Press Review

In the wake of the forced administration and subsequent sale of one of the Czech Republic's largest banks, Investicni a Postovni Banka, or IPB, and the opposition Civic Democrats' cries of foul play, HOSPODARSKE NOVINY examines the connections between the world of finance and Czech politics. True power in the country is derived from access to financial resources, writes the financial daily, and although the central bank should act as a standard supervisory body, the intertwining of the political and banking worlds has made it into the prize catch of a political power play. Thus, when it supported the sale of IPB to the Belgian-owned Ceskoslovenska Obchodni Banka, or CSOB, it in essence shifted the flow between finance and politics onto another set of political tracks, transferring influence from one Vaclav - Klaus - whose Civic Democratic Party exercised influence through the IPB management, to another Vaclav - Havel - who favoured the sale to CSOB.

The role of banks in Czech politics remains unexamined, and it is thus necessary in this recent case to clear up not only the facts surrounding the sale of IPB but also the past links between its management and political parties, concludes the paper.

Is the recent arrival of Slovak citizens seeking asylum in the Czech Republic, their former "other half" and itself a country of origin for asylum-seekers, a paradox? asks the CESKE SLOVO daily. Only slightly, is the paper's answer. Focusing exclusively on Slovak asylum-seekers of Romani origin, SLOVO claims that the majority of both Czech and Slovak Roma leaving their countries are not fleeing persecution; they simply want to improve their standard of living. Their aim, says the paper, is to squeeze as much as they can from asylum subsidies, while still saving up their social benefit payments at home. With the clamp down on visa requirements and increasing immigration restrictions in Western countries, Slovak migrants have turned toward their Czech neighbour. Their numbers will only increase, says SLOVO, straining the Czech federal budget, despite the fact that most will not be granted asylum. The solution, suggests the paper, is to stop social support at home so that the asylum-seekers cannot continue collecting it while waiting for their applications to be processed abroad.

And on this, the last day of school for Czech elementary and secondary school students, LIDOVE NOVINY assesses the recent reforms of the Czech education system. Despite inadequate government spending and the still low wage of educators, the paper points out that the current Cabinet has increased teachers' wages by 17 percent and reduced their workload. Another positive development in LIDOVE NOVINY's eyes is that today 65 percent of 15-year-olds have the chance to study at academic secondary schools, compared to 45 percent eleven years ago. Universities have twice as many students as under the communist regime. Public debate on the education system, however, has been minimal, and it has only been the recent calls of the education minister, Eduard Zeman, for the abolishment of the 8-year academic secondary schools, which are seen by some as elitist, that have brought an unwarranted storm of criticism, concludes the paper.