Press Review

Continuing controversy over the activation of the Temelin nuclear power plant remains the number-one story for most Czech papers. "The Temelin reactor comes alive," reads a prominent headline in Mlada Fronta Dnes in reference to the start of the nuclear chain reaction which took place early Wednesday morning, despite fierce protests from Austria.

Although the papers report that according to the latest surveys between 60 and 70% of Czechs support the plant's activation, commentators note that the Czech government should have shown a little more humility in the process. Lidove Noviny says that not even the former communist leaders displayed such arrogance when launching the Czech Republic's first nuclear plant, at Dukovany. Watched by millions of viewers on national television as he launched Temelin, Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman resembled a proud monarch launching a battleship, the paper says. He would have done better to try and avoid this open confrontation with one of our neighbours.

The mid-air collision which claimed the lives of two elite air force pilots has also attracted considerable media attention. The papers carry several photos of the wreckage and eyewitness accounts by an elderly couple who live close by and rushed to the scene of the tragedy hoping that the pilots might have had time to eject. It could have been much worse, Miroslav Supita told Mlada Fronta Dnes. 100 metres back and they would have landed in the middle of the village , 200 metres in the other direction there's a huge ammunition dump.

Most of the papers carry a long list of accidents involving Czech military aircraft over the past decade. Since 1989 there have been 26 crashes, caused by either technical problems or pilot error. Lack of funds for training and maintenance have troubled the Czech Air Force for a long time and although the government is currently debating the purchase of new fighter jets, commentators says the air force is in a no-win situation. New planes will drain its budget to such an extent that there will be little money left for training.

It is a vicious circle, agrees Lidove Noviny, and many experienced pilots are leaving the force as a result. Commercial airlines offer greater safety and more money. Who can blame them? the paper asks.

Ceske Slovo reports that a Czech trade and business mission is on its way to Belgrade to discuss the possibilities now opening up for Czech firms in the reconstruction of Yugoslavia. The Czech Republic needs to re-establish itself on the Balkan market and the paper notes that for once our businesses have seized the opportunity. Our trade mission was one of the first to arrive in Belgrade, the paper reports. Czech firms are predominantly interested in helping to restore the country's communications network and power facilities.

And finally, on a lighter note, Zemske Noviny reports on an unusual form of immigration. Slovak brown bears are said to be crossing the border to settle in the Beskydy Mountains of eastern Moravia. After having had to put one Slovak newcomer into captivity because he'd developed an insatiable appetite for farm animals, environmentalists are monitoring four new bears in the region. Apparently brown bears have over-bred on the Slovak side of the Beskydy Mountains and the weaker are being pushed out. Environmentalists are happy to have it that way. Even four brown bears in the region is the highest number this century. They are in an area closed off to the public, and apparently there's room for one more. So if there's a Slovak brown bear wanting to make a new home in the Czech Republic, be our guest, the border's wide open.