Press Review

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Operation Essential Harvest - in which 125 Czech soldiers are taking part - remains at the forefront of media attention. The head of the Czech unit, Oldrich Napravnik, told journalists that following the tragic death of a British soldier the process of collecting weapons from Albanian rebels is taking place under tight security.

However tensions are high and NATO troops are reportedly facing a great deal of antagonism from Macedonian extremists. The Czech unit, which collected arms near in the town of Slupcane, near Kumanovo, on Monday said one of its vehicles had sustained minor damage from stones thrown by angry Macedonians, but no one was hurt in the incident. NATO's rapid deployment units in Macedonia remain on high alert.

The re-introduction of British immigration controls at Prague's Ruzyne airport also receives plenty of coverage today. The papers report that Romanies have been avoiding the airport since the screening process was reintroduced and quote International Roma Union president Emil Scuka as saying that Romanies would find other ways of reaching Great Britain.

On the other hand, the economic daily HOSPODARSKE NOVINY says that by avoiding a visa regime with Great Britain, the Czech government has spared regular Czech tourists and businessmen a lot of administrative hurdles and extra expense. Trade between the Czech Republic and Great Britain has increased substantially in the past year - mainly due to a rise in Czech exports to Great Britain - and the introduction of visas might hamper that process, the daily notes. Although

the British immigration controls have sparked fresh controversy, MLADA FRONTA DNES has gone in for some good-natured banter, featuring a tongue-in -heek column by Viliam Buchert. Who in their right mind would want to go to England anyway? The food is bad, it rains all year round and they drive on the LEFT side of the road! And the prices! - Buchert continues - a sandwich can cost you 3 pounds, that's 165 Czech crowns - for which you can eat like a king here. Anyone here who STILL wants to go? Buchert concludes....

Meanwhile LIDOVE NOVINY has zeroed in on the Czech government's plan to send beef to the Balkans as humanitarian aid. This form of charity is never entirely altruistic, the paper says. Developed states use it regularly to deal with surplus goods and most times it keeps everyone happy. Producers get paid, the state does its duty and people in need get fed.

However there are a few ethical norms which need to be respected. And in this case the Czech Cabinet's generous offer stinks to high heaven, LIDOVE NOVINY continues. The reason why the country has enormous supplies of surplus beef is fear of BSE, a fear which people in the Balkans share. Unloading our beef on them is simply not ethical and the fact that the thought has occurred to others as well - for instance British politicians - does not make it any less shameful, the paper concludes.

And finally, the same daily warns smokers to brace themselves for a steep price increase which will affect all brands of cigarettes. As of September, new consumer taxes will bring the price of cigarettes up by as much as 15 crowns per packet. Possibly there is some consolation in the fact that, in line with a new government regulation, cigarettes will have a fixed price and will cost the same everywhere, whether it's a railway buffet or a five-star restaurant.