Press Review

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There are plenty of high-profile stories jostling for attention on today's front pages . The papers report on the humiliation which France's ultra-right presidential candidate Jean Marie Le Pen suffered at the hands of European Parliament deputies in Brussels. Mlada fronta Dnes carries a snapshot of the world's second space tourist - twenty nine year old Mark Shuttleworth from South Africa, who will board the Russian spaceship Sojuz for a week long trip for which he forked out 20 million US dollars.

There are plenty of high-profile stories jostling for attention on today's front pages . The papers report on the humiliation which France's ultra-right presidential candidate Jean Marie Le Pen suffered at the hands of European Parliament deputies in Brussels. Mlada fronta Dnes carries a snapshot of the world's second space tourist - twenty nine year old Mark Shuttleworth from South Africa, who will board the Russian spaceship Sojuz for a week long trip for which he forked out 20 million US dollars.

On the domestic scene the top stories are: the resolution pertaining to the Benes decrees, approved by the Lower House on Wednesday, and the departure of thirty Czech soldiers for Afghanistan where they are to begin preparations for setting up a field hospital. "The Czech MASH is off to war", says a headline in today's Pravo. The paper notes that with some ten experts already there and a team of thirty soldiers newly arrived it is high time for Parliament to decide where the money for this mission is going to come from .

Financing the Czech field hospital project is not the only headache the Czech Defense Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik has at the moment. All the papers report on the minister's disappointment with a vote in Parliament on Wednesday in which MP's rejected a package of proposed bills relating to the government's planned purchase of 24 Gripen fighter jets for the Czech Airforce.

This is very bad news for the Defense Minister, says Hospodarske noviny. He clearly failed to convince opposition deputies that the purchase of new fighter jets is a priority in the process of restructuring the Czech military and there isn't

much time for a second chance. Another vote on this package of bills before the June 15th general elections is unlikely and it seems that the carefully planned business deal with the British-Swedish consortium BAEsystems/SAAB may fall through. The paper notes that minister Tvrdik can at least console himself with the knowledge that the government's proposals were not swept off the table for good, merely returned to the respective Parliamentary committees for revision.

In today's editorial section of Mlada fronta Dnes Viliam Buchert assesses the qualities of the country's leading politicians - Prime Minister Milos Zeman and the leader of the opposition Civic Democrats and Speaker of Parliament, Vaclav Klaus. Both men have a gift for making provocative and nasty remarks both at home and abroad, Buchert notes. Neither is a good diplomat or team player and this is not doing the Czech Republic much good.

Once the country joins the EU, the CR will need to cultivate friends and allies -not make enemies - if it is to defend its interests within the complicated decision making mechanisms of the Union. Already, Hungary has established a good working relationship with Germany and Austria. Poland is also looking to Germany, for future support. Only the Czechs are squabbling with their neighbours left and right, says Buchert. It is high time to change tactics or we may find ourselves isolated within the EU, the author concludes.

And finally many of today's papers show hockey star Jaromir Jagr in fighting mood at a training session in preparation for the upcoming World Hockey Championships in Sweden, where - excepting the Olympic Games - he'll be playing for the Czech national team for the first time in eight years.