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Czech Watch - 22 February 2001

22.2.2001 8:45

January foreign trade figures will be released today at 9 a.m. (local time). Our forecast points to the trade deficit of CZK 6.7 billion.

NATO secretary general George Robertson today held talks covering NATO enlargement, the NATO summit planned for Prague in 2002 and the reform of the Czech army with President Vaclav Havel at the hospital where Havel is being treated. Robertson said before his visit that the Czech army should not regard buying fighter planes as its top priority. Robertson said at the same time that any decision to buy armaments was sovereign countries' own decision and NATO was not going to dictate to any country about what purchases it should and should not make. Robertson said that the operating costs of the running and maintenance of armaments must be effective in relation to the priorities of different parts of the army, such as ground forces.

The European Union (EU) Permanent Representatives Committee (COREPER), made up of EU countries' representatives, today agreed on an EU joint position towards the Czech Republic in the "energy" chapter, which has been blocked since last autumn due to reservations raised by Austria. This means that the chapter will be discussed during the next round of the Czech Republic's accession talks with the EU at the end of March.

The Czech koruna fell to a two-week low against the euro, after reaching a three-month high on Friday, as investors wait to see if tomorrow's trade report will show if rising foreign direct investment is helping the economy. The koruna fell to 34.71 to the euro, compared with 34.58 in yesterday's late trading. It rose to as much as 34.43 early on Friday, its highest level since Nov. 24. The koruna has gained 3.2 percent, amid expectations last year's 4 billion koruna in foreign investment, bolstered by a similar amount this year, will fuel demand for the currency.

(David Marek)

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