04-11-2003

There's a mix of stories on today's front pages, from the launch of Krystof II - the second nationwide police crackdown on bad driving - to allegations of serious mismanagement of the entrance exams for one of the most prestigious academic bodies in the country: the law faculty of Charles University. LIDOVE NOVINY, meanwhile, features a front-page photo of Spanish heir to the throne Prince Filipe, showing off his bride-to-be, 31-year-old TV presenter Letizia Ortiz. And why that is of interest to anyone in the Czech Republic is beyond me...

Spanish princes aside, LIDOVE NOVINY leads with news that a computer at the Labour Ministry has chosen the first 75 lucky foreigners for a scheme aimed at halting the country's brain drain. Under the scheme, the 75 skilled professionals from Bulgaria, Croatia and Kazakhstan will be able to apply for permanent residence in the Czech Republic after two and a half years, as opposed to the normal waiting period of 10 years.

As LIDOVE NOVINY explains, the Czech authorities are desperate to replace the tide of Czech professionals - especially in computing, management and the health sector - leaving their homeland for better-paid jobs abroad. "We need fresh blood," says the man in charge of the programme, the ministry's Michal Meduna.

If the scheme is successful, says LIDOVE NOVINY, it will be widened to include skilled workers from other countries. But before you think of applying - you must speak fluent Czech, and you must already be working and living legally in the Czech Republic. Which possibly explains why only 88 people have applied so far.

Moving to PRAVO now, and news that a new public information film about driving safety will feature Transport Minister Milan Simonovsky himself in the driving seat. The paper shows the minister dressed in rally driver's gear, crash helmet tucked under his arm, standing in front of a souped-up Skoda Fabia during Monday's filming.

In the film, called "Your Car is a Weapon", Mr Simonovsky is shown skidding round a dusty field, before emerging from the car to warn drivers that such tricks should be left to professional rally drivers. "A car is a weapon, and should be only be in the hands of people who know how to use it," the minister tells PRAVO. "And that's something all road users should be aware of."

From the present transport minister to a former one now: PRAVO reports that the opposition Civic Democrats' campaign for next year's European Parliament elections will be co-ordinated by Martin Riman, former transport minister and committed Euro-sceptic. Mr Riman was one of two senior Civic Democrats who openly opposed EU membership in June's referendum.

MLADA FRONTA DNES features another public awareness campaign, this time about the perils of alcoholism. Parodoxically, the campaign is being launched by the country's alcohol producers and importers themselves. It sounds like a joke, writes the paper, but it's deadly serious: the drinks manufacturers have come to the conclusion that alcoholism is ruining the image of alcohol, and they've decided to do something about it.

Seven of the Czech Republic's largest alcohol producers, including the makers of Becherovka, Fernet Stock and Bozkov Rum, have formed a group called the "Czech Forum for the Responsible Consumption of Alcoholic Drinks". The Forum says it's primarily targeting drinking and driving and underage drinking. But why are they bothering? Simple, says MLADA FRONTA DNES - a bad image means falling profits.

04-11-2003