Press Review

The war of words between the Czech Republic and Austria remains at the forefront of media attention. Following the rapid-fire exchange of insults over the past few days the papers have now adopted a conciliatory tone, urging what they call a return to more "neighbourly" bilateral relations.

Many commentators say the problem was blown out of proportion by the indiscretion and intolerance of two politicians - Jorg Haider in Austria and Milos Zeman in the Czech Republic. Now it will be up to the others to patch things up and return to a more reasonable dialogue, says Hospodarske noviny. The paper points out the vast majority of Austrians did not sign the anti-Temelin petition and that the Austrian People's Party as well as opposition politicians have said much in the Czech Republic's defense these past few days. "It is time for the Czech Republic to make its own contribution towards normalizing ties" the paper notes.

Mlada fronta Dnes has devoted two full pages to what it calls the Czech Prime Minister's political goofs, enumerating various public insults leveled by the Prime Minister at friends and foes alike over the past few years. "But, is it really just bad manners?" asks Lidove noviny. Both Jorg Haider' Freedom Party and Milos Zeman's Social Democrats have thrashed plenty of political capital from this incident. Many undecided Austrians ended up signing the Freedom Party's petition just because of what the Czech Prime Minister said, and many outraged Czechs are now defending the Social Democrat Prime Minister for having the guts to tell Haider a few home truths to his face.

Of course, the papers are full of vox pops about what ordinary Czechs think of Jorg Heider and Milos Zeman's controversial statements. Emotions are still high, but many people have sent funny quips such as " I wouldn't want to have children with either of them".

On the home scene, the fire at Telecom's telephone station in Vinohrady, a business and commerce district in which Czech Radio itself is located, has received plenty of attention. There were no losses of life but the material losses are enormous, says Vecernik Praha. Despite the valiant efforts of dozens of firefighters Telecom' s building is totally destroyed, now a black empty shell. 40,000 Telecom phone lines were down and the process of getting them re-connected is still underway as police investigate the cause of the fire.

Czechs who are addicted to the commercial TV station TV NOVA and Pilsner beer will have mixed feelings over Wednesday's edition of Pravo. As NOVA fans they have reason to cheer. The Czech Radio and TV Council has extended NOVA's broadcasting license by another 12 years. The bad news is that the price of Pilsner beer is about to go up by as much as a crown per pint. Well, you can't have everything...and if you can - be sure to get a Bianca Matragi original in the process. Her fashion show at Zofin last night is reported to have been a smashing success.

The problem is that the Czech born Lebanese based designer who sells to sheiks and princesses of the Arab world has made it so big only the super-rich can afford her prices. The papers recall- with some amusement- the start of her career in the Czech Republic, when as a young girl, she made a skirt for a budding Czech singer for the staggering sum of 50 crowns - that's under two dollars.