Press Review

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You'd be forgiven for thinking the Czech Republic is already in the European Union this morning - all the dailies have the new single European currency splashed across the front pages - Lidove noviny even managed to get the euro symbol into its headline. "Europe Enters New Era" says the paper, followed by a leader comment entitled "Our Dollar".

Mlada fronta Dnes has a sobering account of this year's New Year's Eve celebrations in the Czech Republic. A 13-year-old schoolboy from South Moravia was killed as he was trying to make a home-made firecracker, a Polish teenager died after being hit by a car, and two homeless men were found frozen to death in Prague, apparently after drinking themselves unconscious.

Despite the deaths, says the paper, this year was a relatively quiet one for the emergency services - a 14-year-old boy was hospitalised with alcohol poisoning, a 19-year-old youth lost several fingers as he was letting off a firework and firemen were called out to just 10 small fires. Mlada fronta Dnes says this year saw the lowest number of people celebrating in the centre of Prague in the last ten years, and the capital's police were called out just once - after two foreigners tried to climb the Christmas tree in the Old Town Square.

And further on in the paper the deputy chief of police for Prague 1 gives readers a rare insight into the dangers of police work on New Year's Eve. "We spend most of the night on Wenceslas Square," he says. "It's quite normal for the girls to come up to us and ask for a kiss - to make their New Year's wish come true. I've had to kiss many complete strangers over the years, sometimes it can get quite amusing."

Today's Lidove noviny looks more like a promotional booklet for the European Union than a newspaper - the first four pages plus a special pullout section are devoted to the euro and how Euroland's 300 million inhabitants are getting used to it.

The Czechs might be some years away from European Union membership, but they did play a small but symbolic role in the historic launch of Europe's new currency. The sound and light extravaganza in Brussels, says Lidove noviny, culminated in a massive firework display, with the Czech composer Bedrich Smetana and his stirring symphonic poem Vltava providing the musical accompaniment.

And we'll end with Pravo and news of the first baby born in 2002 - or the first in the Czech Republic anyway. His name's Vojtech Ostatnicky, he's from the little village of Chrtnic and he entered the world exactly one second into the new year. The doctor who delivered little Vojtech swears the timing was a complete coincidence.

"I heard the countdown finishing on the radio and then the national anthem being played. And then I heard the firecrackers starting up outside," says the doctor. Meanwhile Vojtech's mother says the birth was planned, but the timing was a total surprise and, she says, all down to Mother Nature.