Central Europe Review Call forpolicy proposals...
Vol 3, No 19
28 May 2001
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Czech newsNews from the
Czech Republic

All the important news
since 19 May 2001

Mark Preskett

Swedes and Brits stay in the hunt

View today's updated headlines from the Czech Republic and Slovakia
In January, the Defence Ministry announced a tender to supply the Czech Air Force with new supersonic fighters. Five manufacturers were to compete in the selection process, to be held on 31 May; but surprisingly this week, four of the interested consortiums decided to drop out.

First to go were the two US firms—Lockheed Martin, manufacturer of the F-16 Falcon, and Boeing, manufacturer of the F-18 Hornet. The US government sent a letter to the Minister of Defence, Jaroslav Tvrdík, on Tuesday, stating that both US companies would withdraw their bids. Spokesman for the Minister Milan Řepka told the national daily, Hospodářské noviny that "I have been asked by the US government not to disclose the contents of the letter."

Then, on Thursday, two of the European companies due to place a bid also pulled out: French firm, Dassault, which manufactures the Mirage, and European consortium EADS, producer of the Euro-fighter. The pullouts mean only one manufacturer is left in the running—the British-Swedish consortium Saab/BAE-Systems, which makes the Gripen fighter.

BAE/SAAB, barring the Czech government cancelling the tender, now look almost certain to win the tender, worth around CZK (Czech koruna) 100 billion (about USD 2,510,000,000). The rules of the tender state that the successful bidder must invest at least 150 percent of the value of the tender back into the Czech Republic, in the form of offset programmes, which could be why the four other manufacturers decided to withdraw their bids.

The Czech Republic had planned to decommission its fleet of ageing MiG fighters by 2003 at the latest, although some politicians have questioned whether the country can really afford new planes.


ČT council named

The list of candidates for the new Česka televize (ČT) council is practically ready. All that remains is for the Chamber of Deputies to decide on the exact composition of the council. The council now comprises of leading academics, figures in the arts, journalists, businessmen and religious heads.

The naming of a new council was one of the demands made by journalists and newsroom staff at ČT, who went on strike for nearly two months earlier this year. When the ČT council named Jiří Hodac as general director of ČT, staff at ČT accused the council of political bias and saw his appointment as an attempt by the right-wing Civic Democrats (ODS) to gain control of the media prior to next year's general election. The previous council was made up of figures appointed by political parties.


Candidate countries get tough

Following a meeting in Prague to discuss EU accession preparations, the six leading candidate countries, known as the Luxembourg 6, called on the EU to make a firm decision on enlargement at the Gothenburg summit in Sweden in June. Government representatives from Hungary, Poland, Slovenia, Estonia, Cyprus and the Czech Republic want a clear timetable on accession to be laid out at Gothenburg and hope to be full-fledged members of the EU by 2004.

Accesssion talks have run into trouble in recent weeks, mainly over the issue of free movement of labour once candidate countries have joined the EU. Germany and Austria support the idea of a transition period, whereby workers are not allowed to work in EU member states for seven years after accession. They base their proposal on fears that their labour markets will be flooded with cheap workers once the likes of Czech Republic and Poland join. Candidate countries, though, favour a two-year transition period.


Report on Temelín complete

The Czech Republic has finally sent a report on the environmental impact of the nuclear power plant situated in South Bohemia to the Austian government. Included in the report was a "shutdown alternative," which the Austrians demanded be included at a meeting last week between Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan and Austrian Environment Minister Wilhelm Molterer.

The plant, located just 50km from the Austrian border, has been plagued by difficulties since it went online late last year. It has been out of action for over a month, while repair work to the plant's turbine is carried out. In a study released this week by the power utility giant ČEZ it is claimed that closing the plant would cost Czech taxpayers almost USD three billion.

The Czech government has stated that it will not close the power plant and still plans to put Temelín into comercial operation as soon as the Nuclear Safety Agency gives its final approval.

Mark Preskett, 25 May 2001

Moving on:


Hospodářské noviny
Lidové noviny
Mladá fronta Dnes
ČTK—Czech News Agency

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