Press Review

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Does the ruling Social Democrat Party face a split, how healthy is Czech food, and the controversial Austrian politician Joerg Haider levels a curious accusation at the Austrian expansion commissioner. These are just some of the items in today's papers. Nick Carey has been flicking through them, and joins me now with today's Press Review.

According to today's edition of HOSPODARSKE NOVINY, the governing Social Democrat Party could split up over the scandal surrounding Operation Lead. This bizarrely named operation was uncovered in the spring, and was allegedly intended to discredit the deputy parliamentary speaker, Petra Buzkova, a Social Democrat whose popularity ratings amongst the general public have remained high over the past few years, while the Cabinet's ratings, and those of the prime minister have been much lower. Operation Lead apparently originated in the government offices, written by one of Prime Minister Milos Zeman's own advisors. There has been a significant delay in clearing up the affair, and this has created a great deal of dissatisfaction within the party's regional branches. Several of these branches have called for the matter to be discussed at an upcoming meeting of the party's leadership. This, say two political scientists quoted by HOSPODARSKE NOVINY, may well be the start of a long-term process that could lead to the party splitting up.

LIDOVE NOVINY today asks how healthy is the average Czech's diet. It's not, is the simple answer. Fatty meat, sauerkraut, or cabbage that has been deprived of all nutritional value, and at least six dumplings. This, says the paper is a typical Czech meal. And small wonder that the Czechs have a shorter life expectancy than many other countries. Czechs don't get enough fresh vegetables, fruit, or milk. They lack calcium and have a fixation for potatoes. True, the paper admits, the consumption of vegetable oil has increased, but most of it is used to deep fry potatoes. And the Czechs don't seem to be able to kick the habit of spreading animal fat on a piece of bread for a snack. There is no lack of healthy products available in the Czech Republic, so why not make use of them, LIDOVE NOVINY concludes.

Away from the culinary delights of lard sandwiches, MLADA FRONTA DNES today comments on recent comments made by the ever controversial Austrian politician, Joerg Haider. Mr Haider resigned as the leader of the far-right Freedom Party joined the Austrian government in February, but has remained a force to be reckoned with. He has now attacked the Austrian commissioner for EU expansion, Erhard Busek, saying that Busek is biased towards the Slavic candidate countries for EU accession, because of his Czech name and ancestors. Mr. Busek has dismissed Mr. Haider's comments out of hand, saying that the far-right politician obviously does not know how to look up a family tree properly.

And finally, ZEMSKE NOVINY has a piece of good news for the unemployed in the East Moravian town of Prostejov. Mother of three Eva Ovcackova lost her job about a year ago. This was a blow for her, says the paper, but she did not stay down for long. She decided to find a way out of the despair, depression and feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness that came with unemployment. Because throughout the communist era there was full employment in former Czechoslovakia, unemployment has hit many of the Czechs very hard. Mrs. Ovcackova applied for a job as a secretary and found that she was one of fifty or so despondent applicants, who all wanted to talk about their situation. It was then that she decided to form a club for the unemployed. With a grant from the government, the club has rented a few rooms in Prostejov, where people can talk about their problems. They now have a computer with Internet access, a creche, and hold lectures and language courses to help people find employment. Self-help is the best way, says Mrs. Ovcackova, as town officials just don't have time to provide support.