19-02-2004

Most, if not all of today's Czech dailies reflect on the meeting of the so-called "Big Three" - Tony Blair, Gerhard Schroeder, and Jacques Chirac - in Berlin, exercising an attempt to focus on needed changes in the EU, including the economic sphere. Mlada Fronta Dnes notes critical reaction from other EU countries and politicians like Italy's Silvio Berlesconi; Czech Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla is also quoted downplaying the risk of various power circles, though the prime minister does say European integration should not see countries integrate more rapidly while others remain on the margins. Mr Spidla made the comments on his visit to Berlin on Wednesday.

Jacques Chirac, Gerhard Schroeder and Tony Blair, photo: CTKJacques Chirac, Gerhard Schroeder and Tony Blair, photo: CTK Sober words from the prime minister and one man who might wish he was more sober himself is Czech MP Petr Kott, featured on the cover of Lidove Noviny being escorted from Parliament yesterday after allegedly getting drunk in a restaurant on the premises. It's the second time this MP and drink have mixed poorly for volatile results, and, writes the daily, the MP has conceded its time to get serious about his problem, or he'll give up his post. His choice of poison on Wednesday: slivovice, or plum brandy. Witnesses the tell the daily Mr Kott was so inebriated he repeatedly knocked his belongings including a mobile phone off the table, and was unable to articulate clearly.

Petr Kott, photo: CTKPetr Kott, photo: CTK Staying with Lidove Noviny the paper's top headline this Thursday notes on average Czech families have dug themselves quite heavily into debt; reading every single Czech owes an average of 23, 000 crowns. The results have been released by the Czech National Bank which says that altogether Czechs owe more than 235 billion crowns.

The bank has warned Czech families not to borrow money in the past, saying their ability to pay the money back could eventually grow worse. Just last year alone saw borrowers' debts grow by almost 57 billion crowns - the largest leap in the country's history. Czechs borrowed money to invest in furniture and homes, cars, and their vacations, the paper says.

Finally, Thursday's Pravo reports that Czech polar experts from the Faculty of Natural Sciences at Masaryk University in Brno have been putting together the facility for a Czech base in the Antarctic, that they say is already done. According to the paper a mountain of paperwork remains, including the necessity to prove the project will in no way harm Antarctica's ecosystem. Meanwhile, Czech scientists are already on site on James Ross Island and have been studying local flora and fauna.

The parts expected for the new base will be sent in the autumn, enough to put together a ten-building complex that should withstand the harsh weather conditions for twenty years, the daily says. The parts will be sent off in thirty cargo containers by boat first to Chile, before moving on to be assembled at their final destination.

19-02-2004