The Czech Republic’s foreign debt dropped in the second quarter of 2009 by 17.9 billion crowns to 1.47 trillion crowns, or more than 85 billion US dollars, according to figures released by the Czech central bank on Wednesday. The debt accounted for around 40 percent of the country’s GDP. Central bank officials said the drop was caused by a decrease in obligations of the banking and commercial sectors, as well as by the strengthening Czech crown.
In related news, Czech MPs approved on Wednesday a bill preventing the
government from privatising Prague’s Ruzyně Airport. The bill, proposed
by Social Democrats, also received support from Communist and Christian
Demcorat MPs. The Social Democrats are concerned that selling the airport
at a time of the economic crisis would result in a loss for the Czech
state. Plans for the privatisation of Ruzyně Airport were approved last
year by the cabinet of PM Mirek Topolánek.
The bill has yet to be approved by the Senate and signed into law by President Klaus. Observers believe however that Parliament’s upper chamber, with its majority of right-wing senators, will return the bill to the Chamber of Deputies.
The Czech army received on Wednesday a delivery of 17 Pandur armoured
vehicles from the Austrian manufacturer, Steyer. The first series was made
in Austria while the remaining 90 vehicles commissioned will be produced in
the Czech Republic. The army plans to integrate the Pandur II wheeled
armoured vehicles into the armament of Czech mechanized units, deployed on
foreign missions, particularly in Afghanistan.
The Czech Army signed a 14.4 billion crown, or nearly 84 million US dollar deal with Austria’s Steyr arms manufacturer in 2006; the deal was later cancelled over the Austrian company’s failure to meet some of the contract conditions. The Czech government finally approved the purchase in March last year.
In related news, Václav Havel has warned against the rise of
authoritarian regimes in Eastern Europe. In an interview for the German
weekly Die Zeit that will appear on Thursday, Mr Havel also criticized
Russia over the killings of independent journalists.
Reflecting on the two decades since the fall of communism, Mr Havel noted that all the fundamental objectives set down in 1989 were reached. However, the changes took much longer and were much more difficult than he expected, the former Czech president added.
The only remaining contender in the privatisation tender for Czech
Airlines, a consortium of Czech firms Unimex and Travel Service, offered on
Wednesday one billion crowns, or nearly 58 million US dollars, for 92
percent of shares of the state-owned carrier. The Czech government will
take two weeks to assess the offer.
The consortium of Unimex and Travel Service is the only contender left in the tender after the airline Air France-KLM pulled out in August, and Russia’s Aeroflot was excluded over from the final round.
The Freedom Train commemorating the escape of thousands of East Germans to West Germany via Prague in the autumn of 1989, arrived in the Czech capital on Wednesday. September 30 marks 20 years since thousands of refugees, camping on the premises of West German embassy in Prague, were allowed to emigrate to the West. The Freedom Train will leave for Bavaria on Thursday retracing the historic journey, with a group of former East German refugees.
The US-based Global Finance Magazine has put the governor of the Czech National Bank, Zdeněk Tůma, among the world’s top seven central bankers for 2009. According to the magazine, Mr Tůma responded well to the imminent economic slowdown by trimming rates in August last year, a move that proved successful. The only other European top graded central banker was European Central Bank’s Jean-Claude Trichet.
Former Czech president Václav Havel received the Golden Hen award in Berlin on Wednesday in recognition of his courage in the revolutionary year of 1989, as well as of his life-time political work. During his four-day visit to the German capital on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Mr Havel will meet with German President Horst Köhler, former German head of state Richard von Weizsacker as well as the former Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev.
The acting director of Czech Radio, Richard Medek, was elected the new CEO of the country’s public broadcaster on Wednesday. Mr Medek, who was appointed the acting director after the Czech Radio Council removed the previous CEO in July, said his priorities included a 10 percent job cut and a licence fee raise. Mr Medek was previously Czech Radio’s programme director, and has also worked in several commercial media outlets.
The Finance Ministry would like to delay a decision on the privatisation of state carrier Czech Airlines, Hospodářské noviny reported on Tuesday. Ministry official Tomáš Uvíra told the paper that those overseeing the privatisation would like until October 20, a fortnight more than scheduled, to make a final decision on the airline’s future. The deadline for bids remains September 30, the newspaper reports. On Tuesday afternoon, Finance Minister Eduard Janota said that a decision on the privatisation would be made in around 14 days. According to the Ministry’s Tomáš Uvíra, the Finance Ministry would like more time not only to assess the single bid for the airline, made by a consortium of Unimex-Travel Service, but to restructure the troubled airline, which announced record losses earlier this year.
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