11-06-2003

EU related issues dominate the front pages: there are snapshots of former president Vaclav Havel at Tuesday's concert in support of EU accession; reports about the 2 million e-mails - sent out by mistake under the Prime Minister's name - urging Czechs to go to the polls; and an interview about EU membership with President Vaclav Klaus under the heading "It is a pity we couldn't enjoy our sovereignty for a while longer, but it is simply not possible".

Commentators mostly give the government's EU campaign the thumbs down and criticize the way in which the country's politicians have behaved with respect to the upcoming referendum. The Prime Minister makes a huge fuss about an e-mail which simply urges Czechs to go to the polls, while President Klaus holds back, preferring not to take a public stand one way or another. And then there is this ineffective government campaign sporting the EU flag with a knot at one end - to remind people to go to the polls, says Hospodarske noviny.

Well, it's not far off the mark, the paper notes. It rightly symbolizes the fact that Czech politicians are tying themselves in knots over the country's EU accession. Lidove noviny reports that the Communist Party is divided over the matter of EU accession - its younger members are in favour of joining the EU, the older ones are against it. At least the party's leadership has shown a civilized face by tolerating a difference of opinion on such a crucial matter, the paper says.

Away from EU matters, Pravo reports that a rail worker on Tuesday foiled a terrorist attempt to blow up rail tracks along a frequented line between Prague and Pardubice, a city east of Prague. Police diffused the device and a nationwide search is on for the culprit, Pravo says, noting that, had the fully functional bomb gone unnoticed, it would have caused a terrible tragedy.

President Vaclav Klaus has spent 100 days in office and Mlada fronta Dnes has devoted two whole pages to his performance. We have been treated to a three month-long well-orchestrated publicity campaign, says the paper. The President's every move is calculated to improve his image - and so far it seems to be working. As one commentator puts it: Vaclav Klaus knows what people want to hear, and that's what he tells them.

The Prague Castle Guard scandal spoils the picture, though, and as scandals do it has made front pages, overshadowing the 100-days in office reports. President Klaus has told the paper he is seriously concerned about the unit. It's record includes sexual abuse, bullying, porn photos and most recently blackmail of prostitutes. The paper notes that only radical action and "a change of guard" can restore the unit's credibility.

And, finally, on a lighter topic, the paper carries the results of a survey on what Czech children read - and how much time they devote to this activity. Top of the list are adventure books, books about nature, legends and storybooks. 54 per cent of children polled said they enjoy reading; 27 per cent of respondents said they hadn't read a single book in the past month; 21 per cent said they read daily; while 7 per cent spend several hours a day reading. Not surprisingly, the survey revealed that children who love reading had been read to from an early age.

11-06-2003