The World Bank has officially labelled the Czech Republic an advanced economy, which means that the country will no longer be entitled to draw loans from the World Bank. Slovenia has so far been the only country of the former Eastern bloc to pass the so-called graduation. A Czech representative at the World Bank said that Hungary is expected to graduate this year and Slovakia and the Baltic States should graduate in the years to come. According to Deputy Finance Minister Tomas Prouza The World Bank has also come up with criticism towards the Czech Republic, concerning above all the reforms of the pension and health care systems and the issue of fiscal deficits.
The Czech political crisis has hit an impasse, with the three former coalition parties, the Social Democrats, the Christian Democrats and the Freedom Union, holding no new talks on forming a government after a previous deal failed on Thursday. Prime Minister Stanislav Gross now leads a minority government from which seven ministers have resigned but President Vaclav Klaus has yet to accept their resignations. Mr Klaus said on Friday he would not accept a minority cabinet from Mr Gross and instead would push for early elections. He also asked the three parties involved to inform him whether they were willing to form a new government based on the previous coalition. The Prime Minister and Social Democrat chairman Stanislav Gross said he would give his answer to President Klaus on Tuesday at the earliest.
The first six supersonic Jas-39 Gripen fighter jets leased from Sweden by the Czech Republic arrived in the country on Monday, the Defence Ministry has said. Eight more are to join the Czech air force by the end of August. The Gripens will be leased for 10 years at a cost of almost 20 billion crowns (850 million dollars), after which the country has an option to buy them or return them to Sweden. The planes will gradually replace the obsolete soviet MiG-21s. The deal, signed in June 2004, commits Sweden to investing 130 percent of the contract's value in so called "off-sets" in the Czech Republic, 20 percent of which will be direct investments in the Czech economy. The lease of the Gripens was approved by former Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla's government last June.
The Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos said during his visit to Prague on Monday that the victory of pro-reunification Ali Talat in Turkish Cypriot presidential elections is a positive signal which could create a new atmosphere. During a joint press conference with his Czech counterpart Vaclav Klaus Mr Papadopoulos said that such a new atmosphere was a necessary condition for starting further negotiations between both communities of the divided island.
The chairman of the Croatian parliament Vladimir Seks who is visiting the Czech Republic has said Croatia is interested in the Czech Republic's support in its effort to join the EU. According to Mr Seks, seeking Czech support was one of the goals of his two-day visit during which he is to meet a number of Czech top officials. On Monday he met his Czech counterpart Lubomir Zaoralek, who said the Balkans and Croatia were among the priorities of Czech foreign policy, adding he hoped communication will be renewed between Croatia and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. The EU last month suspended the start of accession talks with Croatia because of the country's authorities' unwillingness to capture and extradite a former general accused of war crimes.
115 Roman Catholic cardinals locked themselves inside the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican on Monday to start a conclave that will elect a successor to Pope John Paul II. The cardinals heard a private sermon from 85-year-old Czech Cardinal Tomas Spidlik "on the need for careful discernment" in choosing the new pope. Cardinal Spidlik then withdrew, opening the way for the elaborate voting rites. At 85, Cardinal Spidlik is too old to vote, and the only Czech taking part in the election is 72-year old Cardinal Miloslav Vlk, the archbishop of Prague.
We can expect partly cloudy skies in the next couple of days, with occasional rain and daytime temperatures around 8 to 10 degrees Celsius.
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