21-03-2002

The governing Social Democrats are not going to like what they see on the front page of today's Lidove noviny. Foreign investors in the Czech Republic are so dissatisfied with the level of corruption in this country that they are preparing to file an official complaint with the EU enlargement commissioner Gunter Verheugen, says the paper.

This is not criticism which the Social Democrats will be able to brush away easily, the paper says. The investors filing this complaint are behind an estimated 70% of all foreign investment in the Czech Republic. This is a definite death knell for one of the Social Democrats pet projects - the Clean Hands anti-corruption drive, says Lidove noviny.

Mlada fronta Dnes reports that the Czech Republic has definitely abandoned the idea of tabling a resolution condemning human rights abuse in Cuba at the UN Human Right Commission in Geneva. Although the Czech Republic has been very active in support of human rights in Cuba - partly thanks to its own communist past - and has tabled similar resolutions for three years in succession, the chances of it gaining approval this year are so slim that the foreign ministry has decided to change tactics, says Mlada fronta Dnes.

A foreign ministry official told the paper this did not mean that the human rights situation on the island had improved or that the Czech Republic was washing its hands of the matter. We are merely looking for an initiative which would gain greater international support, the official is quoted as saying. Mlada fronta Dnes says that Cuban dissidents are disappointed with the decision.

Away from politics, March 21st is the first day of spring and many of the papers carry snapshots of the annual pagan rites which take place at this time of year -such as the burning or drowning of Morana, a straw figuring meant to symbolize death and a subsequent celebration of new life, with eating, drinking and merry-making. While you are about it, says Pravo it would be a good idea to "celebrate life" by not risking it on the road.

The paper carries a lengthy report about Czechs being among Europe's worst drivers. The number of deaths on Czech roads is three times higher than that in Great Britain, for instance. What we need is more traffic police out on the road because no amount of new laws can make Czech drivers more careful or more considerate, says the paper.

Overtaking, speeding, alcohol and not stopping at red lights are the most frequent causes of accidents. Ignoring red lights has become a national sport, Pravo says, and an increasing amount of accidents are caused by drivers using their mobile telephones while driving, despite the fact that this practice is now banned by Czech law.

And finally, Lidove noviny reports that a British-Czech film crew has descended on the Moravian town of Olomouc and is transforming the city centre to resemble the streets of Moscow for the filming of Boris Pasternak's Dr. Zhivago. The locals are watching all this with avid interest, says the paper and an estimated 200 of them will make some extra cash by appearing in the Bolshevik revolution.

21-03-2002