Press Review

Yet another possible campaign within the ruling Social Democratic Party to discredit a leading party member, a new school year starts with decreasing numbers of pupils, and the failure to get more Czechs working part-time. All this and more features in the Czech papers today...

The main story in all the papers today is, not surprisingly, again about the controversial Temelin nuclear power plant in South Bohemia, with pictures of Austrians demonstrating against the plant and blocking border crossings into the Czech Republic in protest against the plant's upcoming opening. A great deal of space is also given to German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's statement on Sunday that Germany has no territorial claims on its neighbours.

Away from the main headlines, CESKE SLOVO today looks at problems within the ruling Social Democratic Party. The party has been rocked in recent months over the so-called Operation Olovo, or Operation Lead, which was meant to discredit deputy parliamentary speaker Petra Buzkova, and allegedly originated within government headquarters. The latest victim of such a campaign is Defence Minister Vladimir Vetchy. Mr. Vetchy is currently running for a seat in the Senate, and rumours are apparently circulating within the party that his reason for doing so is to avoid having to undergo security checks for NATO. Whether or not this is true, the paper asks why Mr. Vetchy would be the target of such a campaign. In the case of Petra Buzkova, her long-term popularity with Czech voters would be sufficient reason for someone else within the party to want to discredit her. There seems to be no such reason with Mr. Vetchy. The problem within the Social Democratic Party, says one MP, is that a great many new people have joined the party's inner ranks whose one and only priority is to build a successful political career. And to do so, they will remove anyone who stands in their way.

The new school year has begun, says PRAVO, but this year there is palpable difference. There are fewer pupils around, due to decreasing birth rates, and as a result, fewer schools. Many of the worst affected schools are in villages and small towns, where, despite the efforts of local councils to provide them with grants, they are being forced to close down. As birth rates are expected to continue to decrease, this is likely to continue.

MLADA FRONTA DNES today looks at the failure to introduce part-time work as a stopgap employment measure in the Czech Republic. The paper says that while this measure is often used throughout Europe to help reduce unemployment, it just doesn't work here. Not even in districts where every fifth person is unemployed, is there any interest in finding part-time work. While in the average EU country the number of people employed part-time is around 20 percent, the figure in the Czech Republic is significantly lower, at six percent. And this number keeps dropping. Why? the paper asks. The simple reason is that people don't want to work part-time for a part-time salary, and companies cannot be bothered with the costs and paperwork. And while part-time work can pay fairly well in the EU, in the Czech Republic the wages for such work are so low that it just isn't worth it. The costs for travel and food at work are such, the paper says, that it costs more than the salary part-time workers earn. One possible solution would be for the state to provide support for companies to employ people part-time. Another is to use the French method of shortening the working week for everyone, the results of which, the paper concludes, have so far been positive.