Press Review

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Monday's papers all feature a mix of top stories that have developed over the week-end. Most of them lead with the war of words between Austria and the Czech Republic, which heightened on Sunday with a call from Austrian President Thomas Klestil to Czech President Vaclav Havel. On the home front the papers concentrate on the disagreement within the Four-Party Coalition as well as a photo-fit of a man suspected of having held up a jewelery shop and shot two victims in the process, make the headlines.

Pravo's Zdenek Porybny supports the words of the Czech Prime Minister, Milos Zeman, who called the former leader of the Austrian Freedom Party a pro-Nazi populist and post-fascist politician. Porybny comments that the Austrian President Thomas Klestil chose to call his Czech counterpart Vaclav Havel - who is currently resting in the Canary Islands - instead of Mr Zeman himself because Havel would give him what he wanted to hear. Mr Zeman would have probably used the phone to club the Austrian President over the head.

Porybny goes on to say that Mr Zeman's remarks were just what Austria needed. The Austrians may have got used to Mr Haider's anti-foreigner and nationalistic rhetoric, he says, but that does not mean that the rest of the world has to. Accepting Haider and his party because it gets the support of thirty percent of the population is wrong as large public support does not take away the wrongness of nationalism and fear of other races. Mr Zeman may not have chosen the right time to make the remarks but the essence of his words are true. President Klestil would do better if, together with the Austrian citizens, he looked the truth about Haider in the eye.

Michal Mocek in Mlada fronta Dnes looks at Mr Zeman's words from a different angle. Instead of focusing on Mr Zeman labeling Haider as a post-fascist politician, he looks at the meaning of Zeman's reaction to Austria's petition against the Temelin nuclear power plant in South Bohemia. With Mr Zeman saying "only a person who is not informed - and I am avoiding the term idiot - can support such a petition, Mr Zeman indirectly called thousands of Austrians idiots, Mocek comments. He adds that the Czech Prime Minister had unnecessarily insulted people whose only 'fault' was to make their opinion noticed. Even if it is the wrong opinion, it does not justify insult.

Mocek adds that Zeman's words did more harm than good as the accusations are backfiring against the whole country. Mocek says that Zeman seems to want the number of Austrians signing the petition to rise in order to result in the break-up of Austria's ruling coalition. With that, the good old red-black government of the right-of-centre People Party and the left-of-centre Social Democrats would be restored, resembling the 'opposition agreement' which exists in the Czech Republic. Mocek concludes by saying that the behaviour of one of the Czech Republic's most senior politicians has made it easy for Austrians to believe that Czechs are rude, loutish and primitive.

Lidove noviny reports on the conflict within the Four-Party Coalition regarding disagreement over the settling of a debt that the Civic Democratic Party (ODA) has with the Ceska Pojistovna insurance company. The 68 million crown debt is to be paid in installments. 10 million crowns are to be paid within 30 days and another 2 million crowns within 18 months. The rest of the debt is to be deposited into the educational Programmes Foundation and will be paid back on a long-term plan. Unnamed ODA party members and supporters are to lend their party the money.

The paper says that the crisis had peaked on Sunday with the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL) opposed to this plan, insisting on a merge of the Civic Democrats with the Freedom Party or else exclude the ODA from talks on the upcoming parliamentary elections. The existence of the entire Four-Party Coalition is now at stake, the paper says. The ODA is not prepared to succumb to the coalition partners' offers and has even rejected the Freedom Union (US-DEU) who has suggested an alternative way of settling the debt.

In reaction to another incident of student brutality in the United States, Vecernik Praha looks Czech schools and the degree of safety in them. The paper claims that school principals and their management do not want to admit the fact that student aggressiveness is on the rise. It adds that dangerous weapons are easily accessible to the young generation and gives the example of a case where the police had to be called in to a school where a 14 year-old student was threatening his classmates and teachers with a knife. The police did not take the case lightly and the boy, who had admitted planning a shooting spree, is now in a centre for juvenile delinquents.