Press Review

All Tuesday's papers lead with the Austrian anti-Temelin petition and abound in commentaries on the Czech-Austrian dispute over the power plant, Prime Minister Zeman's statements about Austrians and the verbal shoot-out between Mr Zeman and the Austrian Freedom Party's Joerg Haider.

The pre-election campaign has started in the Czech Republic and the opposition Four Party Coalition, at the moment consisting of three parties, is the topic of many commentaries in today's Czech dailies, too, as well as the efforts of the Czech central bank to weaken the Czech crown which many papers described as ineffective.

Referring back to Prime Minister Zeman's statements in the Austrian magazine Profil, Karel Steigerwald in the daily Mlada fronta Dnes writes that Mr Zeman is right when he says that a lot of Austrians welcomed Nazism and that Sudeten Germans chose Hitler's national socialism over Czech democracy. Under the Czechs they lived as an ethnic minority but also as free people. With Hitler they had no freedom, but war, crimes, expulsion and murders, the commentator writes.

However, the Corinthian governor and Austrian far-right Freedom Party official Joerg Haider is right too. A lot of Czechs helped to bring Russian communism to Europe and served it for forty years. Nowhere else in Europe did communism enjoy such support, Steigerwald writes in Mlada fronta Dnes.

And he continues that the two nations have nothing to reproach each other for. Their partial truths serve only as sticks. Such sticks were used by the followers of Hitler, Stalin, fascist patriots and other populists, Steigerwald writes and quotes the Talmud: "Where there's the truth, there's a war."

In Lidove noviny under the headline "Adolf Zeman" Teodor Marjanovic writes that even President Milosevic and President Tudjman, the two opponents on the Balkan battlefield and experts on xenophobic insults rarely fell so low as Mr Zeman. With his insults, according to the commentator, Prime Minister Zeman has ruined all the effort that was put into the Czech-German Declaration signed five years ago.

Back to Mlada fronta Dnes and Vladimir Kucera writes that the statement by Premier Milos Zeman that people who signed the anti-Temelin petition in Austria are idiots can be called another manifestation of bad manners. But the problem is deeper. Zeman only expressed in a concise way the approach of many Czech politicians towards grass-roots activities, Kucera writes.

For example Vaclav Klaus does not call people who ask inappropriate questions or sign petitions "idiots" but "pressure groups suppressing freedom." But he certainly has "idiots" in mind, Kucera writes in Mlada fronta Dnes.

Lidove noviny's Miroslav Korecky comments on the problems the Four Party Coalition is having now at the start of their election campaign. The relatively small Civic Democratic Alliance has not been able to settle its debts for years and is upset now when the Christian Democrats are trying to find a reasonable solution.

No wonder, for a party with an 80-year-old history and a large membership such as the Christian Democrats, it is too big a risk to be in a coalition with an indebted dwarf. If the Christian Democrats announced their departure from the coalition now, nobody would be surprised. But the party should have considered joining such a group thoroughly at the very beginning, Korecky writes.