02-10-2003

President Vaclav Klaus(left) and Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla, photo: CTKPresident Vaclav Klaus(left) and Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla, photo: CTK The news that President Vaclav Klaus will not attend the intergovernmental EU Conference in Rome on the future of the EU constitution is splashed across most front pages. The President's views on EU integration -and the fact that they clash with those of the Czech government and most European statesmen is well known and many commentators appear to find the news of his absence in Rome a relief.

Whatever the President's reasons this is good news for the Czech delegation, says Pavel Masa in Lidove Noviny. The Czech team will need to put up a tough fight for its demands and internal discord would not give its words much weight, Masa says. The President's absence in Rome will certainly be a relief to the Czech Prime Minister, who will not have to smooth ruffled feathers over some of the President's "heretic" statements about the European Constitution, echoes Pavel Verner in Pravo.

On a different topic - Lidove Noviny reports that Prague too suffered a minor power outage on Wednesday. Strangely enough the power failure struck the Czech government -leaving the Prime Minister, several Cabinet ministers and a building full of assistants and secretaries completely in the dark for more than an hour. Even back-up power generators failed, the paper says and adds wryly that the blackout happened as President Klaus entered the government building - his first official visit there as head of state.

Mlada Fronta Dnes reports on the latest bizarre occurrence in Czech politics. The deputy who was too drunk to vote during a recent crucial Parliament session will not be thrown out on his ear in disgrace but may actually be courted by the governing coalition for which every vote is crucial. The opposition Civic Democratic Party who labelled their MP a drunkard, had hoped that he would give up his parliament post of his own accord - but Petr Kott has glimpsed the possibilities opening up to him, and he is determined to stay, the paper says .

Kott is refusing to leave Parliament, saying he will continue as an independent deputy if the Civic Democrats expel him from their ranks and hinting that he might be persuaded to vote with the coalition instead, according to Mlada Fronta Dnes. When one vote can tip the scales of power even a drunk can call the shots, the paper notes, adding that the Civic Democrats are now considering a milder form of punishment for their errant deputy.

And, finally all the papers carry dire warnings of an approaching flu epidemic - which could allegedly turn into be a pandemic this year. Mlada Fronta Dnes has a lengthy article on the matter urging people in high risk jobs, chronically ill and elderly people to get vaccinated in time.

02-10-2003