28-03-2002

Corruption features heavily on the front pages of today's dailies - Lidove noviny leads with news that police "agent provocateurs" are to be deployed to root out bribe-taking and other dishonest practices. And the papers also report that the British Prime Minister Tony Blair will be visiting the Czech Republic after all, following the cancellation several weeks ago of a trip planned for late March. The British prime minister will now visit Prague in early April.

Pravo says there's no doubt what will be top of the agenda during Mr Blair's visit - talks on the post-war Benes decrees, which oversaw the expulsion of around 2.5 ethnic Germans from Czechoslovakia after the Second World War. The deputy Prime Minister Pavel Rychetsky tells the paper that it's high time that Britain spoke up in the row over the decrees. It was Britain - along with allies France, Russia and the United States - which approved the post- war expulsion.

"We're facing a new pre-Munich atmosphere," says Mr Rychetsky, alluding to the 1938 Munich conference at which Czechoslovakia was carved up and ethnic German areas handed to Nazi Germany. "The countries which formed an alliance against Hitler are today keeping silent, ignoring calls for the results of the Second World War to be revised," he tells Pravo.

Meanwhile Mlada fronta Dnes claims today that the man formerly in charge of security at Prague Castle - the seat of the Czech President - was previously a member of the Communist secret police, the StB. The paper says Jaroslav Indruch, Castle Guard commander from 1990 until last year, was a former agent of military counter- intelligence, which fell under the jurisdiction of the StB.

Last year, says Mlada fronta Dnes, the Interior Ministry announced that more than 100 former StB agents had managed to obtain negative screening certificates following the 1989 overthrow of Communism, allowing them to hold senior official posts. Immediately after the announcement, Jaroslav Indruch - code-named "Dostoyevsky" - was relieved from his duties at the Castle. Indruch's work put him in close contact with President Vaclav Havel - who was harassed and followed by the StB before 1989. The paper says Indruch even attended a party for the president's 62nd birthday.

Egg on the face for the Education Ministry today, in a highly amusing story on the front page of Lidove noviny. Minister Eduard Zeman recently launched an education trade fair at Prague's Vystaviste exhibition grounds. Nothing wrong that, except for the fact that the ministry forgot about its own stand.

The sorry episode came to light as the Education Minister was walking down the aisles, inspecting the various displays. But when he got to a stand reading "Czech Ministry of Education, Sport and Physical Exercise," he saw it was completely bare. Not a smiling hostess, not a single leaflet in sight. The minister didn't stop, but walked stiffly on, reaching immediately for his mobile phone. The ministry, says Lidove noviny, claims it was all a simple mix-up, because the trade fair had given them two separate stands.

And finally back to Mlada fronta Dnes, and news that fans of the hockey club Sparta Prague rented their own tram on Wednesday, allowing them to get drunk and celebrate without annoying other passengers. The tram is pictured in the paper complete with revelling fans, and appears to be swaying dangerously...

28-03-2002