Press Review

Czech policeman bound for the international police force in Kosovo may have received special English lessons sponsored by the British Council, but now they've decided they don't want go to Kosovo after all, says Mlada Fronta Dnes on the front page today. Nine Czech policemen who received certificates in English from British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook on Wednesday, now say they don't want to go because they're not going to be paid enough.

Twenty policemen volunteered for the mission to Kosovo, but they failed the UN's English-language tests. The British government therefore offered to pay for an expensive language course. However, even after improving their English, only nine policeman passed all the UN tests, due to a lack of professional support from the Czech police, claims Mlada Fronta Dnes. The policemen say the money they should receive during their mission, 75 dollars per day, is pathetic. They point out that the Czech soldiers serving in Kosovo get much more. And so Mlada Fronta Dnes warns that unless something is done quickly, the Czech police participation in the UN mission to Kosovo could turn into an embarrassing fiasco for the Czech Republic.

Lidove Noviny reports on the story of a 38-year-old Czech kidnapper, shot dead in a raid by a special Greek commando unit. For thirteen hours he held hostage a Greek yacht carrying five Swiss tourists and a Greek captain. From Greece he tried to sail to the Moroccan city of Casablanca. He said he was supposed to carry out an important mission in Casablanca, but as Lidove Noviny writes, for most of the time the yacht was just cruising near a Greek port and the kidnapper didn't seem to care. According to conversations between the kidnapper and the coast guard, the man was a mercenary serving in Namibia. The Greek authorities together with Interpol will be investigating more on this case, says the paper.

In another commentary Lidove Noviny evaluates Mr Cook's trip to Central Europe. Britain has never been so popular among local politicians, and his support for East European countries striving to join the EU brought great relief to many. But even those who were happy to hear such words of support are careful with their joy. Because everyone knows, claims the paper, the British voice is sometimes so quiet that you can hardly hear it over the rest of the the European choir. The strongest tenors are German or French, comments today's Lidove Noviny. However, it is good to know that someone other than the Eastern European countries themselves is reminding the EU that they should keep their promises. And so this time it was Cook's English which sounded like sweet music to Czech ears, bringing such good news, concludes the paper.

The main topic in today's Pravo is the smuggling of rare animals into the Czech Republic. Czechs are asking for trouble, says the paper, since they are capable of smuggling absolutely anything, as long as they get enough money for it. The Ministry of Environment admits that the Czech Republic is well-known for its animal smuggling. According to the ministry there are people who actually specialise in trips to Madagascar or other exotic destinations. They buy the animals from the locals and then smuggle them back to the Czech Republic. They are usually successful five times out of six, says the paper. But then all they do is pay the fine and still make a profit. The problem is, says the paper, that smuggling of rare species of animals is not illegal in the Czech Republic. In the first six months of this year, Czech custom officers have uncovered 26 cases of smuggling rare species of animals, many of which usually don't survive the journey due to horrendous conditions.

And finally today, Pravo also features a photo of Pert Sykora and Patrik Elias, both players of the NHL New Jersey Devils, holding a big silver Stanley Cup. It's their turn to have the cup for a day, as members of the winning team this year, and so the Stanley Cup is here in the Czech Republic, for 24 hours at least.