All of today's papers cover the recent confirmation by the European Union that the Czech Republic is set to join the union within two years. At a summit on the weekend EU leaders named candidate countries most likely to join by 2004 but made it clear that the work was not over for candidate countries still have a lot to do to harmonise their countries economies and legal systems to qualify.
The EU leaders stated that if negotiations continue at the present rate Cyprus, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Slovenia could expect full membership within two years. Lidove noviny writes that Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman was of course thrilled. It quotes him saying that the Czechs were in second place during the negotiations and so, have the silver medal. The Czech Republic has closed 24 of the 31 policy areas, which candidates have to negotiate.
After years of relative calm former top communists are beginning to worry about court trials writes Mlada fronta Dnes. On Monday a case was due to begin against former communist Prime Minister Lubomir Strougal who stands accused of abuse of power. Strougal allegedly protected STB secret police officers from going to trial after brutal interrogations ended in three civilian deaths under 1965's communist government. If Strougal is found guilty he faces up to 10 years in prison.
Along with a front-page article about the Strougal case, Mlada fronta Dnes sports a full-page collection of photos of former top communists. Alongside the pictures are captions that read: Alojz Lorenc, former director of the secret police was given a 15 month suspended prison sentence, Miroslav tepan, head of the Communist party in 1990 was sentenced to 4 years in prison and former Minister of the Interior Jaromir Obzina's trial has been postponed until next year and the list goes on.
Lidove noviny also covers the Strougal trial and adds to it the Jaromir Obzina story. Mr. Obzina is the former Minister of the Interior who organised and headed project "Asanace". The project was meant to drive dissidents out of Communist Czechoslovakia by making their lives so difficult they would choose to leave. The trial was to start last week but some key witnesses did not turn up and so it has been postponed until next year.
Pravo announces that doctor's waiting rooms will soon be decorated with price lists. In a country where health care is free this is big news. As of January a patient will have the option to choose special treatment but there's a catch, they have to pay the difference. Now waiting rooms will have price lists in plain view to allow patients to mull over the thought of "special" care as they wait to see their doctors. But how are Czechs reacting to these new options, Pravo asks. Most of the respondents said if they had the extra money of course they would opt for the above standard care.
Prazske Slovo is full on into the Christmas spirit. They write that the sale of carp, the staple at almost every Czech Christmas table, has begun. Live fish have appeared in tubs around the country and the paper warns not to be blinded by the yummy dinner possibilities and watch out that you don't get ripped off. This year the fish are abundant and so there really is no need for competitive prices- they write that you shouldn't be paying more than 75 crowns (2 USD) per kilogram. Following the full page in Prazske Slovo on how to buy carp, comes another full page on how to kill, gut and cook it. Yum Yum.
Along with other Christmas articles Prazske Slovo writes about the thirteenth pay cheque. The idea of a thirteenth month's salary may seem odd to people in many countries but a lot of people in the Czech Republic receive it at this time of year. Indeed it serves as a kind of Christmas bonus. However, the custom is dying out, writes Prazske Slovo. Now just one third of Czech companies pay a thirteenth month's salary. Only people who work in the state sector can count on getting it, says the daily.