23-02-2004

Friday's decision by Milos Kuzvart not to run for the post of European Commissioner, and Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla's sudden collapse on Friday morning, are the main stories in the dailies today. All the papers speculate who will be replace Kuzvart to become the country's representative in the European Commission, and come to the conclusion that Monday will see heated debate at a meeting of the ruling coalition parties, as it is unlikely they will agree on one person. Most dailies feature a photo of Prime Minister Spidla taking it easy on a walk with his wife Viktorie and his dog Max in Prague's Letna Park. The big international story is the unrest among the Roma community in Slovakia, and all the papers carry photos of Slovak Roma looting supermarkets and grocery stores during protests at planned cuts in social benefits.

It was not the honest worker but the black marketer who brought the Communists to power in February 1948, writes Mlada Fronta Dnes, referring to recently discovered documentation that suggests the Communist take-over was financed from illegal foreign exchange deals and the smuggling of spirits. The paper says that a thorough investigation by historians shows that the Communists, through Prague's National Bank, secretly acquired thirty million German marks for very low rates just before their victory in Czechoslovakia. The most lucrative transaction was organised by high communist functionaries who used the money to buy goods in Germany, smuggled them to Czechoslovakia, and had them sold on the black market, writes Mlada Fronta Dnes.

Pravo features an interview with Thomas Ryan, President of the US company Boeing. Boeing established a strategic partnership with the Czech aircraft manufacturer Aero Vodochody to help it gain lucrative contracts and an important place on the international market. However, Aero's lack of contracts leaves the Czech company heavily indebted and the Czech government hopes to come to an agreement with Boeing to have it leave Aero. Rejecting claims that Boeing had only gone into Aero in the first place to liquidate a competitor, Mr Ryan tells the paper that Boeing's main priority was always Aero's success. He says that his company is willing to leave the Czech manufacturer in a deal acceptable to all parties involved and will not demand high compensation as it would only harm Aero.

Jiri Ruml, photo: CTKJiri Ruml, photo: CTK Lidove Noviny devotes an entire page to commemorate Jiri Ruml, a respected journalist, former dissident, and politician, who died from cancer on Friday. A few years before the fall of Communism, Mr Ruml co-founded the samizdat paper Lidovky and it was thanks to Mr Ruml that Lidove Noviny was re-published after the Velvet Revolution. Two of his closest co-workers reflect on his life and works, describing him as a man dedicated to his work, who always kept his calm even in the most stressful situations.

The paper features two photographs - one of Mr Ruml and former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and another taken on October 28 2001, when he received the Order of Merit from then president Vaclav Havel. A caption underneath reads, "If someone was responsible for Czech journalism developing a backbone, it was him".

23-02-2004