21-08-2001

The anniversary of the 1968 Soviet-led Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia is a dominant topic in all of today's papers. LIDOVE NOVINY stuns readers with the revelation that the communist party leadership, led by Prague Spring hero Alexander Dubcek were informed about the invasion in advance.

The paper carries the minutes of an emergency late night meeting of the communist party leadership and the president at which those present drafted a public announcement. Preventing loss of lives appeared to be a top priority, though a number of those present requested that it be clearly stated that the invasion was a violation of the country's sovereignty and the Czechoslovak communist leadership was opposed to it . Historian Jaromir Navratil notes that on the night of August 21st, 1968, the Czechoslovak leadership found itself in a no win situation which it found difficult to handle.

The daily PRAVO writes that August 21st of 1991 is an even more important anniversary - the day of the collapse of the former Soviet Union. Asked to make a distinction between the Prague Spring and perestroika, Michal Gorbachov's closest associates said " twenty years". We now know that, whatever its aims at the time, the Czechoslovak communist leadership attempted to reform the irreformable, the paper says.

Coming back to the present day, LIDOVE NOVINY notes that the number of Czech Romanies seeking to gain asylum in Great Britain has once again increased and the old problem is back on the negotiating table. Since the presence of British immigration officials at Prague's Ruzyne Airport ended in fiasco, the Czech government has just two alternatives - either to convince Czech Roma not to flee the country in search of a better life or to accept a visa regime for all citizens.

MLADA FRONTA DNES says that there's a battle raging behind the scenes over next year's state budget. In spite of the fact that the governing Social Democrats are well on the way to doubling the planned deficit for this year, individual ministries are demanding a great deal more in the year to come.

We are talking about billions of crowns more for each sector, main opposition Civic Democratic Party leader Vaclav Klaus told the paper. The Civic Democrats, whose support is crucial for the minority Social Democrat government, said his party was not prepared to accept another staggering deficit or enter the new year without a set budget.

The Civic Democrat's threat to end the opposition agreement with the governing Social Democrats is not new - and the Four Party coalition which is the only possible alternative partner for talks has said this is no longer a game it is willing to play. We are not getting involved, the head of the Christian Democrats Cyril Svoboda told the paper. The Social and Civic Democrats are allies and while that situation lasts they can solve their own problems.

The papers all note that although transport minister Jaromir Schling survived a ten-hour blockade of his ministry on Monday, his position remains shaky. Unlike the Prime Minister Milos Zeman, who promised to meet with the protesters and discuss the laws which are making their lives difficult, Mr. Schling sent out a spokesperson to tell the crowd that the ministry had no intention of amending the given laws. In its coverage of the story HOSPODARSKE NOVINY made a point of stressing that the ministry's press spokesman refused to answer any of the daily's questions.

And finally, MLADA FRONTA DNES says that German firms have a growing influence of the Czech economy. Not only is Germany a major importer of Czech goods but it has considerable investments in Czech firms, second only to Holland.

On a related topic, on its regional page, the same daily notes that close to half of the West Bohemian Cheb region is being harvested by German firms. Although Czech law does not allow foreigners to buy land in this country it is easy to get around this legal hurdle by acquiring a Czech associate. As a result many German firms are reaping the benefits of high EU subsidies and the single market in combination with cheap labour and gas prices in the Czech Republic.

21-08-2001