Press Review

All of today's Czech daily newspapers carry photographs of American lawyer Ed Fagan who has arrived in the country to try to stop the controversial nuclear power station in Temelin from going into full operation. On the international front, the papers report on the fresh ethnic conflict in the Balkans.

Today's LIDOVE NOVINY leads with a report on two Czech software engineers who have cracked the electronic signature which is used to secure millions of electronic documents around the world. The paper describes the event as an end to privacy in the exchange of information on-line.

But the article then comes down to earth, explaining that the two men did not actually find a way to break through the electronic signature, but rather a way to bypass it. Furthermore, this concerns only one form of the signature which is free for use, and not the commercial, certified electronic signature.

The business daily HOSPODARSKE NOVINY comments on a recent opinion poll which showed that two thirds of Czechs would welcome the introduction of property declarations, whereby people would be obliged to declare everything they own to the authorities. The newspaper acknowledges that many people in the post communist Czech Republic obtained property by dubious means, verging on illegality, or even through downright theft.

Even if tough new regulations were introduced, this property would never be declared anyway, HOSPODARSKE NOVINY writes, and arrives at the conclusion that property declarations as a means of patching holes in the state budget could never work. The only thing the survey shows, the paper reckons, is that most Czechs envy their wealthier fellow citizens.

ZEMSKE NOVINY criticizes a planned reform of local government which was originally supposed to bring the authorities closer to the citizens, but in many cases the result is likely to be the exact opposite. People should prepare for long journeys and long queues, ZEMSKE NOVINY warns its readers.

While in one town, the offices will have to serve not only the towns' current 50,000 inhabitants, but an extra 60,000 from other municipalities in the region, elsewhere, village mayors complain about being placed in an administrative district where they are far from the local capital. The result of the interior ministry's effort is a costly but unusable proposal, ZEMSKE NOVINY concludes bitterly.

And finally, MLADA FRONTA DNES alleges that the Czech Foreign Ministry has been letting a private company do business in Moscow at the ministry's expense. According to contracts available to MLADA FRONTA DNES, the ministry rents a lucrative building in the center of the Russian capital to a Czech hotel company way below market price, depriving the state coffers of a large amount of money.

The company is not registered in Russia, uses the Czech embassy's bank account, does not pay taxes, and enjoys diplomatic benefits, including buying duty-free and tax-free products. The paper notes that the foreign minister himself ignored all warnings that such a deal could collide with both Czech and international law. MLADA FRONTA DNES says that it showed the contracts to lawyers, who could hardly believe their eyes.