As the European Union's heads of state and government arrive at the French Riviera holiday resort of Nice to discuss crucial EU reform, members of the 12 candidate countries met in Brussels to review their progress over the past six months. ZEMSKE NOVINY believes the Czech Republic's record is not bad in comparison with the other EU membership hopefuls.
The paper notes there's been a general slowdown in the expansion process. Prague has debated five chapters of legislation since September, but none of them has been closed, even provisionally. Thirteen chapters have so far been ticked off, the same number as at the beginning of last summer. Once again, the paper notes, the candidate countries have been told by Brussels that whilst they themselves are responsible for their preparations, in the end it's the EU and its system of evaluation that calls the tune without paying the piper.
On to an even less palatable topic now. The Czech ambassador to Sofia, Ondrej Havlin, made a series of very undiplomatic remarks about his hosts, and was recalled to Prague 'for consultations' after a series of official complaints. That much is clear to anyone, notes LIDOVE NOVINY. But the Czech government's reaction, it writes, smacks of barely-concealed embarrassment.
Government spokesman Libor Roucek's latest communication with journalists was farcical at best, the paper says. At yesterday's press conference in Prague, Mr Roucek announced the government's decision to carry out a "personnel change at one of Prague's diplomatic missions abroad." But not even after repeated calls for him to be more specific, writes the paper, did Mr Roucek cave in. The name of Ambassador Ondrej Havlin was never mentioned.
MLADA FRONTA DNES notes that although the Czech Republic is now into the eleventh year of a system in which the state and the party are no longer one, some politicians evidently refuse to accept this simple fact. In his recent senatorial campaign, Social Democrat Foreign Minister Jan Kavan relied on the services of two state bureaucrats. Another unsuccessful candidate, Prime Minister Milos Zeman's chief aide Miroslav Slouf, accompanied the general manager of the state-run Czech Railways on an inspection tour in the district where he was running.
State officials routinely use government cars to visit political meetings of their parties. Strangely enough, the law does not prohibit such practices. But then again, who drafted such bills? Who else but these same state officials, MLADA FRONTA DNES complains.
PRAVO relates the story of Czech surgeon Karel Fortyn, the inventor of a promising method of treating malignant tumours. Forty years after the invention, the Health Ministry deemed it fit at long last to commission further research in this field and to clinically test Dr Fortyn's method. It involves tying up the tumour with surgical string, thereby cutting it off from the supply of blood and nutrients. The undernourished tissue dies out, triggering an immunity process which is believed to halt the growth of fresh tumours.
Thus far, Dr Fortyn has performed this type of surgery on 20 patients, the paper writes, and all of them are still alive today. His method has been tested on animals for 20 years. Most experts approached by PRAVO were convinced that the method works. Health Minister Bohumil Fiser also believes that the Fortyn method is practicable. But he said scientific verification of its effects will take at least another five years to complete.
And finally, MLADA FRONTA DNES reports that the Czech Defence Ministry is suing 88 senior army officers for millions of crowns in salaries paid to them during their studies at Western military academies and the time spent at NATO headquarters. The reason? The ministry admits that two of its clerks made mistakes in calculating these salaries. The irony of the case is that the culprits have only had their bonuses taken from them for these past two or three months.
In contrast, a retired army general who significantly contributed to his country's admission to NATO is supposed to return half a million crowns. The general said he would sue the Defence Ministry back. Lawyers told MLADA FRONTA DNES that the Defence Ministry would probably lose this case.