11-12-2002

All the Czech newspapers today carry reports from Brussels, where the European Union's 15 foreign ministers are discussing the final agreements in accession talks with 10 EU candidates expected to join the Union in spring 2004. All the papers say the message from Brussels for the Czech Republic is still unclear, as no final decision has yet been made on the EU's financial contributions to the newcomers.

In this regard, the business daily HOSPODARSKE NOVINY writes that many domestic food and beverage producers are trying to fight to have their products labeled with the name of the country and place of origin, in order to prevent fakes entering the common market. It concerns some 50 names, most of them beer brands.

The most famous example is Budejovicke pivo, the beer produced in the city of Ceske Budejovice, which has for years been at war over the brand name with the American firm Anheuser Busch, which makes Budweiser. But the issue does not only concern beer; other famous Czech products such as the Olomouc smelly cheese and Pardubice gingerbread are also seeking protection.

"All 250 soldiers from the Czech chemical unit will stay in Kuwait" reads a headline in today's PRAVO in reaction to speculation that Czech chemical specialists will have to be withdrawn because of a lack of money. PRAVO reports on the Czech Defence Ministry's resolution to keep the unit in Kuwait, especially when a war with Iraq is still possible.

An unnamed source from the ministry tells the paper that the allies - especially the United States - are including the Czech anti-chemical unit in their plans, because the Czechs are real specialists in this field. And in the event of an armed attack against Iraq it is likely that chemical and bacteriological weapons could be used by Baghdad, concludes the paper.

LIDOVE NOVINY reports on protests by environmentalists over the regulation, in force since August, under which cut bread and filled bakery products must be sold wrapped. Although the sale of wrapped baked goods is more hygienic, it is at the same time far from environmentally friendly, greens say.

They are backed by officials from the Environment Ministry, who say that some sellers use non-recyclable covers made of polyethylene and other harmful materials. Also, there has been a higher demand for such packaging lately. Another solution could be over-the-counter sales, but many shop owners say they lack money to buy new counters for their shops, writes LIDOVE NOVINY.

And finally, ombudsman and possible presidential candidate Otakar Motejl has been accused of racism, reports MLADA FRONTA DNES. Several owners of apartment buildings have filed a lawsuit against him accusing him of racism for a remark he made about them. Mr. Motejl has been fighting against the de-regulation of rents, which would allow owners to raise rents as high as they like.

Mr. Motejl reportedly pointed to the fact that most of the owners, who have already increased rents under a recent ruling of the Constitutional Court, had 'non-Slavonic names'. Mr. Motejl defends himself saying his statement was taken out of context, but the Roma rights activist, lawyer Klara Samkova-Vesela, has described his words as 'xenophobia of the hardest calibre'.

11-12-2002