News Briefs

Slovak actress wins coveted Czech Lion award
Kukan praised for role in Czechs arrested in Cuba
Slovakia may open 13 remaining EU chapters this year
Slovakia defends against foot-and-mouth disease
Roma division faulted for economic woes
Human rights magazine to be launched in Slovakia

Slovak actress wins coveted Czech Lion award

Slovak actress Anna Šišková was awarded the Czech Lion, the Czech version of the Oscars, for best leading actress March 4 for her portrayal of Marie in the film Musíme si pomáhať (Divided we Fall) directed by Ján Hrebejk. Šišková is a member of the Bratislava-based Astorka Theatre.
The Czech film Musíme si pomáhať was the big winner at the awards evening in Prague, which is held every four years. Co-star Bolek Polívka was awarded best leading actor, Petr Jarkovský won for best director, and the picture won in the best film category; it has also received an Oscar nomination for best foreign language film.
When awarded the Lion, Šišková said that she was honoured a Slovak had won the prestigious award, to which emcee Jaroslav Dušek quipped, "I'm sure the Czech actors are pleased as well".
The film is set in a small Czech town occupied by German forces during the last years of World War II. Josef and Marie are a childless couple who want a baby but cannot conceive due to Josef's sterility. David, a young Jewish man who was once their neighbour, escapes from a concentration camp and takes refuge in their home.

Kukan praised for role in Czechs arrested in Cuba

Czech Foreign Minister Ján Kavan wrote to his Slovak counterpart Eduard Kukan to thank him for having helped secure the release of two Czechs who had been arrested in Cuba, the Foreign Ministry said March 6. "The assistance showed again that words about the especially close relationship between the Czech Republic and Slovakia have a real basis and are not just empty platitudes," wrote Kavan.
Czech member of parliament and former Finance Minister Ivan Pilip and former anti-Communist student leader Ján Bubeník were arrested in January, accused of plotting acts against the Cuban state. They were freed after Czech Senate Chairman Peter Pithart wrote a letter directly to Cuban President Fidel Castro, which was delivered by Slovak diplomats.

Slovakia may open 13 remaining EU chapters this year

EU commissioner for Enlargement Guenther Verheugen said in Brussels on March 6 that Slovakia could catch up with its neighbouring countries in the EU accession process if it reached a consensus among main political parties regarding EU integration and sustained political stability. He added that he hoped Slovakia would adopt necessary legislation for financing which would enable the opening of all 13 remaining chapters in the acquis comunautaire (the 30-chapter body of EU law which has to be approved) in accession talks by the end of June.
Verheugen said that the EU had not set any concrete dates as to when EU hopefuls can expect acceptance. Slovak Deputy Prime Minister Pavol Hamžík has said that he would like such dates set by the end of this year.

Slovakia defends against foot-and-mouth disease

Having already banned British livestock and animal products, the Central Anti-Infection Committee announced March 6 that if foot-and-mouth disease spreads from the British Isles to mainland Europe, the import of all cattle, breeding pigs, and their bi-products would also be banned. Agriculture Minister Pavol Koncoš also announced that vehicles entering Slovakia would be searched for any British meat products.

Roma division faulted for economic woes

Daniel Nelson of the European Centre of the George Marshall Fund for Safety Studies programme in Germany said at a March 6 Banská Bystrica press conference that Slovakia's Roma community would not be heard until it united politically.
Janusz Bugajski, of the Washington Centre of Strategic and International Studies, added that the Roma should become more active within society, thereby presenting themselves as "potentials" rather than "problems". He said that the correction of the Roma's long-term cultural and economic woes would take a long time to resolve and must start at the most basic levels of Roma society.
Bugajski also said former politicians such as Vladimír Mečiar have misused the Roma issue to further party goals. He then commended the government of Mikuláš Dzurinda for demonstrating more political will to help the development of the Roma community, to carry out legislative changes, to modify the public perception of the Roma, and to create economic opportunities to increase the Roma's standard of living. He stressed, however, that "the eyes of Europe and the US State Department will remain open," awaiting further improvement.

Human rights magazine to be launched in Slovakia

The Slovak branch of Amnesty International (AI) announced March 3 the launching of a monthly magazine focused on human rights issues and aimed at reporting the activities of the Slovak AI as well as international activities. The magazine will be written and compiled by human rights activists.
The International Secretariat of AI will each month select three cases the organisation decides are in need of special public attention. Each issue will have a special focus article, a Slovak story, and an article on refugee children. The magazine will also focus on unsolved cases AI has investigated in the past. Head of AI Coordination Committee Ingrid Kralová said the magazine could be obtained through AI offices.

Compiled by Chris Togneri
from SITA and TASR

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