25-03-2004

Pravo reports today that Culture Minister Pavel Dostal could be the only member of the cabinet to accompany President Vaclav Klaus on his forthcoming trip to China. Mr Klaus is due to visit the country in mid-April, but neither Trade and Industry Minister Milan Urban nor Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda is likely to go with him. Mr Klaus, who wants to strengthen economic ties with China, disagrees with the two men on a number of issues, says Pravo.

Meanwhile there's a lively debate inside Pravo over a new law passed by the Senate this week requiring all journalists, radio and TV presenters working in the commercial media to use formal, grammatically correct Czech. One of the country's best-known actors, Zdenek Sverak, asks whether enshrining the Czech language in law is really the best way to protect it.

"I'm the last person who wouldn't want to preserve and cultivate our mother tongue," Zdenek Sverak writes in Pravo. "But trying to do this by passing laws strikes me as naïve and unnecessary", he says. "Presenters should - and must - use different forms of Czech for reading the news and telling a joke. Recounting an anecdote in formal Czech is the quickest way to kill it", says Sverak.

Mlada Fronta Dnes claims that Czechs have reached the upper limit of average life expectancy. The "Czech medical miracle" is drawing to an end, it says. For years after the fall of Communism life expectancy was rising steadily: now that rise is grinding to a halt. Czech women can expect to live on average to 78.5, Czech men to 72. No further increase is expected, says Mlada Fronta Dnes.

Also in Mlada Fronta Dnes - will the Czech Republic be inundated by "health tourists" after EU accession? High-quality medical care is available in this country at a knock-down price, says the paper, and if EU citizens can prove their insurance companies will pay for it, under EU rules there's nothing to stop them coming here to receive treatment.

Sazka arena, photo: CTKSazka arena, photo: CTK "We're slightly worried because our insurance companies refuse to pay us any more for the treatment we provide, so providing medical care to foreigners could be at the expense of Czech patients," a member of the Czech Medical Chamber tells Mlada Fronta Dnes. The health minister, Marie Souckova, says she is aware of the problem: EU health ministers will discuss the matter at a forthcoming meeting in Senohraby, just outside Prague.

And finally Lidove Noviny reports that Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla won't be invited to the official opening of the new Sazka ice-hockey arena in Prague. The director of Sazka, the country's largest bookmakers, says he sees no reason to invite Mr Spidla to the opening seeing as the government refused to supply guarantees for the project. The Prague arena will host the forthcoming ice-hockey championships along with the North Moravian city of Ostrava.

25-03-2004

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