26-02-2004

Without question one of the most sobering headlines in today's dailies is that featured by Mlada Fronta Dnes which reads "MPs to send soldiers on most serious mission in 50 years - the hunt for Osama". Over a hundred special forces troops from the region of Prostejov will soon find themselves on the "front lines" in Afghanistan, helping to root-out remaining Taliban or Al-Qaeda fighters. Mlada Fronta Dnes quotes U.S. soldiers saying they are confident they are close to capturing the world's most wanted man Osama bin Laden.

Was it smooth sailing for the Czech government to push through the proposal? Well, not exactly - although support in the Chamber was strongly in favour 127 - 46 the coalition government, which holds just a one-vote majority in the Chamber of Deputies, needed support from the opposition Civic Democrats to agree on sending the troops. Some within the senior ruling Social Democratic Party, including Milos Titz, the deputy chairman of the defence committee find that scandalous, the daily writes. Because the coalition government enjoys only the slimmest of majorities in the Lower House, the mission wouldn't have passed if it hadn't been for the Civic Democrats' support.

Speaking of support, Thursday's Pravo reveals that yet another politician has experienced health problems in connection with the choosing of the Czech Republic's first European commissioner: last week Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla collapsed after learning that his first nominee for the post, Milos Kuzvart, had chosen to withdraw at the last minute. Now, Pravo and other papers report that the head of the Christian Democrats Miroslav Kalousek experienced his own share of ill-ease on Tuesday, over current choice Pavel Telicka.

Like the prime minister before him Mr Kalousek had to be treated briefly in hospital; however unlike the prime minister his blood pressure rose, rather than went down, over heated debate over who to nominate to the Euro commissioner post. The Christian Democrats had been pushing for Vlasta Stepova, the Czech Ambassador to the Council of Europe.

Roma people, photo: CTKRoma people, photo: CTK Staying with Pravo though their main story this day asks whether the Czech Republic could face an exodus of Roma from Slovakia, where social unrest by Roma has led to days of rioting and looting. The paper writes that fears have been growing up to as many 130, 000 out of 380, 000 Slovak Roma could get on the move. At least that is how some police and security experts see the situation. An expert from the Slovak interior ministry is quoted as saying that police measures, combined with low social support could inspire some Roma to move elsewhere.

The daily suggests that east Moravian cities like Ostrava could soon experience an influx. Meanwhile, Petr Mares of the Freedom Union, the government's deputy chairman on human rights and human resources, has met with Interior Minister Stanislav Gross and Social and Labour Affairs Minister Zdenek Skromach to prepare a prognosis on how the situation might develop. Petr Mares will also be meeting with Slovak deputy prime minister Pal Csaky on integration next week.

26-02-2004