Press Review

There are plenty of interesting stories in the papers today but the lead headline in Lidove noviny is an instant attention grabber. "RFE threatens to leave the Czech Republic" it says. The ongoing controversy between the Czech government and RFE's management over whether the US funded station should be moved to a safer location away from the city centre is out in the open, says Lidove noviny, and the two sides appear to be doing more communicating via the media than behind closed doors.

Lidove noviny has urged both sides to sit down and find an acceptable compromise. If the Prime Minister did not communicate with the station via the media, it might be easier for Radio Free Europe to show greater flexibility and admit that security has become a serious problem, says Jaroslav Plesl in his front page editorial column . Meanwhile, Martin Komarek of Mlada fronta Dnes has taken a far tougher line, slamming the Czech government for cowardice and suggesting that if it wants to hide Radio Free Europe in a bunker it might as well be re- named to Radio Cowardice.

The formal resignation of trade and industry minister Miroslav Gregr over delays at the controversial Temelin nuclear power plant and its prompt rejection by the Prime Minister is widely regarded as a piece of pre-election theatrics. In place of criticism the minister received a pat on the back, says Pravo. Mlada fronta Dnes notes that this kind of political farce has become an indelible part of Czech politics. The public knows the rules of this game as well as the key players and frankly people would have been more surprised to see the Industry Minister accept responsibility for his failings and walk away with some shreds of dignity, the paper notes.

Meanwhile, Lidove noviny has given a new angle to the continuing controversy over whether the future head of state should be elected in a direct vote. It zeroes in on the candidates who are considered suitable successors to President Havel and has arrived at the conclusion that the Czech Republic might well follow the example of Poland and Slovakia in electing a president with a communist past. None of the decisive political forces in the country consider membership in the former communist party to be a serious drawback, the paper notes.

The leader of the right wing Civic Democratic Party Vaclav Klaus never lacks publicity and once again he finds himself at the centre of controversy. His face on a billboard promoting a certain manufacturer of sports gear has evoked heated protests from rival politicians. Although various lawyers consulted are of the opinion that Mr. Klaus has not violated the conflict of interests law they admit that he is on very thin ice from an ethical point of view.

Meanwhile, Vaclav Klaus, who never passes up a chance to boast about his sporting prowess, says he can't understand what the fuss is all about. In a tongue in cheek statement he thanked the media for handing him so much free publicity before the elections.

Vaclav Klaus is perfect in every gesture , says Jiri Franek in today's Pravo. But he is particularly good at portraying amazed innocence and wonder. He expresses amazement frequently and most of the time it is wonder over being misunderstood or misinterpreted. He truly cannot understand why anyone should mind his appearing on a billboard selling sports gear. At first members of his party appeared taken aback and looked rather uncomfortable over the goof, but soon they caught on to the invincible Klaus spirit and are now wearing the same brazen smiles and the same expression of bewilderment. That's Czech politics for you, says Franek.

And finally, Lidove noviny reports that the ministry for regional development is preparing a new stricter system of classification for Czech restaurants and hotels. At present many of them boast three to five stars without offering the kind of services which clients are used to elsewhere. Many stand to lose a star or two and under the new regulation and they could face very high fines for failing to meet the set standard at any given time.