20-08-2001

Several of today's papers have front-page pictures of Czech troops on their arrival in Macedonia over the weekend, and most papers point out that the Czechs were the first NATO contingent to arrive in Skopje.

But if that's a reason for pride, LIDOVE NOVINY spoils the mood somewhat in its leading article. It writes that, by arriving first, the Czechs have offended their British colleagues. A NATO spokeswoman tells the paper that Britain's Defence Ministry and the British media had built up great expectations that British troops would be at the vanguard of the NATO operation. Instead, the paper comments with a hint of amusement, it was the Czechs who turned up first.

But if this was a diplomatic "faux pas", LIDOVE NOVINY adds that NATO has reason to be pleased with the Czech Republic. It quotes a NATO diplomat who praises the country for its active part in the operation, and contrasts this with the extremely cautious approach of the United States.

MLADA FRONTA DNES reports on a government decision making it much harder for parents to teach their children at home. Currently there are around 300 Czech children being taught by their parents, but from September parents will have to prove that their children have specific teaching needs - either because they are exceptionally gifted or have learning difficulties. Parents who teach at home are up in arms, describing the decision as proof that the Education Ministry fails to respect parents as partners.

And a separate opinion piece in the same paper also condemns the decision. International human rights agreements acknowledge parents' right to decide on their children's education and almost all European countries interpret this as including the right to educate one's children at home. The Czech Republic is an exception, and sees the initiative of parents as something that at best should be reluctantly tolerated by school authorities.

The Czech Republic seems to have problems with walls, writes today's LIDOVE NOVINY. First it was the controversial wall in Maticni Street in the town of Usti nad Labem that was built round a housing estate lived in by Romanies. Now the problem is with a wall that hasn't been built - this time at the Temelin nuclear power plant. According to the paper, the main reason for the latest protests by the German Environment Minister against the plant is because there should be a concrete wall to isolated the pipes connecting the main turbine with the steam generator. The fear is that if a crack were to appear in one of the pipes, it could lead to flooding that could affect other important circuits.

But the head of technical operations at Temelin defends the plant's design. He tells LIDOVE NOVINY that the plant has alternative safety devices that may not be consistent with German regulations but are fully compatible with United States standards.

The financial daily HOSPODARSKE NOVINY reckons that the weaker dollar should be good for the Czech economy. In the last month the dollar has weakened by no less than three Czech crowns, and the Euro has also been stronger. According to the paper this is good news, because the bulk of Czech exports focus on the European Union. Also the stronger crown will increase Czech consumer demand. A further advantage lies in imports calculated in dollars. These will become cheaper, lessening the pressure on inflation. But the article concludes that this also has a flipside in that exports calculated in dollars will be become more expensive and less competitive. But everything depends on how long the dollar will stay at current levels, writes HOSPODARSKE NOVINY.

And finally to an unusual world record that was broken over the weekend. PRAVO reports that no less than 212 people wearing wooden clogs took part in a celebration in the town of Volary. As they marched down the High Street, they broke the world simultaneous clog-walking record - a record that was already held by the people of the small South Bohemian town.

20-08-2001