though it is quite rare and only occurs in around one in a million people.
"Each year, only one for every million people in Slovakia are reported as having it," microbiologist Jozef Rosinský told the daily. "The symptoms include memory malfunctions, problems with physical co-ordination and speech, various mental disorders, and a lack of normal muscle strength," he added.

Oravská Polhora
Two Poles attempt to rob a pub

AN UNSUCCESSFUL attempted burglary at the Ranch Bar in Oravská Polhora in northern Slovakia's Žilina region ended badly for two Poles, who were caught red-handed by one of the bar's owners, Žilina Police spokesman Igor Mahút told TASR on February 22.
The two robbers fled to a nearby forest but police later detained 28-year-old Mateus from Sosnovec, Poland, while the other perpetrator managed to escape back over the border to Poland, only a few kilometres from Oravská Polhora.
A digital camera and Sk250,000 (€7,250) in various currencies were found on the detained man, who confessed the crime to an investigator.
According to Slovak law, the robber can be sentenced for up to three years in prison.
Police did not release any further information on the second man.

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