A commission of experts has advised the Czech government to accept Sweden's offer of Gripen fighter jets to replace the Czech Republic's aging fleet of Soviet made MIG-21s. The commission assessed five offers in all. The US, Belgium, and the Netherlands offered second-hand F-16 planes while Canada competed with its two-engine F-18s. Sweden got the edge over its rivals by offering brand new places at a leasing price ten percent lower than the threshold put down by the Czech Defense Ministry. The Czech government is to make a final decision by the end of the year. If the proposal is approved 14 Gripen jets will replace the aging MIG 21s in 2005.
The Agrarian Chamber is planning to protest against the mass slaughter of animals in connection with BSE safety measures. Farmers complain that current regulations on BSE safety result in the slaughter of an excessive amount of cattle. The last two positive cases of BSE alone resulted in the slaughter of over 1,000 head of cattle. The Agrarian Chamber and Czech farmers' associations feel that this could be remedied without endangering consumers and plan to send a petition to Brussels, asking for the respective regulations to be reviewed.
Czech ambassador to Kuwait Jana Hybaskova, who was recalled on Friday, insists on her criticism of the government regarding the decision to withdraw the Czech Army field hospital from Iraq. Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda said Jana Hybaskova was removed from the post after persistent criticism of her government's policy in Iraq. The government decided to withdraw the field hospital from the Iraqi city of Basra by the end of the year, sending 80 military policemen to Iraq instead. Mrs. Hybaskova believes the withdrawal of the field hospital harmed the Czech Republic, because it comes at a time when in her view, the presence of the hospital could have helped the Czech Republic take an active role in the economic transformation of southern Iraq.
President Vaclav Klaus has vetoed the second of two bills which make up the government's package of planned public finance reforms. Mr Klaus refused to sign a bill on social security payments, saying the proposed legislation was selective and unfair. On Wednesday the president vetoed a bill increasing health insurance payments for the self-employed. Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla has said he is confident the ruling coalition's deputies will unite to overrule the president's veto when the bills are returned to parliament. Mr Klaus has so far signed six of the draft laws.
The Czech ambassador to Kuwait, Jana Hybaskova, has sharply criticised the decision to recall a Czech military field hospital from the neighbouring state of Iraq. Speaking in an interview in Wednesday's Mlada fronta Dnes, Ms Hybaskova said the field hospital was pulling out of Basra at the very moment the Czech Republic should be starting to capitalise on all it had invested in Iraq. She said there was a "lack of political will to see things through to the end".
President Vaclav Klaus has vetoed the first provision of a package of bills introduced by the government in an effort to reform the public finances. On Wednesday Mr Klaus's office said the president had refused to sign a bill increasing health insurance payments for the self-employed. However, Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla said he was optimistic that the governing coalition would unite to override the president's veto when the bill comes before the Chamber of Deputies for a second time. Mr Spidla has staked his political future on the financial reforms, which were introduced in reaction to a record budget deficit.
The Environment Ministry has refused permission to the Transport Ministry to build two weirs on the Elbe River in north Bohemia, saying both proposed weirs were in protected areas. However, the ministry's decision could be overruled in a vote in the Chamber of Deputies this week. Under a bill put forward by the former transport minister, Jaromir Schling, the law on the environment would make exceptions for the modernisation of waterways of international importance, meaning the Elbe, the Oder and the Danube. Environmental groups say, however, that the bill would allow for unprecedented devastation of the landscape.
Three police officers have been accused of assaulting a group of Romany men in the East Bohemian town of Dobruska at the weekend. The accusations were made by witnesses to the incident, which took place in a local gambling bar. The witnesses said the officers had attacked the men without the reason. However a police spokesman said the officers themselves were assaulted and that coercive means were only used after the men became aggressive. He said one of the men broke several panes of glass with his head while being restrained at the local police station. The men face charges of assaulting a police officer and hooliganism.
Meanwhile, the Association of Independent Trade Unions has called on President Klaus to veto parts of a government financial reform package. Officials said on Friday that over 100,000 union members had signed the letter, which demands amendments to legislation designed to combat the Czech Republic's record budget deficit.