17-04-2001

After the long Easter weekend, the papers report on the mixture of Christian and pagan celebrations which take place in this country. The tired face of Pope John Paul II looks out from many of today's front pages and commentators note that as usual he made a valiant attempt to overcome pain and fatigue.

Commentators express admiration for the Pope's strength of will, saying that despite the slurred speech and visible tremor, the Pope gave pilgrims what they had travelled so far for - faith, hope and determination to work for a better world.

At one point the Pope, who is known to establish an instant rapport with the crowd, jokingly waved them all home telling them it was far too cold to stand around listening to him. And later during the christening of a little girl his face lit up with his well-known smile. It's these little things that make John Paul II so well loved the world over, one commentator points out.

Back to politics now. LIDOVE NOVINY reports on a barter deal which the EU and the Czech Republic are currently debating. While Czechs would give up the "free movement of labour" prerogative of EU membership for five to seven years, EU citizens would not be able to buy land or property on Czech territory for approximately the same length of time. The arrangement goes against everything that the EU represents, but irrational fears on both sides are too strong, the daily notes.

On the domestic scene, HOSPODARSKE NOVINY notes that the new leader of the governing Social Democrats, Vladimir Spidla, has had to curb his "leftist" rhetoric since the party conference which voted him into the hot seat. Theory is fine, but reality is quite another matter, the paper notes. And if Vladimir Spidla wants to keep the Social Democrats in government after next year's elections then he will be forced to make a deal either with the Four Party Coalition or the Civic Democrats.

ZEMSKE NOVINY and SLOVO write that President Havel has recently been vetoing a great many laws. In fact it would seem that the number of those he vetoes is greater than the number of those he signs, Slovo notes. In the second half of his final term in office the President is more determined than ever to listen primarily to his own conscience, and that is how things should be, the paper says. Even though Parliament usually overturns his veto, this present attitude gives the President greater integrity - where he had previously made a compromise, signed a proposed law, and later criticised the same law in the media - now at least his opinion is clear from the outset.

And finally, on a lighter note, some town halls are introducing a regulation that is over and above the national "ethical codex" for civil servants. They have reportedly banned female employees from wearing short skirts and transparent blouses, allegedly because they might be offensive to clients.

Far from being offended, many men will be dejected, PRAVO says. Whatever will they do to shorten the long wait while their applications are processed?

17-04-2001