The lifting of diplomatic sanctions against Austria has naturally received a lot of front-page coverage. Political commentators are highlighting the fact that both sides are claiming victory. Fourteen EU government spokespersons are repeating the mantra about the Union's having made it clear that it would not tolerate racism, while Vienna says the EU was forced to back down after the sanctions failed to have the desired effect. Who's right? asks Petr Zavadil of Lidove Noviny.
Unfortunately, it appears to be Vienna, he says. Experts agree that the sanctions radicalized public opinion in Austria, which was certainly not the EU's intention, and EU officials are making no secret of the fact that the recommendation of the three wise men helped the EU to save face and back down with grace, for fear of alienating Danish voters ahead of a knife-edge Sept. 28th referendum on joining the EU single currency.
Another dominant topic on the front pages of all dailies is the fuel crisis and the street protests in many European states. There is no doubt that the rise in fuel prices has hit Czechs hard--according to opinion polls more than half of Czech drivers have stopped using their cars on a daily basis. So why isn't there a murmur of protest from Czechs? Pravo notes that in Western Europe trade unions are stronger and people are generally more inclined to take to the streets if they don't like government policy. Czechs are still constrained by the idea that their new-found freedom carries a high price tag and are more inclined to grit their teeth and bear it. There is still a persistent belief that strikes cannot change existing problems, that they are self-defeatist and only undertaken by people who want to revert back to the communist days, Pravo says.
Zemske Noviny has a new angle on the Temelin nuclear power plant controversy, focusing on the billions of crowns in compensation which the Cabinet will have to distribute among coal miners being laid off in North Bohemia. Up to 15,000 people stand to lose their jobs. Nuclear power advocates note that the upside of this is a much cleaner environment for the inhabitants of North Bohemia. The region, also known as the Black Triangle, is so polluted by years of mining that it has the highest asthma and allergy rate in the country, especially among young children.
And finally Hospodarske Noviny reports on the unenviable position of Interior Minister Stanislav Gross, who has been accused of hysteria and scare-mongering in connection with preparations for the upcoming session of the IMF and World Bank. Minister Gross is only doing his job, making absolutely sure that his men have the situation under control, the paper argues. There are others who should be briefing us about the positive aspects of hosting this meeting and the important issues that will be debated in Prague. If they had done their job well, Gross' voice would have been one of many. The fact that we only ever hear about the possible dangers and how many policemen will be out on the streets is not the Interior Minister's fault, Hospodarske Noviny concludes.