Senior Czech state officials are temporarily to fly on special Czech
Airlines flights, under an agreement reached between the national
carrier and Defence Minister Karel Kuhnl. The deal comes after a series
of problems with the state's own military planes. Czech Airlines has
also said it will help with negotiations for the purchase of a new
state plane from manufacturer Airbus, which is expected to take place
in the first half of next year.
Meanwhile, Czech manufacturer Aero Vodochody is to begin making fuselage parts for Airbus, Mlada fronta Dnes reported on Thursday.
The Austrian leader, Wolfgang Schussel, has praised a plan by his Czech
counterpart Jiri Paroubek to make a conciliatory gesture towards Sudeten
Germans who did not support the Nazi regime. Speaking after a meeting
between the two men in Vienna on Thursday, Mr Schussel said it was
important that for the first time the principle of collective guilt was
not being applied to the German minority. An estimated 2.5 million Germans
were expelled from Czechoslovakia after World War II.
Mr Paroubek has not yet revealed exactly what kind of gesture he is planning. But the idea has already been rejected by Slovakia's prime minister, Mikulas Dzurinda, and a Sudeten German group in Austria.
The Czech non-governmental organisation People in Need has been forced to cease its activities in Chechnya, after the Russian authorities refused to extend its permit to operate in the disputed territory. Meanwhile, the Czech Foreign Ministry has come out in support of People in Need, which it described as a very experienced charity.
Czech support for the European Constitution has fallen dramatically,
suggests a poll conducted by Median for Mlada fronta Dnes. Whereas in
May of this year 62 percent of Czechs were in favour, now only 21
percent are for the document, which has been rejected by voters in
France and the Netherlands.
The government has dropped plans to support a planned referendum on the constitution with an advertising campaign; it will instead launch a campaign to explain broader European issues to Czech citizens.
The state's stake in Vitkovice Steel is being sold to the Russian company, Evraz, the government announced on Wednesday. Evraz has agreed to pay over seven billion crowns for the steelmaking giant; it will also invest 2.5 billion in the company, and put 800 million into developing the north Moravian region.
The police have detained a group who allegedly sold military equipment abroad, a spokesperson said on Thursday. The five men and one woman are accused of illegal trading in both Czech and foreign made weapons, ammunition and computer hardware. No details have been released regarding the value of the items or to which countries the gang was exporting to.
Slovakia's Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda said on Wednesday Slovakia will
not back a plan by his Czech counterpart Jiri Paroubek to make a
reconciliatory gesture to anti-fascist Sudeten Germans. Mr Paroubek
announced on Monday that he had prepared a plan to compensate ethnic
Germans in Czechoslovakia who were expelled and lost their property in the
years following the Second World War, despite the fact that they opposed
Nazi Germany. Mr Dzurinda says Slovakia looks to the future and not to the
past and will not re-open complicated chapters in the countries history,
such as the Benes decrees, which sanctioned the expulsions in the post-war
On the home front, the Prime Minister's plan has met with anger from the two main opposition parties, the centre-right Civic Democrats and the Communists. President Vaclav Klaus has likewise rejected the idea, describing it as potentially dangerous.
The Czech Government will approach power utility CEZ on the sale of the state's majority stake in the North Bohemian coal mines Severoceske Doly. After last year's failed privatisation attempt, the cabinet decided on Wednesday to hold talks with CEZ exclusively. The company, which is one of the biggest in the country, already controls 13 brown coal mines, one black coal mine, two nuclear power plants and dozens of hydropower plants. It will have 90 days to present its proposed purchase price, which economists expect will range from 8 to 10 billion Czech crowns (an estimated 350-440 million US dollars).
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