06-04-2001

The man whom journalists have dubbed "Mr Europe" has pride of place on most front pages today. The visit by the President of the European Commission Romano Prodi to Prague is a big event for the press at any time - more so when he brings bad news.

Mr Prodi had the unenviable task of telling Czechs that a transition period on the movement of labour, once the EU expands eastward, is a necessity, says LIDOVE NOVINY. He sugared the pill by adding that the decision could be reviewed after a two year period, and expressed his conviction that the EU would be ready to accept the first wave of applicants in the year 2004.

Columnist Jakub Vit notes that with an eye on next year's elections, Czech politicians have to make a point of expressing their discontent with the decision. However, there is no concealing the fact that concessions will have to be made, since the Czech Republic has more to gain from membership in the EU, than the EU has to gain from the Czech Republic's presence there, Vit says.

Milos Zeman is bowing out as leader of the Social Democrats - and, for the day, his tense relationship with the press has been forgotten. "One must give credit where it is due," says MLADA FRONTA DNES. "Few Czech politicians know when it is time to retire. There is no question that Milos Zeman deserves the bashing he gets. But a man willingly relinquishing power deserves applause".

The fact that the shadow cabinet of the Four Party Coalition is coming apart only a week after its painful entry into the world has surprised few commentators. Given the amount of controversy bubbling under the surface in the alliance, we can expect more of the same in coming days and weeks, says LIDOVE NOVINY.

The paper pokes fun of this power struggle where there is, in fact, no power to divide. "There is one possible solution," the paper says. "The coalition could set up shadow deputies and entire shadow ministries. Then there would be enough posts to go round and they could play their game of musical chairs without doing the country any harm."

And finally, ZEMSKE NOVINY is of the opinion that Czechs should learn to count their blessings. No matter what, Czechs will always find something to grumble about, the paper says in response to the outcome of a survey, according to which 8 out of ten Czechs described their living standards as "below average".

We are more pessimistic than other nations, says the head of the Liberal Institute, Miroslav Sevcik. One cannot judge one's circumstances on one's monthly income alone. And if we take into account property as an asset, then many of those "unhappy grumblers" would find that they were in fact millionaires.

06-04-2001