The Czech-Austrian row over the Temelin nuclear power plant still occupies the front pages of all Czech dailies. Libor Kubik has read the morning papers and he joins me in the studio now with a review of Thursday's press.
Prague and Vienna are embroiled in an escalating diplomatic crisis, reads a front-page headline in today's LIDOVE NOVINY in the aftermath of Monday's launch of the Temelin nuclear power station and the continuing blockade of Czech border crossings by Austrian anti-nuclear protesters.
MLADA FRONTA DNES says the European Union shouldn't step in to mediate. The paper argues that even if the EU's bureaucratic machine is slowly set into motion at Prague's request, this will not help the hundreds of truck drivers stranded in customs bays since Monday. The paper suggests that the Czech government, instead of merely monitoring the situation, which it says is a humanitarian disaster waiting to happen, should actively seek financial compensation for the damage caused by the blockade. Surely, it wouldn't be difficult for Czech bureaucrats to compile a list of Vienna's violations of international agreements, says MLADA FRONTA DNES.
In contrast, HOSPODARSKE NOVINY thinks the government has a point when asking the EU to intervene. It isn't possible, it writes, to continue to tolerate the affront to human rights and the laws of international trade. But at the same time, Prague should exercise maximum restraint in dealing with Austria. It should refrain from empty gestures and avoid a counterproductive cross-border war of words.
And one more quote on Temelin, this time from PRAVO. The paper says anti-nuclear activists do have the right to express their views freely, but it's critical of the presence of schoolchildren on the picket lines. Equally embarrassing, it says, is the participation of Austria's local leaders in the protests, which are in flagrant violation of international conventions on transport.
Earlier this week, the Czech Air Force lost two experienced pilots and two of its obsolete, Soviet-era fighter planes. MLADA FRONTA DNES points out that the ageing MiG-21s, which form the backbone of the Air Force's supersonic first line of defence, are clearly incapable of meeting NATO's rigorous new standards. It's like making an old lady dance like a 20-year-old girl, experts say. Pilots from an elite unit designed to serve with NATO are in a similar situation, the paper notes. After many lean years when they seldom had the opportunity to fly, elite pilots today spend roughly as many hours in the air as their Allied colleagues--but this particular elite outfit has lost four of its aircraft in just one year of existence.
The Czech media mogul Vladimir Zelezny, general director of the commercial TV channel Nova, is on the right track to winning a licence to launch a nationwide television channel in Bulgaria, today's LIDOVE NOVINY reports. His commercial television project Europa TV is in the final round of Bulgaria's tender. If he wins, Mr Zelezny plans to invest almost 60 million dollars in the project. Of course, he won't be able to achieve that single-handedly, the paper writes, and that's why he has teamed up with associates from the firm MEF Holding. His domestic venture, TV Nova, is currently the most successful Czech television station, leaving behind both the public service Czech TV and two other private stations, Prima and TV3. Nova's programming is pretty commercial, based on thrillers and soft porn but it also holds the country's highest ratings for prime-time news broadcasts, the paper notes.
And finally, ZEMSKE NOVINY sadly reports that the runaway brown bear that was the scourge of the Vsetin region in Moravia, killing sheep and causing over 170,000 crowns of damage, has departed for the eternal hunting grounds. When the brawny but apparently not too brainy bear was finally apprehended and caught with the help of a tranquilliser dart, the three-year-old male was quarantined in a Zoo northwest of Prague. He must have been kept in captivity before, experts said then, because he had no fear of humans. Sadly, the furry fugitive somehow managed to break out of his cage on Wednesday, and climb onto the roof, wide-eyed with amazement at his new-found freedom. Then he hit the road, literally; he was seen trotting down the motorway. A shot from a tranquilliser gun failed to knock him unconscious, the paper says, and he was finally shot dead. He's now gone to the great forest in the sky, the paper sighs.