Press Review

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Many papers today feature pictures of a smiling Jarmila Vocaskova, a secondary school teacher from the town of Nachod who received a two-year suspended sentence for supplying the highly addictive drug pervitine to her pupils. She says after having lost everything, she's now ready to start her life over again.

The Ministry of Finance wants the Czech Railways to go bankrupt! says Ceské Slovo today on its front page. The comments are based on a statement by businessman Petr Kasik from the town of Ceska Trebova. Czech Railways owe his supply company several million Czech crowns, and the debt is growing every day, says the paper. As a result, his company is unable to pay its taxes on time. And so Mr Kasik has decided to go and talk to the ministry itself, since the state owns the Czech Railways. But he was very surprised by the result of his meeting at the ministry, says the paper. He claims that during the meeting ministry officials suggested to him that they were willing to scrap some of the tax debt under certain conditions. One of these was that he should formally request for Czech Railways to be declared bankrupt. But that would probably mean that Mr Kasik would never see his money again. Not only because he's not the only one affected by the bad situation in the company, but also because bankruptcy proceedings usually take a long time and don't have to satisfy all the creditors under the Czech legal system. A spokesman for the Ministry of Finance, claims Ceské Slovo, confirmed that in order for the ministry to scrap the businessman's tax debt, his company would have to call for the official closure of Czech Railways. Another reason for this assumption is the fact that the Czech Railways executive director has recently been given a pay raise, which seems rather suspicious when all other finances in Czech Railways are under tight control.

One of the commentaries in Lidove Noviny focuses on the rate of unemployment. This year was supposed to be a very bad one for the Czech Republic in terms of unemployment. According to earlier statistical prognosis and predictions by the country's leading economists, one in ten Czechs would be out of work by December of this year. But, says the paper, this June was actually the first month since the "golden years" of the mid-90's - when the economy was booming - that the overall national unemployment rate hasn't increased. Therefore the number remains the same - 8.7 percent. Although the rate has almost remained the same for over three months now, Lidove Noviny warns that there's nothing to boast about. The government has claimed the credit, explaining that the lower rate is a result of their successful employment policy and great work at the Ministry of Social Affairs. But the worst is still to come. The big metallurgy businesses in North Moravia are about to make widespread redundancies. This is an absolute necessity, otherwise they might as well shut down the businesses for good. Also other industries, banks, and insurance companies will be cutting down on their employees this year. Not to mention school graduates, who are now probably doing summer jobs. Lidove Noviny say that Prime Minister Zeman can shout aloud his slogans about successful employment policies only after he finds new jobs for all these people. Then, if they succeed in doing so, they will surely win respect and recognition.

And lastly the ongoing story of the nuclear power plant Temelin, as seen from abroad. Pravo as well as Mlada Fronta Dnes carry a report saying that the EU is not so interested in the Temelin issue after all. An initiative by the Austrian chancellor, in which he was trying to bring the issue to the attention of officials in Brussels, hasn't really succeeded. The European Commission didn't accept the Austrian comments and disagreements about Temelin. In fact it has asked Austria to leave politics out of this. Austria was also told that Temelin can in no way be included in the conditions the Czech Republic has to fulfil to be accepted to the EU. Gunter Verheugen said that if Temelin is so dangerous as Austria claims, they should have tried to stop it a lot earlier.