24-08-2001

All the main papers today feature stories on the discovery of a second case of BSE, or mad cow disease, in the Czech Republic, and reactions to the Czech government's decision to allow British immigration officials to return to Prague's Ruzyne airport.

According to PRAVO, the latest case of BSE in the Czech Republic could have been caused by irregular feeding methods. The farmer who owned the cow, says the paper, bought his feed exclusively from one local producer. But the producer claims that for periods of six months at a time, the farmer did not purchase any animal feed from its stores. An investigation is underway to find out where the farmer acquired feed for his cows, and whether it could have contained imported animal products infected with BSE, the paper concludes.

MLADA FRONTA DNES reports on the plans of the Western Bohemian city of Sokolov to build a wall around a predominantly Roma housing estate. There have been numerous complaints in the town over graffiti and vandalism caused to the local cinema beside the estate, allegedly carried out for the most part by Roma children. The town council says that the wall will be tastefully done, and hopes that it will cut down on vandalism.

The paper quotes a local Roma representative as saying that the plan makes sense, as the town has the right to protect its property. Members of the local Roma community are apparently much more concerned over their housing situation, as non-paying tenants may be moved out of the estate to temporary housing.

But International Roma Union leader Emil Scuka tells MLADA FRONTA DNES that he intends to investigate the matter. The construction of a wall around a predominantly Roma housing estate in the Northern Bohemian town of Usti nad Labem two years ago led to a wave of international criticism, and it was torn down after only a few weeks.

ZEMSKE NOVINY carries a scathing article about the pricing policies of petrol distributors in the Czech Republic. Prices have been raised in the past due to a strong US dollar, but even though the dollar is weak, the paper says, Czech motorists are still having to pay far too much for their petrol. Some economists claim that a cartel may have been set up in the Czech Republic to keep prices artificially high.

ZEMSKE NOVINY quotes a spokesperson from Benzina, a local petrol distributor, as saying the reason that prices are so high is that the company provides a high level of services and high-quality fuel. But the director of the Liberal Institute, Miroslav Sevcik, is convinced that even with lower prices, petrol distributors would still be making a large profit. The paper also quotes a Czech living in Arkansas, who is astonished that the Czech people are willing to pay almost three times as much to run their cars as Americans, without a word of complaint.

LIDOVE NOVINY reports on the hostile reaction of most opposition parties to the government's decision to allow British immigration officials to return to Ruzyne airport. The officials were originally installed at the airport in July to try to reduce the number of Czechs seeking asylum in the UK. As the majority of asylum seekers are from the Czech Republic's Roma minority, Roma representatives and human rights groups have described the measures as racist and discriminatory.

The main opposition party, the centre-right Civic Democrats, and the centre-right Four Party Coalition, the paper continues, are deeply unhappy about the government's decision. Civic Democrat leader Vaclav Klaus has accused the government of giving way to outside pressures and of harming the interests of the Czech people by surrendering part of the Czech Republic's sovereignty. The Four Party Coalition says that the government has failed, and that the immigration controls are degrading. But Czech President Vaclav Havel and human rights commissioner Jan Jarab, concludes LIDOVE NOVINY, have accepted the measures as unavoidable, and the only alternative to the introduction of visa restrictions.

24-08-2001