05-03-2004

All Czech dailies carry photos of Czech President Vaclav Klaus and European Commission President Romano Prodi who met yesterday in Brussels to discuss issues of European Union enlargement and the future of its financing.

Vaclav Klaus and Romano Prodi, photo: CTKVaclav Klaus and Romano Prodi, photo: CTK All Czech papers today also discuss the latest crisis in the governing three-party coalition. Mlada Fronta Dnes writes that the leaders of the junior coalition Freedom Union met on Thursday to try and resolve the crisis following the resignation from their midst of MP Tomas Vrbik. Mr Vrbik's resignation has called into question the coalition's wafer-thin 101-seat majority in parliament. "The work of the coalition government is not under threat," Freedom Union leader Petr Mares is quoted as saying, adding "no, I'm not nervous."

Mr Vrbik claims he has no intention of bringing down the coalition government, but adds that from now on he will vote according to his conscience. "In the narrow sense of the word I can no longer be considered a coalition deputy," he told Mlada Fronta Dnes, words which must send chills down the spine of Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla.

Also on the front page of Mlada Fronta Dnes, predictions of a looming battle within the cabinet over the legalisation of drugs. Petr Mares wants to submit a bill to parliament calling for narcotic substances to be differentiated between hard and soft drugs. He also wants the punishments for drug possession to reflect the damage caused by the drugs in question.

But as Mlada Fronta Dnes, Mr Mares's proposals come just days after his coalition partners - the Christian Democrats - unveiled their own plans for new drugs legislation. And those plans are almost completely opposite to those put forward by Mr Mares, says the paper: the Christian Democrats want tougher sentences for anyone found in possession of any illegal drugs, regardless of whether they're soft or hard. Mr Spidla's government faces another decisive battle, says the paper.

Lidove Noviny writes that yet another Czech Airlines aircraft had to be grounded due to a technical fault. The airplane with 180 passengers on board took off from New York on Wednesday afternoon but the pilot decided to return to the airport after only 45 minutes after he discovered a technical fault. Mechanics at the JFK airport fixed the problem but as the plane was about to take off, the difficulties reappeared.

Lidove Noviny writes that the flight was postponed and Czech Airlines had to arrange accommodation for its passengers and had to place them on different flights. According to the daily it was the sixth time this year that a Czech Airlines flight has been delayed or cancelled due to a technical fault on the aircraft.

Pravo reports on a gruesome murder story. After three months, police in the South Moravian region have finished the investigation of a brutal murder and robbery. Last December, two men killed a 22-year old security guard and stole almost 25 million crowns. The main perpetrator was a 29-year old colleague of the victim. He shot his friend in the head from a close distance after spraying tear gas into his eyes.

Pravo writes that with the help of an accomplice, he undressed the body and threw it into a septic tank and then burned the victim's clothes. According to the paper nine people altogether were involved in the case. They either knew about it or helped the two men carry out the crime or remove evidence. The two main perpetrators face 12 to 15 years in prison or a life sentence, reserved for exceptionally brutal crimes.

05-03-2004