Press Review

All the Czech newspapers today report on their front pages about president Havel's pardon for priest Vojtech Protivinsky, who was facing criminal charges for having urged his parishioners not to vote for the Communists before senate elections last autumn The papers also report on Wednesday's football match in the Champions' League between Sparta Prague and Real Madrid, saying Real won but Sparta put on an excellent performance.

On a different note, Lidove noviny writes that Czechs are bracing themselves for elections to the European parliament. The paper informs its readers that the cabinet has given the green light to a legal norm which is necessary for the Czech Republic's entry into the European Union.

Lidove noviny writes that Prime Minister Milos Zeman has presented the approval of the new legislation as another success scored by his government. "This cabinet has brought the country to the threshold of the European Union and the new law is further proof of that," Zeman was quoted as saying. After the elections to the European parliament due to be held in 2004, the Czech Republic will have 20 seats in this EU body, writes the paper.

And on a related note, Pravo devotes one whole page to Czech prostitutes, saying the European Union will consider them as entrepreneurs. According to Tuesday's decision of the European Court in Luxembourg, Czech prostitutes have the right to work in Amsterdam because their profession is in fact an independent private business, under article 45 of the Association Agreement between the EU and the candidate countries.

This came as a big surprise, comments the paper, because at home prostitution is not regulated by any law and Czech MPs and Senators seem to be pretending that something like prostitution simply does not exist in the Czech Republic. All attempts to force the prostitutes to pay taxes have been in vain, although in this country there are some 20,000 people making their living on prostitution, who earn around 10 billion crowns of untaxed profits a year, writes Pravo.

"The Freedom Union has been preparing a pamphlet against the cabinet," reads a headline in Mlada fronta Dnes. It writes that the opposition Freedom Union party has been preparing an attack on the cabinet in a way that has not yet been used in any pre-election campaign: a special team has been putting together a book featuring all the scandals involving the Social Democrat government.

Mlada fronta Dnes writes that the team has reportedly collected dozens of pages of all kinds of materials from 'non-public sources', and that the book will most likely be handed out during the Freedom Union's pre- election meetings with voters.

And finally, according to Prazske Slovo the Czech market is to be flooded by cheap rabbit meat from China soon. This might change the eating habits of the Czech people, writes the paper, because rabbit meat is currently relatively expensive and so not many families eat it, except for those in villages, who breed their own. Czech breeders produce over 13 million rabbits annually, but 90 percent of the rabbit-meat is sold to the European Union, where it is cheap, concludes Prazske Slovo.