Press Review

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Parliament has approved the government's proposed budget for 2002 - but nobody is very excited about it. "Another deja vu" says the daily Slovo. The Social Democrats and the opposition Civic Democratic Party will see their power-sharing pact through to the bitter end, says the paper. At this point nobody is interested in rocking the boat and there is no question of early elections - there's a general election scheduled for next summer. Consequently, the 2002 budget debate in Parliament was little more than an exercise in rhetoric, the paper notes.

Mlada fronta Dnes shares these sentiments, and says the next cabinet will have to deal with a rather sorry legacy. The governing Social Democrats may have done their best but it wasn't a very good performance, the paper says. The pension reform was shelved, the badly needed tax and pension reforms failed to materialise, the government's Clean Hands anti-corruption campaign fizzled out and instead of tackling excessive bureaucracy, the Social Democrats actually increased the number of civil servants by several thousand. And - last but not least - there's the legacy of high deficit spending which has become this government's trademark, says Mlada fronta Dnes.

President Havel's illness has also evoked concern, with the papers quoting his spokesman as saying that the President's condition was "fairly serious". The papers note that the President's health is obviously undermined by his duties in office and say that his doctors are now so worried about his continuing ill-health they would like to see him sheltered from travel, daily contact with crowds of people and even life in the polluted Czech capital. Of course, the president refuses to accept such restrictions and the result is chronic bad health, the paper says.

The Civic Democratic Party leader Vaclav Klaus has received plenty of attention as well, although he is in the best of health. Pravo has a snapshot of him posing with his latest publication entitled "Klaus in Brussels" and Mlada fronta Dnes has run a funny caption under its picture of Klaus saying " I'm really a Euro-optimist".

In the book, which Vaclav Klaus presented to the press and the world at large on Tuesday, the Civic Democratic Party leader explains just what he said in his speech to the European Parliament in Brussels a fortnight ago. The speech, in which Mr. Klaus asked delegates to stop the creeping integration of Europe, was the most critical ever presented on the floor of the European Parliament.

In a funny Pravo editorial called "Santa please take Klaus", Alexander Mitrofanov says that for some reason or other Vaclav Klaus has become a thorn in the side of almost all Czech politicians and if they all had to agree on a common Xmas gift it would most likely be for Santa to carry Klaus off somewhere far away from the Czech political scene.

As things look it will be the Civic Democratic Party leader who will be calling the shots after the next general elections and neither the Social Democrats nor the opposition Freedom Union look forward to playing second fiddle to him. As for the possibility of Klaus becoming President when Vaclav Havel's term expires in 2003 -well who would relish the idea of the Professor sitting in at every Cabinet meeting, criticising, ridiculing and lecturing? asks Mitrofanov.

And finally, Slovo reports that the inhabitants of Jakub, a town east of Prague, couldn't believe their eyes when they turned on their taps yesterday and green foam came out instead of water. Workers fixing the local piping system underground allegedly made a crucial mistake which resulted in chemicals from a local firm producing detergent contaminating the water supply for the whole town. The incident is being investigated.