Press Review

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There's no doubt as to who'll be jumping for joy after reading today's front page headlines - if they actually read them, that is. If all goes according to plan today's 13-year-old boys will not have to undergo compulsory military service - one hated year in the army - which most Czech men say is a complete waste of time.

The news that by the year 2007 the country should have a fully professional army features prominently on every front page, and the vast majority of commentators have given the new defence minister a big pat on the back. "Finally, the country has a defence minister who takes action instead of nodding his head and spouting words of wisdom," says LIDOVE NOVINY.

MLADA FRONTA DNES agrees - "and about time, too" it says, noting that the cabinet had been dragging its feet over the issue for some time, watching the army practically disintegrate before its eyes. The cabinet, says the paper, "took action only after NATO fired a warning shot". This is a change that can only be for the good, says MLADA FRONTA DNES.

Unbelievably, there is more good news to be found on today's front pages. The other dominant story is the growth in wages, the average wage having climbed to approximately 15,000 Czech crowns. What's encouraging is that wages are now growing faster that inflation, says ZEMSKE NOVINY.

Not everyone's happy with their pay packet though, and the papers report on continuing efforts to avoid a pilot's strike at CSA, the country's national carrier. Who would deny pilots the right to earn big money given the stress they are under and the fact that our lives are so often in their hands? asks PRAVO.

If 100,000 crowns per month - more than 7 times the average wage - is not enough, then so be it. However it is a bit disturbing that the pilots are in a position to call the shots, whilst doctors - who make a pittance in comparison - are unable to present their case with similar vigour for ethical reasons, PRAVO concludes.

Many of the papers carry reports from Ruzyne Airport, where British immigration officers turned away two more Czechs bound for London on Wednesday. One of the cases made a particularly good story, since it concerned a young Czech woman on her way to get married - to a British man - in London. Her unhappy fiancé was at her side when officials refused to let her board the plane.

"She Wanted to Get Married, But Was Turned Away at Ruzyne" reads a headline in LIDOVE NOVINY, alongside a photo of the tearful bride-to-be. The crisis was soon resolved, however, and after being asked to fill in some forms at the British embassy the couple will be given the all clear to fly to London a day late, the paper says.

And finally, the papers report on a happy end, or should that be a happy beginning? A new-born baby, which a Polish truck driver found in a garbage can near the Czech- Austrian border on a cold December day last year, has got a brand new home. The little girl, who has been christened Mary, is being adopted by a childless couple from South Bohemia.