Press Review

It comes as little surprise today that all the Czech papers comment on the uproar caused by Mr Klaus's anti-EU integration speech on Wednesday. Mlada fronta Dnes carries a photo of children watching the fireworks at Prague Castle underneath the traditional Christmas Tree of the Czech Republic. Lidove noviny features a large photo of an American marine taking a snapshot of his colleagues leaving for a base in South Afghanistan.

While most papers are critical of Mr Klaus' remarks, Lidove noviny points out that everybody has the right to express their opinion, and discussion on the future of the EU cannot be outlawed. If the lower house does not like this fact, next time it should forbid its speaker from going to Brussels.

Hospodarske noviny, on the other hand, says Mr Klaus is simply becoming a source of amusement to the European Union. "Amusing" is how the EU's commissioner for enlargement, Guenther Verheugen, describes his long-standing disputes with the speaker of the Czech lower house.

Meanwhile "bizarre" is how Mlada fronta Dnes describes a ruling by a Prague court, which said on Thursday that the Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman does not have to apologize to journalist Ivan Brezina for calling him corrupt. The same court recognised that Brezina was not paid to write articles for the nuclear lobby, as claimed by Mr Zeman. But somehow Mr Brezina lost the case, and now has to pay legal costs.

Justice, says the paper, is a mere game of legal magic tricks. Mr Brezina will derive little comfort from the court's admission that Mr Zeman was misinformed when he accused him of corruption. All Mr Brezina wanted from the court was legal redress for being humiliated and wrongly accused in public.

And more amusement in Pravo today - the paper reports that Prime Minister Zeman was obviously tickled by the idea that Trade and Industry Minister Miroslav Gregr will really resign over delays in launching the Temelin nuclear power plant.

Last year Mr Gregr promised to resign if Temelin's second reactor was not operational by January 2002. But Mr Zeman told reporters with a smile that he would discuss the matter with Minister Gregr, if he really offers his resignation.

Lidove noviny warns that Czech building societies are becoming an increasingly heavy burden on the Czech budget. The public are more and more interested in this form of saving and the state has not put aside enough money for its own contributions.

It is expected that next year the Czech state will subsidize building society savings by a record amount of 11 billion crowns, or around 300 million US dollars. The aim of this form of savings is to encourage people to buy or renovate property. Many Czechs, however, are simply using it as a more lucrative way of saving money.