Press Review

The papers today are full of tales of money and fraud, and fresh reports on the British officials working at Prague's Ruzyne airport to prevent members of the Czech Republic's Roma minority from seeking asylum in Britain. Plus for some unknown, or inane, reason, most pictures feature pictures of Finance Minister Jiri Rusnok chomping thoughtfully on a banana.

As it happens, the banana in Mr Rusnok's hand has nothing to do with the stories that accompany the pictures, which are actually about next year's budget. LIDOVE NOVINY reports that Mr Rusnok presented a budget for 2002 to the government on Wednesday, with a planned deficit of 54 billion Czech crowns, or 1.4 billion US dollars. But this figure, the paper points out, is more than five times the amount agreed upon between the minority Social Democrat government and the main opposition Civic Democrats, who keep the government in power via a power sharing pact.

Mr Rusnok's budget deficit includes the money the state has had to pay out for losses in the banking and business sectors and does not actually breach the conditions of the pact between the Social Democrats and Civic Democrats, but, says LIDOVE NOVINY, all the opposition parties in parliament are strongly opposed to having such a large deficit and plan to vote against it, so it is unlikely to be approved.

MLADA FRONTA DNES reports on the presence of British officials at Prague's Ruzyne airport, who are there to prevent members of the Czech Republic's Roma minority from seeking asylum in Britain. The paper says that the British government has circumvented all existing agreements between Britain and the Czech Republic to implement the measures. So how on earth is it possible, the paper asks, that these officials can prevent Romanies leaving the country, when there is no treaty that allows them to do this?

British and Czech officials, MLADA FRONT DNES continues, have managed to get around this problem by referring to a treaty from 1975, which allows consular officials to work at Ruzyne. Overnight, immigration officials became accredited as consular officials, and the problem is solved. Furthermore, the Czech government declared on Monday that measur

es do not discriminate against the Roma minority, and are fully legal, the paper concludes. ZEMSKE NOVINY's leading article today focuses on insurance fraud amongst police officers. The number of fraudulent insurance claims filed with the help of police officers grows every year, and out of 94 cases of insurance fraud brought to court last year, 49 of them involved police officers. 40% of all cases of abuse power brought to trial last year involved police officers, the vast majority of them young men aged under thirty. The problem has reached such proportions, says ZEMSKE NOVINY, that the Interior Ministry has set up a special crime squad to root out corruption in the police force.

PRAVO reports on the latest attempts in Austria to get the Czech government to shut down the Temelin nuclear power plant in South Bohemia. The controversial far right Freedom Party has launched a nation-wide petition in Austria against Temelin, which they then want to use to force the Austrian government to block Czech EU accession if Temelin is not closed down permanently.

But, the paper notes, neither the opposition Social Democrats, nor the Freedom Party's coalition partners, the People's Party, have given their support for the petition. A spokeswoman for the People's Party is quoted as saying that the Austrian government will stick to agreements made with the Czech Republic on Temelin, and rejects any attempts to block Czech entry to the EU.

Back to LIDOVE NOVINY, and another report on insurance fraud. This time, the story concerns an employee, a Mr Josef Jelinek, at an insurance company who uncovered an insurance fraud committed by two of his superiors. Instead of being congratulated, he was suspended and dismissed from his post two months later, apparently for breach of conduct.

Mr Jelinek has taken the matter to court, and on Wednesday the court ruled in his favour, and found that not only had he not committed any breach of conduct, he had actually saved the company millions of Czech crowns through his discovery. The police are now investigating the matter. Representatives of the insurance company have declined to comment.