19-01-2004

President Vaclav Klaus' visit at Milos Zeman's cottage, photo: CTKPresident Vaclav Klaus' visit at Milos Zeman's cottage, photo: CTK Perhaps no story draws more attention in today's Czech dailies than President Vaclav Klaus' visit at Milos Zeman's cottage in the Vysocina region. The two men - who are former political rivals of the highest calibre - both ran for the Czech presidency last year, a race Mr Klaus eventually won. Former prime minister Milos Zeman welcomed Mr Klaus at his cottage on Sunday with typical Czech fare - a selection of pork dishes from a zabijacka or recent pig slaughter. The two men spoke for about two-and-a-half hours - in the end saying they had just spoken as "regular guys" and not as politicians. Regular guys perhaps, but guys who still make pretty big waves in the Czech Republic: photos of their meeting made the covers of almost ever single paper.

Turning to another story MLADA FRONTA DNES question whether "she will put her money where her mouth is, meaning Health Minister Marie Souckova, who pledged over the weekend she would give up her post unless extensive healthcare reforms are approved by the government and passed in parliament later this month. According to the daily the till now heavily guarded 680-page document will be distributed among members of Parliament on Tuesday.

Still, many politicians and experts say Mrs Souckova has sealed her fate: saying that reforms, which are said to count on patients contributing financially for some health services may be approved by government but will have an impossible time in Parliament. It just may be that Mrs Souckova's gamble will not pay off.

Staying with MLADA FRONTA DNES for the moment the paper takes note of the weekend attack on Respekt editor-in-chief Tomas Nemecek, as a serious warning for Czech journalists. However, the daily urges all not to give in to fear. Mr Nemecek was attacked outside his home on Saturday by unknown assailants who used mace to render him helpless before kicking him repeatedly in the head.

MLADA FRONTA DNES reasons that while there is a possibility the attack was a chance occurrence it seems far more likely it was a response to an investigative report, such as a recent story investigating underworld gangs in Most that could have easily ruffled gang leaders' feathers. One can only hope, the paper suggests, the attack on Mr Nemecek will not be the start of a grim new trend.

In other news, the main story in Monday's LIDOVE NOVINY says Czechs may soon pay more for the processing of official documents: the daily writes that the Finance Ministry is proposing to make changes that would bring an additional 5 billion crowns to the state. The changes would come into effect in May.

If passed, the issuing of new documents such as passports, drivers' licences, and car registration, and so on could be raised as much as three-fold, obviously a significant increase. At the moment, a new passport costs just 100 crowns, but if the proposal goes through it will soon cost four times as much.

And finally, PRAVO writes that some 26 people braved the cold waters of a local river called the Tichavka in the town of Tiche in the Novojicin region on Sunday, apparently a local tradition. All the same, for the first time some 16 swimmers decided to go the "Full Monty" - that is, wearing nothing more than their birthday suits. The daily offers a photograph of three men clambering out of the chilly water and onto the banks, but let it suffice to say there's not all that much to see.

19-01-2004

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