Press Review

Most papers today note that OPEC's decision to increase production has failed to stem rising oil prices and demonstrations over the price of petrol are spreading throughout Western Europe. "Crisis!" predicts today's LIDOVE NOVINY, although it points out that in spite of rocketing fuel prices, Czech oil refineries need not fear crippling blockades--or not for the time being, anyway. But it predicts a chain reaction of company collapses and dramatic price rises throughout the country unless fuel prices begin to fall in the next few weeks. Smaller haulage firms and private farmers could be the first to feel the squeeze, a worried LIDOVE NOVINY concludes. CESKE SLOVO also believes that Czechs are not likely to stage protests against high fuel prices. Unlike the French, Britons and Germans, Czechs see little point in pressing Prime Minister Zeman's Social Democrat Cabinet because the government would not listen anyway. And, after all, decisions about oil prices are not made in this country but in the oil-rich emirates in the Arab world, the paper notes. MLADA FRONTA DNES looks at the problem called "green diesel fuel", subsidised diesel for farmers whose trucks, combine harvesters and so on are supposed to work in the field and not pollute the air on roads. Green diesel, the paper points out, is Europe's shot in the arm for its farmers, who are not as efficient and competitive as their U.S. colleagues, where fuel prices are generally much lower than in Europe. Cheap fuel is the engine of economic prosperity, the paper says.

PRAVO is alarmed by the weakness of the Czech currency, the crown, against the dollar. On Monday, the dollar was selling for 41 crowns, 11 crowns more than a few months ago. The crown is of course tied to the euro, which the paper describes as a notoriously inefficient pseudo-currency right from its inception 20 months ago. On Monday, the paper points out, the euro plunged to a historic low: the equivalent of only 86 cents, and it currently buys a mere 90 Japanese yen. A weak crown means expensive petrol and thus also high prices of practically everything, with no improvement in sight, PRAVO laments.

Fifty years ago, communism stripped Czech and Slovak Roma of their horse-drawn wagons and the freedom to travel. ZEMSKE NOVINY says that now, 50 years later, the state is again taking something away from the Roma--special schools to which practically all Roma children were sent automatically, to be discriminated against from early childhood in a society which never quite believed in equal opportunities although it always preached the very opposite. Special schools automatically disqualified Roma children from normal life, but there was something to be said for all-Roma classes: they cultivated strong bonds among members of the Roma community. Understandably, Roma parents now have second thoughts about sending their children to normal, majority-dominated schools. They are afraid that in a more competitive environment, Roma kids will feel underprivileged, unhappy and indeed frustrated. This is the bitter legacy of forty years of communism. Unlike special schools, those horse-drawn carts and free lifestyle were never imposed on Roma people. They were things of their own choosing, concludes ZEMSKE NOVINY.