Five countries have offered to sell the Czech Republic a used fleet of 14 supersonic fighter jets from their air force stocks. Sweden, Canada, Belgium, the Netherlands and the U.S. submitted offers Friday ahead of a deadline set by a Prague government commission. The Czech government decided to seek 14 used fighters from a fellow member of the NATO military alliance to replace the Czech Air Force's Russian-made MiG-21 jets, to be retired in 2005. The used jets will be meant to protect Czech air space until an all-new fleet can be bought over the next five to ten years. Meanwhile, under the current bids, Belgium, the Netherlands, and the United States each offered to sell older F-16s, while Canada offered its FA-18 Hornets and Sweden Gripen jets. The government's negotiating commission will study the offers and could make a recommendation by the end of November.
David Rath, aged 37, has been given a vote of confidence to remain the head of the Czech Medical Chamber, after delegates on Friday voted 156 in his favour, 72 against. Dozens of delegates, however, left the conference room while voting was taking place. The complaint: that the conference had been manipulated. A total of 320 delegates attended on the first day. Meanwhile, the chamber's executive committee was also given a vote of confidence earning a three-year mandate. David Rath dismissed accusations the conference had been manipulated. Instead he highlighted successes that had been reached, including the defence of specialist licences that had been challenged by the Chamber's audit commission. Still, Friday saw six hours of difficult deliberations with sharp exchanges of opinion amongst supporters and opponents of the current leadership. The conference continues on Sunday when Health Minister Marie Souckova is expected to attend.
Deputy Mayor and member of the right-of centre Civic Democrats Pavel Pavel has won the first round of supplementary elections to the Senate, gaining 28.43 percent of votes in the Strakonice region. The number of votes was not enough to secure a mandate which means the candidate will face his nearest opponent Josef Kalbac in one week's time. Mr Kalbac earned over 18 percent of the ballot on Saturday, just edging the Communist Party's Karel Rodin, in third.
Czech President Vaclav Klaus has met in Moscow with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. On Saturday the two men discussed improving Czech-Russian relations, with Mr Putin stressing the importance of reaching agreement on such points as the outstanding Russian debt to the Czech Republic, inherited from the former Soviet Union. Mr Putin pointed out that both Russia and the Czech Republic had a variety of common interests that remained to be discussed, with Mr Klaus welcoming the opportunity for "rational dialogue". Mr Klaus' visit to Russia is his second this year: in May, at Mr Putin's request, he and 40 other heads of state gathered in St Petersburg to celebrate the city's 300th anniversary. The Russian president is himself a St Petersburg native.
President Vaclav Klaus has nominated family law expert and legislative council member Jiri Nykodym to become a judge at the country's constitutional court. The president's spokesman Petr Hajek said on Friday the president viewed Mr Nykodym as a person whose many years of legal experience would be a clear contribution. Whether he is actually appointed to the constitutional court will now depend on the Senate. In the past the Upper House turned down several Klaus candidates, including Vladimir Balas, Vaclav Pavlicek, and Klara Vesela-Samkova. At the same time, six Klaus nominees received appointments, among them former defence minister Miloslav Vyborny and former Civic Democrat senator Dagmar Lastovecka.
The Reuters news agency has reported that the European Commission, the executive body of the European Union, will warn all 10 countries joining next May, they have not yet met entry requirements in dozens of areas, though the EU will still press ahead with enlargement. According to Reuters the Commission said it will publish its final progress reports next Wednesday. Acceding countries, including the Czech Republic, are expected to receive letters demanding immediate and decisive action in response to concerns in 39 different sectors. The Czech Republic, though, is expected to receive warnings in just 3 areas, covering the state of food processing, the application of EU regulations in road transport, and the approval of a law mutually recognising university degrees. A fourth point dealing with the law on public tenders has been made moot by a bill passed in the Czech Lower House on Thursday.
Union heads from 12 power stations run by the state owned power utility CEZ have threatened to go to court if CEZ is excluded from the privatization of coal producers Sokolska uhelna and Severoceske Doly. A ministerial commission is to decide on Thursday whether or not to exclude CEZ from the privatization of the two companies. The Cabinet is opposed to CEZ's participation, a fact that is said to have been a decisive factor in the recent dismissal of Jaroslav Mil from the post of CEZ general director and chairman of the board. Industry and Trade Minister Milan Urban said the energy giant should not be thinking about coal mining at present but should rather focus on electricity production.
Up to 800 cows may have to be put down in connection with the seventh confirmed case of BSE in the Czech Republic. The last cow found to be infected was from a farm in northeast Bohemia and what appears to be significant for vets is that the animal was born in the year 2,000 i.e. much later that the previously detected cases. Regional vets and the State Veterinary Office are now debating the final number of animals which will have to be put down. "We want to keep the number as low as possible without taking any risks" a spokesman said. Czech vets have tested more than 450, 000 animals for BSE to date. The public appears to have faith in the applied safety measures since beef consumption has not dropped on the news of the last two positive cases of BSE.
Mayors of two Czech towns situated near the German border have joined the country's politicians in refuting a UNICEF claim that child prostitution is rampant in the border areas. The mayor of Cheb Vaclav Jakl told journalists that the problem of child prostitution in his region did not exceed the number of cases found elsewhere, not only in the Czech Republic but across Europe. Interior Minister Stanislav Gross has sharply denied the UNICEF claim, saying that investigators had found no evidence of child prostitution this month during the country's largest ever police raid on brothels. Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla told the CTK press agency that the UNICEF report was "unrealistic".
On an official visit to neighbouring Austria, the Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda assured his Austrian counterpart Benita Ferrero Waldner that the Czech Republic intended to fully adhere to all bilateral agreements reached regarding the safety of the Temelin nuclear power plant as well as international safety norms. "Our own citizens live much closer to Temelin than Austrians - it is understandable that safety is a top priority for us" Minister Svoboda said. The Austrian Foreign Minister reiterated Austria's stand that it would much prefer for the Czech Republic to desist from further nuclear power production, saying this was Austria's only concern in otherwise satisfactory bilateral relations. The two officials also discussed cross border cooperation and employment policies.
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