13-06-2003

Those of you allergic to the European Union will do well to avoid today's papers - the press is awash in a sea of blue and yellow, as editors queue up to outdo each other in impassioned pleas urging people to vote for EU accession. MLADA FRONTA DNES sums it up with a huge "YES" on its front page.

The paper even carries a special supplement called "Europeans" - featuring profiles of a famous personality from each of the 15 member countries. Author Guenter Grass represents Germany, fashion guru Yves St Laurent is there for France and racing driver Niki Lauda is Austria's most famous son.

All fair enough, but then things start to go downhill. The most illustrious Swede that MLADA FRONTA DNES could think of was Marie Fredriksson, lead singer of pop duo Roxette. Greece is represented by Athina Roussel. Who? I hear you ask - she's the granddaughter of Aristotle Onassis, of course. But the most bizarre choice must be the man chosen to represent Great Britain - Rowan Atkinson, or Mr Bean as he's known to most people in Europe.

If the years of accession negotiations can be compared to a marathon race, then surely the Czechs are in the final stretch. Prime Minister and long-distance runner Vladimir Spidla chose to stress that comparison on Thursday when he took part in a short fun-run on the outskirts of Prague.

As MLADA FRONTA DNES reports, he was joined in his endeavours by the European Commission's man in Prague, Ramiro Cibrian, as well as a secondary school student, who won the chance to run alongside the prime minister in a competition. Mr Spidla even signed an absence note excusing the student from school, writing "run with Prime Minister" as the reason. You couldn't make that one up I guess.

Moving on to other news, and LIDOVE NOVINY has more details of corruption allegations which first surfaced in Britain's Guardian newspaper on Thursday. The allegations surround a failed tender to supply the Czech Air Force with Gripen jet fighters. The deal, negotiated by the previous government of Milos Zeman, would have seen the British-Swedish consortium Saab-BAE Systems supply this country with up to 24 Gripens, at a cost of some 100 million pounds.

The Guardian claimed that several members of the opposition were approached by mysterious men in suits outside the Czech parliament, and offered large bribes if they voted in favour of the lucrative defence contract. They declined. The new government of Vladimir Spidla declared last autumn that the deal had effectively been shelved.

And finally those of you suffering in the sweltering heat will be pleased to hear that this weekend should see temperatures fall to an icy 28 degrees by Sunday, slipping further to 26 degrees by Monday. As PRAVO reports today, the recent heat wave has broken records across the country. On Thursday the thermometer at Prague's Klementinum measured 32.6 degrees Celsius - the warmest June the 12th since 1877.

13-06-2003