18-11-2003

Prague - the fourteenth anniversary of the Velvet Revolution, photo: CTKPrague - the fourteenth anniversary of the Velvet Revolution, photo: CTK The devastation wrought by the terrorist attacks in Istanbul, the fourteenth anniversary of the student protests which led to the fall of communism in the former Czechoslovakia and possible changes in the Czech government - those are the lead stories on today's front pages.

The war in Iraq and the fight against terrorism had never really left the front pages but the renewed intensity of the attacks and the fact that terrorists have now struck in Europe have fuelled fresh speculation regarding security. Mlada Fronta Dnes reports that only last Friday, the police in Brno arrested two men who were planning to sell three kilograms of radioactive material.

And in a shocking full page story the paper asks whether it is possible that a nuclear bomb was smuggled through the Czech Republic in the summer of this year. A police squad set up to fight organized crime claims to have serious indications of this. Special police units are reportedly investigating the claim.

The fact that fourteen years after the fall of communism the Communist Party is the second strongest party in the country has evoked plenty of comment. In Mlada Fronta Dnes President Vaclav Klaus claims that the incompetence of the governing Social Democrats is directly responsible for the communists' growing popularity.

In Pravo, Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla comes to a slightly different conclusion. The Social Democratic Party is indeed loosing supporters to the communists he says but rather than incompetence this is due to the painful fiscal reforms which the Cabinet has had to undertake. A leading Social Democrat parliament deputy has told Pravo that the party needs to improve communication with the public.

Vaclav Klaus and Miroslav Kalousek, photo: CTKVaclav Klaus and Miroslav Kalousek, photo: CTK The election of Miroslav Kalousek as party leader of the Christian Democratic Party and its possible implications for the Cabinet remains a hotly debated issue. Despite Mr. Kalousek's assurances that the party is happy with the work of its three ministers and no immediate changes are on the agenda, commentators predict that it is only a matter of time before the new party head is asked to come on board.

The Social Democrats - as the biggest party in the coalition - want Mr. Kalousek in Cabinet in order to prevent him rocking the boat from the outside, says Mlada Fronta Dnes. Lidove Noviny says a source close to the Prime Minister has confirmed much the same thing. In the interest of stability Mr. Kalousek will get a ministerial post, the unnamed source said. Mr Spidla himself is poker faced, telling the daily that he was keeping his options open and would take a few weeks to come to a decision.

And finally, on a different topic, Mlada Fronta Dnes questions the ethics of the Interior Ministry which allegedly informs foreign embassies in Prague about the presence of refuges and asylum seekers in the Czech Republic, despite the fact that such information may endanger both the refugees and their families at home.

The paper cites a case in which an asylum seeker from Iran was taken to a meeting with an Iranian embassy official without being told whom he was to meet. The repercussions for his family in Iran were unavoidable - police questioning and threats that his brother would be arrested, Mlada Fronta Dnes says. Even in this case the Czech Interior Ministry failed to admit its mistake, arguing that the meeting was necessary in order to confirm the man's identity since he had no documents.

The office of the UNHCR, whom the paper contacted, said there would be no sanctions, since it could not launch court proceedings alone - the refugees in question would have to take action themselves and none of them are in a position to do so.

18-11-2003