Press Review

Well the end of the year is drawing close and not surprisingly many of the Czech papers are looking back at 2001. Friday's newspapers offer an overview of the main events of the year, including the attacks of September 11th. The financial daily Hospodarske noviny starts with a story on the Czech government and its activities in 2001.

That's right, the paper points out that the Czech government both spent and raised billions of crowns during the year, on everything from the fight against terrorism to the privatisation of banks and gas industries. But, the paper writes, the government's performance has not been without its critics.

Hospodarske noviny quotes the opposition as saying the minority Social Democrats should have completed the privatisation of the energy sector; a controversial deal to buy 24 new Gripen fighter jets, which will cost the Czech Republic billions of crowns was also criticised. On the other hand, the paper notes, the Czech government's decision to privatise the army has generally been viewed as a positive step.

Continuing in politics, 2001 was a year under the shadow of the upcoming parliamentary and senate elections, according to Mlada fronta Dnes. The paper writes that the elections in 2002 will ultimately have long-term effects on parties who fail to make their mark, since the party that gets the victory will gain an important trump card: the mandate to lead the Czech Republic into the European Union.

The paper also quotes political pundit Jiri Pehe as saying next year's elections will ultimately influence who will be voted the Czech Republic's next president in 2003, after Vaclav Havel steps down.

The year in review is also the subject for Lidove noviny's weekend supplement, which features a dynamic cover montage which certainly sums up the year: a jetliner bursting through the numbers 2-0-0-1, decorated with those unforgettable lines from the World Trade Centre facade.

Welcome to the 21st century writes the magazine, which goes on to examine the year in the Czech Republic in everything from the government's charges of slander against the weekly Respekt, to TV magnate Vladimir Zelezny's on- going legal battles.

Finally, with New Year's Eve approaching it is no surprise that Mlada fronta Dnes features an extended article on celebrations and fireworks at home, recommending interior pyrotechnics known as "fountains", which use a small flame to scatter silver and gold sparks. The paper writes that these firework fountains are safe, but should still be kept away from small children.

In any case, always carefully read the instructions on all pyrotechnic products, warns the daily, and make sure of their proper use: serious pyrotechnics injuries are common in the Czech Republic every single New Year's, so be sure to play it safe.