Press Review

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In today's LIDOVE NOVINY Martin Danes goes on the counterattack against environmentalists. In provocative mood, he writes that ecologists in the Czech Republic are bad for our health. Because of delays in building new motorways people in towns and villages lining the country's main roads are going through hell, as the Czech Republic doesn't yet have a basic modern road network. And as for the Temelin nuclear power plant, Danes claims that the alternative - coal-fired plants - have led to the devastation of large areas in the north of the country. He concludes that environmental fundamentalists are not, as they claim, representing the interests of the majority. Instead their campaigns are counterproductive, undermining legitimate calls for development to respect the environment.

Jiri Leschtina in an editorial in today's MLADA FRONTA DNES, is also in a combative mood, but his anger is directed against the government and the opposition Civic Democrats, and the changes to the electoral system they have pushed through parliament in the interest of strengthening larger parties. He is convinced that the new system goes against the constitution. Proportional representation is one of the constitution's pillars, he writes, and the philosophy behind the system is that it guarantees representation for ethnic minorities and people with minority views. The new system will sweep these minorities from the parliamentary benches. Leschtina is unimpressed by Prime Minister Zeman's argument that any party can battle its way from oblivion into the limelight if it tries hard enough. Under the new system, Leschtina concludes, Mr Zeman's Social Democrats would themselves never have achieved the meteoric rise to power that we saw during the 1990s, because in the early days, when they enjoyed only 6 percent support, they wouldn't have stood a chance of gaining the foothold in parliament that launched their revival.

And we stay with MLADA FRONTA DNES, turning to its opinion pages. Lubos Palata offers a new angle on the evergreen debate around the expulsion of ethnic Germans - known as Sudeten Germans - from Czechoslovakia after World War Two, some of whom are demanding compensation from the Czech government. Lubos Palata writes that it's not the Czechs who should be giving compensation but the German government itself. This is because Czechoslovakia never received the level of reparations paid to most of the countries that suffered during the war, the reason being that property confiscated from the country's German minority was seen, at least in part, as an alternative form of reparation. If a German chancellor were to be elected who supported the Sudeten German demands, the Czech Republic would be able to respond by reopening the question of reparations, something that no German government would welcome. But the article concludes that the Czech Republic's position of strength is no excuse for denying moral responsibility for the deaths of thousands of Sudeten Germans during the expulsions. The Czech side should apologize for these excesses, concludes Lubos Palata in MLADA FRONTA DNES.

And finally to some good news in today's CESKE SLOVO. A year ago there was still a mood of gloom hanging over the country, with growing unemployment, falling productivity and predictions that things could only get worse. Now, to nearly everyone's surprise, unemployment is down, productivity is up, and exporters are thriving on foreign markets. And this optimism is reflected even in the way households are running their budgets. Once again families are spending. But is this just a bubble, like the boom of the mid-nineties? Well, the paper concludes that the news really is good. Research suggests that a good fifty percent of Czech firms are showing healthy, dynamic growth, and that before long salaries will be able to follow suit, which should provide a boost to smaller firms serving domestic markets. This should help, at least to some extent, to counteract the continued decline of traditional heavy industries, writes today's CESKE SLOVO.