Press Review

The dominant story in all of today's dailies was undoubtedly the European Commission's Progress Report, released on Wednesday of this week. Each paper paraded out its own analysis of the reasons behind the country's third-place economic ranking. The EU may have made a mistake in placing the Czech Republic' economy behind that of Hungary and Poland, but a much greater mistake was made by those Czech politicians who then proceeded to accuse and ridicule the Union, writes MLADA FRONTA DNES. The European Commission expressed concern over a bad banking system, corruption, a sluggish justice system and the difficulties of small businesses. Can anyone reasonably say that these concerns are not justified? asks the paper.

Meanwhile, LIDOVE NOVINY interprets the ranking as largely a political move. The evaluation is no exact science but rather is influenced by a combination of factors including each country's geopolitical relevance, international lobby and historical reputation, alleges the daily. The Czech Republic lacks the political weight of Poland, with its 40-million strong population and strategic position between East and West, or Hungary, bolstered by the confident diplomacy of its young premier and its friends in the West--and, oh yeah, maybe that steady 5 percent economic growth.

HOSPODARSKE NOVINY takes perhaps the most reasoned approach by focusing on one of the actual key concerns of the Commission: the threat to the independence of the central bank and the allegation that the amendment of the Czech National Bank law that is to take affect in the new year is incompatible with the EU Treaty. Even if one looks away from the European context and fears of loss of independence, there is no doubt that the architects of the amendment have introduced the possibility of unbelievable chaos into the Czech legal system with respect to the appointment of the bank's governors and board, alleges the paper.

While the rest of the world stays riveted to the ongoing drama of the US elections, the Czech press also turns its attention to another poll--this weekend's upcoming Senate and regional elections. While MLADA FRONTA DNES and LIDOVE NOVINY follow the last days of the campaign trail, HOSPODARSKE NOVINY makes a final plea to Czech citizens to turn out for the vote. Even though the Czech political scene is weighed down by the arrogance, mutual loathing, corruption and unwillingness to compromise of its politicians, there is still a reason to vote. Although it may seem that within such an environment it doesn't matter who the Czech citizen votes for, since politicians will just divvy up power among themselves, the political reality, writes HOSPODARSKE NOVINY, is significantly more complex. The results of any election can influence it to a certain extent. Every vote counts, not only in Florida, concludes the paper.

And lastly, among the many commentaries and analyses of reactions and counter-reactions to the European Commission's annual progress report on accession, ZEMSKE NOVINY highlights a finer point underlined by some of the developments surrounding the report. The paper observes that it often seems that the minister's of Prime Minister Milos Zeman's government do not belong to the same party or era. In light of their repeated head-to-head clashes with Trade and Industry Minister Miroslav Gregr and the subsequent defeat of their key policies, the paper asks what exactly is holding Environment Minister Milos Kuzvart and Finance Minister Pavel Mertlik in government. The most recent examples of what HOSPODARSKE NOVINY calls a clash of two worlds have been the government's decision to prolong uranium mining two years past the date agreed upon with the European Union and the rejection of Mr Mertlik's privatisation plan for the energy sector in favour of Mr Gregr's. Moreover, theirs were pretty much the lone voices on the Cabinet which did not dismisses this week's EU progress report as unduly negative and unjustified.