Press Review

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One of the main items making headlines is the consensus reached by the Czech coalition government in preparing its state budget proposal for 2003 - all the papers report on negotiations involved within the coalition to settle on a proposed yearly deficit acceptable for all its MPs, especially Hana Marvanova, whose voice is crucial for a slim government majority in parliament. Under pressure by Ms Marvanova an initial deficit proposal of over 150 billion crowns, was renegotiated to a lower number of 111.3. Ms Marvanova has also stipulated written guarantees over the direction of future fiscal policy in return for her vote. These remain to be given.

One of the main items making headlines is the consensus reached by the Czech coalition government in preparing its state budget proposal for 2003 - all the papers report on negotiations involved within the coalition to settle on a proposed yearly deficit acceptable for all its MPs, especially Hana Marvanova, whose voice is crucial for a slim government majority in parliament. Under pressure by Ms Marvanova an initial deficit proposal of over 150 billion crowns, was renegotiated to a lower number of 111.3. Ms Marvanova has also stipulated written guarantees over the direction of future fiscal policy in return for her vote. These remain to be given.

LIDOVE NOVINY indicates that Ms Marvanova has consolidated her power so effectively within the government, that the cabinet can scarcely make a move without her: the paper says she has in effect become a second prime minister. Senior government partners, the Social Democrats, are apparently wary Ms Marvanova could otherwise spark a government crisis similar to the one last month when she helped vote down government tax reform. Now, says LIDOVE NOVINY, it remains to be seen whether the real prime minister, Vladimir Spidla, will fall in step with Ms Marvanova's political moves.

A cook, a computers expert, a teacher, a butcher - no, not the lead-in for a joke - but, surprisingly, some of the members taking part in elite paratrooper training in north Moravia, alongside Czech special forces, writes MLADA FRONTA DNES. The daily says it is most unusual that an expert commando team of forty civilians, including one in his fifties, be put together for such difficult training, but the army says the men are essential, and it is counting on them in real crisis situations.

MLADA FRONTA DNES describes two battle helicopters in action in north Moravia, with men parachuting into stinky swamps, wearing 25 kilogram loads. For many, perhaps, it would leave something to be desired. But, says one of the men in training: "My son was learning about patriotism in school which made me wonder what I was doing for my country. That's why I decided to sign up..."

Staying with the army theme the daily PRAVO writes that a Czech army unit returning from Kabul, Afghanistan has not returned alone, but with very unusual passengers worth half a million crowns - two little monkeys. PRAVO claims it is unclear whether the primates were transported legally or smuggled by a non-army passenger, although one military officer has said the monkeys' papers were in order, and that the animals' quarantine had all been pre-arranged.

Meanwhile, there have also been charges that illegally-held weapons were also found aboard the military plane, apparently souvenirs from Afghanistan. That charge has been denied by Defence Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik. The minister did admit, however, that three officers were punished for having their personal weapons in Kabul. The Defence Minister refused to comment the case of the monkeys, as the animals were transported by a civilian.

Turning now to today's HOSPODARSKE NOVINY the financial daily features an article on Czech Telecom and how the dominant fixed-line operator is planning to rethink its tarrifs on fixed-line telephone services here in the Czech Republic.

It is apparent that the company is under pressure from the Czech Republic's three mobile phone operators, which currently provide services for 8 million users in a country of just 10 million. As a result Czech Telecom has decided to lower the rates for local and long-distance calls. The paper quotes one analyst as saying "Telecom is finally beginning to understand the meaning of competition."

Finally, MLADA FRONTA DNES writes that the Czech owner of a small deceased Chihuahua named Ondra has decided to sue her veterinarian for a million crowns, or around 30, 000 US dollars. The animal had been the Guinness Book of World Records record holder for "Smallest Dog in the World", and was paralysed after it was given a medical shot by the vet, after which the animal had to be put down.

Ondra the Chihuaha was just fifteen centimetres high, weighing in at 850 grams. The owner says a million crowns would compensate the cost of lost advertising deals and photo shoots that had been set up for the little creature.