Final Word from Wednesday, May 15, 2002

The contract for buying Gripen fighters from BAE Systems/Saab has been positioned variously by politicians as a battle between ČSSD and ODS, between European and American warplanes and between extravagant spending and sobriety. Chairman Cyril Svoboda of KDU-ČSL, whose party supports the deal, told Ekonom magazine that the Gripen purchase is part of the ODS-ČSSD plan for a "super coalition" for settling scores with everyone. The level of agreement between the parties on the fighters is much greater than it appears, he said. Some politicians, he added, have so much riding on the deal that it simply will be approved. Almost as a confirmation of this, Václav Klaus was out of the country (in Washington) when the Gripen bill passed in Parliament last week. Klaus' absence, along with a couple of other votes, was the deciding factor.


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