The Czech Defence Minister Miroslav Kostelka has said he is satisfied with the details of two contracts outlining the terms for the Czech Republic's lease of 14 JAS-39 Gripen fighter jets from Sweden. The cabinet is due to get copies of the contract on Wednesday. The defence minister said that final debate on the contracts would round up by next week, making the documents' signing a matter of days. The defence minister told journalists on Tuesday the lease would cost the Czech Republic around one billion crowns less than originally proposed - some 19 billion in all. The first contract outlines specifics of the ten-year lease, while the second covers offset programmes.
The head of European Parliament Pat Cox -in Prague on Monday -indicated he would be willing to run for the post of president of the European Commission. Speaking in Prague, Mr Cox added however, he did not know whether he would be asked to do so. In a little under one month's time current EU Commission president Romano Prodi will step down from his post to be replaced by a new head of the Commission elected by the European Council. Names that have been mentioned in connection with the post along with Mr Cox include Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt, considered the favourite, as well as others like Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schussel, or European Commissioner for External Relations Chris Patten.
The Czech Defence Minister Miroslav Kostelka has revealed that he does not expect Czech military personnel currently serving in Iraq to continue their mission next year. 90 Czech military police officers have been stationed in Iraq since the beginning of 2004, training Iraqi police officers ahead of the transfer of power on June 30th; Parliament has given Czech specialists a mandate to be Iraq until the end of the year. On Monday Mr Kostelka told journalists that the Czech Army's foreign missions needed to be reduced, as the military was also running continuing missions in Afghanistan and Kosovo. He said that although the Czech Army had proved capable of taking part in three missions at once, it was not ideal with regards to on-going reforms. Still, Mr Kostelka did indicate a final decision on forces in Iraq would ultimately lie with "the politicians".
President Vaclav Klaus has criticised as "undignified" comments made by Bavarian Prime Minister Edmund Stoiber at the weekend regarding the so-called Benes Decrees. The decrees, which sanctioned the expulsion of 2.5 million ethnic Germans from Czechoslovakia after World War II, remain a point of controversy and contention for some German and Austrian politicians. On Sunday Bavarian Prime Minister Edmund Stoiber repeated a call for the decrees' abolishment, saying they had no place in the European Union. Mr Stoiber added that unless the Czech Republic condemned the post-war expulsion of Germans he would not pay an official visit to the country. Responding on Monday, however, Czech President Vaclav Klaus said the decrees were "untouchable" - saying any attempt to have them abolished was an attempt to rewrite history.
Doctors in the north Bohemian town of Usti nad Labem helped save two patients suffering from meningitis hospitalised last week. The two patients, aged 29 and 39, were admitted to hospital in critical condition, but both are now out of danger, doctors have said. Since the beginning of the year the Usti region in north Bohemia has registered a total of nine patients who came down with the disease, four of whom died, two infants and two young adults. Following two recent deaths council members in Usti decided to contribute 2 million crowns for the vaccination of young people in the region.
Twenty-four Greek military specialists have arrived in Prague to attend
a one-week chemical protection course in the Czech Republic. The
chemicals and medical specialists arrived at Prague's Kbely airport on
Monday ahead of training in Vyskov, south Moravia, connected with
guarding this summers Olympic Games which kick-off in Athens on August
13th. A total of 48 Greek soldiers will receive instruction, working
directly with toxic materials and learning to handle the psychology of
Meanwhile, talks between Greece and NATO are underway discussing the possibility of actually sending Czech military chemical specialists to Athens. So far, NATO has not officially requested Czech help on Greek soil.
The Defence Minister Miroslav Kostelka has left for a one-day trip to the Iraqi city of Basra to visit the Czech military police unit stationed there. Minister Kostelka is accompanied by the chief of staff Pavel Stefka. A one-hundred strong Czech police unit is operating in Basra in southern Iraq, training the local police force and instructors. As of July this year, six Czech military medical personnel are expected to start working in Basra at the request of the British troops. The trip is Minister Kostelka's first visit to Basra since last autumn.
Czechs are expected to import cars worth almost 69 billion crowns, or 2.3 billion euros, in 2004 - by some 3 billion crowns more than last year. According to the Automobile Industry Association, the overall worth of both new and used imported cars of all categories has been rising by five to six billion crowns annually in the last few years. In 2003 over 286,000 cars were imported into the Czech Republic. Around 231,000 were passenger cars, two thirds of them used.
The Bavarian Prime Minister Edmund Stoiber has again called for the abolition of the so-called Benes decrees, a piece of legislation which sanctioned the expulsion of ethnic Germans from Czechoslovakia after the Second World War. Speaking at the annual Sudeten German Days in Nuremberg on Sunday, Mr Stoiber said the Benes decrees were an injustice which had no place in the European Union. In his address the Bavarian Prime Minister said that if the Czech Republic does not condemn the post-war expulsion of Germans he will not pay an official visit to the country. He added that discussion on the topic must not stop after the Czech Republic's accession to the European Union.