30-05-2003

There's just one story for the papers today: the surprise resignation - now withdrawn - of Jaroslav Tvrdik. His U-turn came too late for the dailies of course, and pictures of a glum-looking Mr Tvrdik are splashed across the front pages. The country's most widely read paper - the tabloid BLESK -- sums it all up with the words "Tvrdik Packs His Bags!" Except now he's unpacking them.

Away from the Tvrdik resignation story, and LIDOVE NOVINY looks at the final stage of the government's campaign to encourage people to vote in the upcoming EU referendum on June 13th and 14th. The final stage will be unveiled on Sunday, when billboard ads, posters and TV spots will appear, bearing a picture of a knot tied in an EU handkerchief. The ads will be accompanied by the words "Don't forget!"

"We're not telling people what to think, we're telling them to go and vote," the head of the campaign Jana Adamcova tells LIDOVE NOVINY. In the final days leading up to the referendum the ads will feature images of two of Prague's most famous landmarks - Charles Bridge and the Orloj clock - transformed into the blue and yellow of the EU flag.

But not everyone is succumbing to Euromania, says the paper. Jan Zahradil, deputy chairman of the opposition Civic Democrats, had a few sharp words for the visiting chairman of the European Parliament Pat Cox on Thursday. "There's no feeling of victory, I don't see crowds of people on the streets cheering for European integration," he said. The Civic Democrats believe the EU is fine as an economic union, but that's it, writes LIDOVE NOVINY. "Where people do business they don't go to war," Mr Zahradil says.

Staying on the subject of little gold stars - MLADA FRONTA DNES unveils the startling news that the number of stars you see on the front of Czech hotels have nothing to do with the hotel's quality. The paper says there is no legislation in this country covering the use of stars, and hotels can use as many as they want.

Many tourists have complained about the practice, says MLADA FRONTA DNES, and as a result the two largest hotel organisations are introducing new regulations from January next year. The new rules should ensure that a "four star hotel" is exactly that, says the paper.

And finally, on the subject of gold this time, HOSPODARSKE NOVINY tries to shed more light on the case of the mysterious Czech gold. In the first four months of this year the Czech Republic exported almost 1.3 tonnes of unrefined gold. The problem, writes the paper, is that the country has no gold mines. And neither is the Czech Republic importing huge amounts of raw gold and then re-exporting it: Czech companies imported just 16 kilos of gold between January and April, but exported almost a hundred times as much. So what's going on?

It was HOSPODARSKE NOVINY which first broke the story last year, and an official investigation set up shortly afterwards has yet to get to the bottom of the matter. The paper says inaccurate customs declarations could be responsible for part of the discrepancy, but more likely gold import-export firms are involved in some kind of tax fraud.

30-05-2003