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CZECH

Czechs praise Swedish input on Lisbon treaty

Sweden was lauded on Friday by the Czech President Vaclav Klaus for framing

a solution to his demands for an opt-out from the bloc’s Lisbon Treaty.

“President Vaclav Klaus received a proposal from the Swedish EU presidency, in response to his request relating to the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty in the Czech Republic,” his office said in a statement, without elaborating.

Sweden has been working to ease the concerns of the Czech Republic and Vaclav Klaus, who is the last EU leader holding out on signing the treaty, which aims to streamline decision-making in the 27-member EU.

“This proposal corresponds to the president’s expectations and he can continue to work with it,” his office said.

The bloc has nearly doubled in size in the past five years as a swathe of former communist countries such as the Czech Republic have joined.

On Wednesday Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt – who has been instrumental in the negotiations to overcome Klaus’s objections to the treaty as it stands – said

the EU was working on a new way to settle the issue.

“I feel confident that if we have this (opt-out) in place we will have a Czech ratification after that,” Reinfeldt said, adding that he expected the issue to be discussed at an EU summit in Brussels on Thursday.

Eurosceptic Klaus has a record of throwing up new hurdles to the treaty, which must be approved by all EU member states to enter into force.

Earlier this month he angered EU partners by demanding an opt-out to make sure that ethnic Germans forced out of the country after World War II in punishment for alleged wartime collaboration with the occupying Nazis cannot claim their property back.

A Czech opt-out would not be the first time such a solution has been granted with both Britain and Poland also having won similar exemptions in their own areas of concern.

Last week, Klaus suggested he would ultimately sign.

In any case, he cannot sign the treaty now as the Czech Constitutional Court banned him from ratification pending its verdict on the treaty’s compliance with the constitution, expected on Tuesday.

The case was brought to the court by a group of pro-Klaus lawmakers.

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FIGHTER JETS

Czechs and Swiss boost hope for Swedish Gripen

The interim Czech government said it plans to renew its lease of JAS Gripen fighter jets, while a parliamentary committee in Switzerland said yes to a proposed 23 billion kronor ($3.5 billion) purchase of the Swedish-made warplanes.

Czechs and Swiss boost hope for Swedish Gripen

Following two days of discussions of the deal that would see the Swiss military purchase 22 Jas Gripen jets, the security and defence committee of the Swiss parliament voted 14-9 in favour of the deal.

The deal now moves for a vote in front of the full parliament on September 11th.

The committee had previously given the deal a thumbs up in the spring, but some politicians expressed concerns, prompting the government to review and clarify the deal.

As the new Gripen E is still in development, there remains uncertainty as to whether Saab and Sweden can deliver what they’ve promised and that Switzerland may end up with what some called an “Ikea-plane” instead of a “Super-JAS”.

Meanwhile, outgoing Czech prime minister Jiri Rusnok said this week that the government expects to renew its lease on 14 Swedish fighter jets beyond 2015.

“The negotiations are at an advanced stage. The ball is actually in our court. The Swedes are awaiting our final answer to their recent offer,” he told reporters on Monday.

The new contract with Stockholm over the supersonic JAS-39 Gripen combat jets could be inked at the end of the year or in early 2014 by the new government, he added.

Snap elections are scheduled for late October.

The Czech military paid nearly $1 billion to lease the Gripens for a decade starting 2005. The aircraft include 12 one-seater JAS-39 Cs and two two-seater training JAS-39 Ds.

In July of last year, former Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas said Stockholm was being “uncooperative” regarding the renewal. According to press reports, the Swedes had been refusing to lower the lease price.

Necas stepped down in June amid a spy and bribery scandal. The president appointed a new technocratic government led by Rusnok, but that cabinet lost a confidence vote this month.

“The next government will make the final decision on the Gripens, but this (Rusnok) cabinet will do its utmost to facilitate it,” Defence Minister Vlastimil Picek said Monday. He added that the new contract will be a better deal for the Czech Republic and valid for “a period longer than ten years”.

AFP/TT/The Local/at

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