Press Review

The Czech papers remind readers that the much-discussed nationwide census swings into motion this week - officials start distributing census questionnaires to households today to collect them again a week later.

All the papers also mention the visit of NATO Secretary General George Robertson to the Czech Republic, which has sparked fresh controversy among Czech politicians over the planned purchase of new supersonic aircraft for the Czech Air Force.

LIDOVE NOVINY writes that the senior opposition Civic Democrats and the ruling Social Democrats are at loggerheads over the purchase. Civic Democrat shadow Foreign Minister Jan Zahradil has accused the government of organising a public tender only to masquerade its intention to buy the aircraft from British Aerospace, which has been lobbying heavily with Sweden's Saab to promote their joint Grippen fighter.

Today's PRAVO writes that right-wing opposition parties are determined to scrap two key draft social laws proposed by Labour and Social Affairs Minister Vladimir Spidla: a law on the civil service and a law on social insurance companies.

These two pieces of legislation, writes PRAVO, are crucial for Mr Spidla's reputation as a successful minister, and as a likely successor to Social Democratic Party's chairman, Milos Zeman. However, in this case he is bound to suffer defeat.

In its lead story ZEMSKE NOVINY reports that the Prague Stock Exchange index PX-50 has slumped to an all-time low. The paper writes that this is a long-term development, and affects all stocks including blue chips.

The paper quotes analysts who attribute the situation to the fact that the Prague Stock Exchange fallen short of original expectations, and as a result Czech companies choose to opt for costly bank loans instead of raising capital for new share issues. At the same time, it has also failed to become an attractive alternative for depositing family savings.

MLADA FRONTA DNES compares the logo of the Czech commercial TV station Nova with that of a Canadian producer of toilet hand dryers of the same name. To the paper's great surprise, the logos are almost identical - blue lower-case characters with a red spiral letter "o".

While Nova hand dryers was established in 1983, TV Nova didn't come into existence until eleven years later. However unethical some may see the case, lawyers say there's nothing wrong with it, as no-one could possibly confuse the two products.

And finally, the business daily HOSPODARSKE NOVINY inform readers that most of the Czech Republic's small breweries are planning to increase prices by as much as ten percent before the summer. This is due to a record low harvest of hops and barley in 2000. The largest brewery group in the country, Pilsner Urquell, which controls 45 percent of the market, has not ruled out a price hike either.