12-12-2003

Romano Prodi (left) and Silvio Berlusconi, photo: CTKRomano Prodi (left) and Silvio Berlusconi, photo: CTK The first pardons granted by President Vaclav Klaus, the crucial summit on the EU constitution in Brussels and last minute US efforts to influence the outcome of a tender which is to help the Czech government decide on the lease of a fleet of modern fighter jets for the Czech Air Force : those are the main stories on today's front pages.

Washington's suggestion that the individual countries which took part in the tender should be given a chance to revise their offers has not gone down at all well. Nor has US ambassador Craig Stapleton's warning that if Sweden walks off with this lucrative contract Czech-American relations will suffer -both at the political and military level.

The United States has done a great deal for Europe at various times in history, Pravo says. And yet America must ask itself why it is so unpopular on the Old Continent. Ambassador Stapleton's style of lobbying may be one possible answer to this question, the daily says.

Tension from the outset - is how Lidove Noviny describes the EU summit which opens in Brussels today. And readers don't need to look far for the cause - the paper sports a huge snapshot of Polish President Kwasniewski, Chancellor Schroeder and Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer beneath the heading: Poland threatens to veto the proposed EU constitution.

Hospodarske Noviny notes that if the heads of government fail to find common ground in Brussles this weekend it may be time to consider a new decision making mechanism. It is possible that representatives of the national parliaments could be of assistance, the paper says. Because whatever is agreed on in Brussels will have to be approved by the parliaments of individual member states.

Who are the people whom President Klaus chose to pardon? That question has evoked a great deal of speculation ever since news of the presidential pardons hit the headlines. The President made it clear from the outset that any pardons he granted would be exceptional and well deserved, which is all very well, says Pravo. But nobody expected him to keep them secret.

The paper has been quick to remind the head of state that in the course of his election campaign Mr. Klaus expressed the view that the public had a right to hear why someone had been pardoned by the President. Well, Mr. President we would like to check it out, the paper says. Lidove Noviny agrees, noting that Mr. Klaus is doing more harm than good by keeping this secret. If people don't know, they will imagine the worst, the paper says.

And finally Mlada Fronta Dnes warns readers about the growing number of pickpockets in the Christmas rush. Be careful of your personal belongings, the paper says and gives a list of helpful tips on what to do and what to avoid. The police only catch four pickpockets out of a hundred, so once your money is gone it is gone for good, the paper says.

12-12-2003