05-09-2003

Vladimir Spidla (left) and Gerhard Schroeder, photo: CTKVladimir Spidla (left) and Gerhard Schroeder, photo: CTK The smiling face of German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder features on the front pages of all of today's dailies, as Gerhard's plane touches down in Prague for a long-overdue visit. "Germans and Czechs are closer than ever before," writes Chancellor Schroeder in an exclusive interview for MLADA FRONTA DNES, his first ever for a Czech newspaper.

The German chancellor will spend precisely seven hours and fifty-five minutes in the Czech Republic, writes LIDOVE NOVINY, and every part of his trip has been meticulously planned down to the last second. Mr Schroeder will spend the morning meeting President Klaus and the heads of the two houses of parliament, but the most important part of the day will be a two-hour working lunch with Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla, at Prague's Hotel Intercontinental.

The preparations for Mr Schroeder's visit are so meticulous that LIDOVE NOVINY has even obtained a copy of the lunch menu. It reads as follows: home-made paté foix gras garnished with a berry coulis, chicken soup with pastry dumplings, smoked ham with cranberry and horseradish sauce, grilled venison steaks served with a pear puree and sautéed potato slices, and for dessert: cream-cheese dumplings with strawberries and sour cream. And all - writes LIDOVE NOVINY - washed down with the finest wines from South Moravia. One could be forgiven for thinking Helmut Kohl was coming for lunch, rather than Gerhard Schroeder...

Both MLADA FRONTA DNES and LIDOVE NOVINY carry news that former President Vaclav Havel is working on a new book. Mr Havel - a playwright and author before he took up residence at Prague Castle - is working on what he calls "something of a summing-up trilogy" with Polish commentator Adam Michnik and the British historian Timothy Garton Ash. He also has a few ideas for a new play, says MLADA FRONTA DNES.

PRAVO meanwhile writes that Mr Havel has at last decided to reveal how much money he receives for his old-age pension. The ex-president gets a modest 22,000 crowns - around 740 dollars - a month, says the paper, explaining that this is a standard sum calculated from his former presidential salary. Mr Havel said that "descending from the Castle" wasn't easy, although PRAVO reports he has little interest in a new law currently being discussed by parliament which would pay ex-presidents a set amount of money each month.

The Prague section of MLADA FRONTA DNES has details of plans to build either a metro or rail link to Ruzyne Airport. There have been plans for ten years to build a high-speed rail link connecting the airport with the centre of Prague, but they've never come to fruition, writes the paper. Now the Environment Ministry is lobbying heavily for the link to be put underground - i.e. extending the Prague metro instead of building a new rail link above ground.

And finally the country's most widely-read paper BLESK reports on the thousands of fake postage stamps currently circulating around the country. Make sure you closely examine your 6.40 Kc stamps, the ones which feature a picture of a yellow pansy, says BLESK. Policemen have been spending months gathering examples of the counterfeits, and have even recruited the services of stamp collectors to help identify them properly.

"We've managed to trace the stamps to one location," a police source tells BLESK, adding that the culprit faces several years in prison, for defrauding the state out of millions of crowns.

05-09-2003