The government has approved the lease of 14 Gripen fighter jets from Sweden for ten years at a cost of around 20 billion crowns. The leasing contracts will also include offset programmes of Swedish investment into the Czech economy. The fighters will replace the aging Czech fleet of MiG-21 planes, which must be decommissioned by the end of 2004. The government chose the Gripens over a Belgian offer of updated F-16 fighters and similar planes from the Netherlands. Canada offered F/A-18 fighters and the United States offered an older variant of F-16s. Although Sweden is not a NATO member, the British-Swedish maker of the planes says the Gripens are fully compatible with the alliance's air forces.
The State Authority for Nuclear Safety has said it will complain about the European Commission's steps in checking Sunday's defect at the Temelin nuclear power plant. Experts from the Commission arrived unexpectedly at Temelin on Wednesday to inspect the scene of the accident in which 3,000 litres of radioactive water leaked out of the primary circuit of the power plant's second unit. The head of the State Authority for Nuclear Safety, Dana Drabova, said the European Commission had never dealt with such an "unimportant" defect, adding that in her opinion the inspectors had come for political reasons. After their visit to Temelin, the EC experts said they had no reason to doubt the State Authority's statement that the accident was unimportant.
A new poll published by the European Parliament suggests that of all EU citizens Czechs are the least likely to go to the polls this weekend. The survey, which was conducted by the polling organisation Gallup, predicts a 45 percent turn-out across the newly-enlarged EU. According to the poll 76 percent of Belgians say they will "definitely" vote in the elections, while only 20 percent of Czechs surveyed said they were certain to do so, although these are the first-ever elections to the European Parliament in the Czech Republic.
The largest Czech lorry maker, Tatra, has signed a 6 million-dollar contract to supply 62 lorries to the Iraqi government. Tatra, whose participation in the tender was sheltered by its parent Terex Corporation, must supply the first six lorries to Iraq by November. Tatra board member Ronald Adams said the company had beaten U.S., German and Ukrainian rivals. The Czech Foreign Ministry has said Tatra's success could open the way to the Iraqi market for other Czech companies. Besides support from the Czech government, Tatra probably also benefited from the fact that it has an American owner. Only two Czech companies besides Tatra have managed to win contracts in Iraq to date.
The Czech power utility CEZ made an issue of foreign bonds worth 400 million euros on Tuesday through its subsidiary CEZ Finance BV. The yearly interest rate stands at 4.625 percent and the bonds mature in seven years. The proceeds will go for refinancing of the company's debts and other needs.
Thursday should be another hot and sunny day, with only occasional rain. Daytime temperatures should range from 26 to 28 degrees Celsius.
Language exams for foreigners seeking permanent residency permit to become tougher
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