Press Review

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The controversial case of the IPB bank is taking on clearly political dimensions, most Czech dailies agree today. Libor Kubik joins me in the studio now with Tuesday's review of the Czech press.

Most national dailies today lead with reports and comment on yesterday's hearings in the lower house concerning the politically-sensitive case of the IPB bank, its hurried takeover by a rival bank last month, and the deployment of an antiterrorist police squad ostensibly to protect IPB's newly-appointed administrator. The house heard and considered a government report on the situation in the hapless bank but failed to decide whether a parliamentary commission of inquiry should be set up. Actually, as you've heard in the news, the commission was set up on Tuesday morning.

LIDOVE NOVINY notes that the finance minister, Pavel Mertlik, spent nearly two hours explaining with figures why the government and the central bank moved last month to seize IPB and sell it to its rival CSOB. Little did he know that the lower house doesn't care about facts and figures. Speaker Vaclav Klaus, chairman of the main-opposition Civic Democrats, indirectly accused both institutions of lying and inventing figures in order to obliterate all traces of what he described as a "bank robbery in broad daylight". So, where's the truth, the paper asks. Mr. Klaus, it points out, thinks he knows: it was journalists who, acting on orders from powerful financial groups, provoked a run on the bank, thus effectively destroying an essentially healthy IPB. In Hollywood, this would at best be a script for a TV movie. But in the Czech Republic, millions of gullible voters are ready to take Mr. Klaus's story for granted, concludes LIDOVE NOVINY.

ZEMSKE NOVINY warns that the Civic Democrats' calls for a parliamentary commission to investigate the case might easily backfire on Klaus's party. If this commission really dug deep, the Civic Democrats could be in for some nasty surprises. It could even uncover suspiciously close ties between the party and the top management of IPB. But then again, in this country, investigations usually reveal nothing and Klaus's people are banking on that, the paper notes.

In a flurry of activities aimed at promoting political correctness, the Ministry of Education intends to abolish special schools. But as LIDOVE NOVINY notes, the proposed change is little more than a name change. All schools defined today as special, auxiliary, or for handicapped children, are to be renamed 'elementary schools'. The paper quotes ministry official Marta Tepla as saying that the aim is to de-stigmatize children who may be either under-achievers or emotionally-challenged. Education Minister Eduard Zeman also hopes that this change will do away with the problem of Roma children automatically ending up in special schools even though most of them start life in normal schools. But, as the paper notes, some experts are rather sceptical about this largely cosmetic change. They argue that this alone will not eliminate the problem of segregation along ethnic lines. Unless there is a change in teachers' attitudes towards their pupils, Roma children will continue to be segregated in 'special' classes attached to elementary schools, Laura Laubeova from the Globea civic group told LIDOVE NOVINY. The paper points out that last week, the minister of education announced plans to gradually close academic high schools for talented children in order to weed out elitism from the Czech school system. Funny thing, the paper writes, Czechs become sensitive to elitism the minute somebody starts calling it segregation.

Indeed, it's foolish to attempt to weed out elitism from schools when elitism is so widespread in Czech society. Consider this idyll from the Czech social environment characterised by a rapid stratification with the emergence of new classes. MLADA FRONTA DNES's popular cartoonist Vladimir Rencin sketched three well-to-do gentlemen lounging in easy chairs and complaining: They invent all sorts of rubbish, like we Czechs are once again divided between us and them. I think those down there are getting above their station...

Author: Libor Kubík
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