25-02-2004

Wednesday's papers are dominated by the alarming situation in Eastern Slovakia, where the government has decided to deploy troops to help put down a wave of looting and rioting by members of the country's large Roma minority. The story features on all the front pages, with several papers carrying large colour photos of the unrest.

Roma in Slovakia, photo: CTKRoma in Slovakia, photo: CTK Roma leader Ivan Vesely writes in Lidove Noviny that Eastern Slovakia is hotting up to such an extent that it could be a country in the heart of Latin America. In an editorial headline "Looting in Slovakia - or what happens when perestroika forgets about the poor", he says there's a need to look at the Slovak unrest in a wider context.

Ivan Vesely writes that President Schuster was right to criticise the government's spending cuts as being almost totally uncoordinated, adding that the result of that lack of co-ordination was now being seen on the streets of East Slovakia. And Slovak Roma are only stealing the things they're preventing from earning from honest work, says Ivan Vesely in Lidove Noviny.

Police action against Roma, photo: CTKPolice action against Roma, photo: CTK Elsewhere in Lidove Noviny, Milos Kuzvart, the man whose last-minute decision not to become the Czech Republic's first European Commissioner led to Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla's collapse on Friday, says he was torpedoed by the man who is to replace him in Brussels - Pavel Telicka. Mr Kuzvart says Mr Telicka did everything in his power to ensure he would come a cropper in the Commission. Mlada Fronta Dnes meanwhile writes how independent MP Petr Kott - famed for his drunkenness on the floor of the lower house - is in trouble again after it emerged that one of his colleagues voted instead of him after he was led out of the chamber drunk. Mr Kott himself says he wasn't in the house at the time of the vote, on VAT reforms. "I think I was somewhere else," the MP tells the paper.

And Pravo reports today that two extortionists who told police they would poison water in the Liberec and Jablonec area were two children aged seven and nine. A police spokesman said the children's antics resulted in police, firemen and water board employees being forced to increase security around waterworks. Police are now deciding how to proceed.

25-02-2004