23-11-2001

"Heads begin to roll in priest case" reads a headline in today's Lidove noviny. The paper says that just a day after the Czech President, Vaclav Havel, stopped proceedings against a priest who was charged with defamation of race, nation, and belief, the public prosecution service bore the consequences. Vojtech Protivinsky, a priest from the town of Rakvice in southern Moravia, had printed and distributed pamphlets urging parishioners not to vote for the Communist Party. Proceedings against Mr Protivinsky received a great deal of criticism and were halted upon President Havel's intervention.

But this will not be the end of it, the paper believes, pointing to the local public prosecutors on the case, who were strongly criticized for allowing it to go that far. Attorney general, Marie Benesova, went as far as suggesting that they be dismissed. One of them, Drahomira Cisarova, did not wait that long and resigned on Thursday. According to the paper, her head will not be the only one on the block.

Today's Pravo writes that more and more people are protesting at being forced to travel long distances in the freezing cold. The paper points out that despite the well-known fact that travelling on buses and trains without the necessary heating is hazardous to one's health there is no law which specifies where, when, and by how much the heating should be turned on. Bus drivers and train conductors therefore put on the heater according to their own needs, disregarding the needs of their passengers - most of the time including children and older citizens. As far as the Transport Ministry is concerned, it is calling for patience, as adding the necessary clause to the rules and regulations of public transport is a long and complicated process, the paper says.

Mlada fronta Dnes writes that the Senate, dominated by the opposition Four-Party Coalition has begun a battle against the lower house, dominated by the minority government Social Democrats and the main opposition Civic Democrats. The Senate, says the paper, accuses the lower house of having violated the constitution. In a session on Thursday, it refused to vote on a second amendment to the Commercial Code, submitted by the speaker of the lower house, Vaclav Klaus, saying that the fact that his institution had voted on it twice, was unconstitutional.

The cause of the dispute was a paragraph inserted in the amendment by the Four-Party Coalition which assured that not only the government but also individual share-holders profited from the privatisation of larger companies. This version of the amendment was approved in the lower house. Two weeks later, however - on the grounds that it was confusing and contained mistakes - the amendment reappeared before the lower house, this time without the paragraph, and was re-approved in its new form. The Four-Party Coalition called this an illegal procedure and said it failed to uphold parliamentary democracy. The Senate agreed and wanted the Speaker of the Lower House to submit the original amendment. The paper says that the case is expected to be presented to the President and may even be taken to the Constitutional Court.

And on a different note, Hospodarske noviny writes that Slovakia has rejected all efforts made by the Czech Republic to tighten conditions at the Czech-Slovak borders. After a meeting with the Czech Interior Minister, Stanislav Gross, the Slovak Interior Minister, Ivan Simko told the paper that Bratislava would not allow for the limitation of free movement of Czechs and Slovaks across the border just for the sake of fighting against illegal migration.

The paper says that Mr Gross, who was visibly taken by surprise by his Slovak counterpart's position - having been under pressure from the EU to tighten its border controls - has said that, although a concrete decision was not made, he could not rule out the possibility of Prague disregarding its border agreement and setting its own rules on its own side of the border. He suggested that Slovaks who want to stay in the country for longer than 90 days would only be able to do so with the permission of the Czech authorities.

23-11-2001