Press Review

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"Czechs are becoming more and more afraid of eating beef," reads a headline on the front page of LIDOVE NOVINY today. The paper says the threat has contributed substantially to a drop in demand for beef in Czech restaurants. Owners say interest in such popular meals as goulash or roast beef with cream sauce has dropped by about 10 percent.

The president of the Czech Caterers' Association, Sylvio Spohr, says the fall is just a momentary reaction to news of the spread of BSE throughout Europe. At the same time, however, he doesn't rule out the possibility that beef might disappear completely from restaurant menus across the country. As for Czech butchers, beef sales are down by around 50 percent, but this doesn't concern hypermarkets, which are reporting the same interest in beef as before Mad Cow Disease started to haunt Europe.

MLADA FRONTA DNES reports that MPs in the Czech lower house have overruled President Havel's veto of the extension of the so-called screening law. Under this law, former high-ranking Communists and collaborators of the former communist secret police are prevented from holding senior posts in the state administration. The law, which would have expired at the end of this year, will now be extended indefinitely, says the paper.

President Havel vetoed the law in the first place, said presidential spokesman Ladislav Spacek, because he wants a law banning former Communists from office included in the new law on the civil service. But as MLADA FRONTA DNES explains, the civil service law is only now being discussed by the government, and it won't come into effect before next spring, adds the paper.

There will be no referendum in the Czech Republic on the country's entry into the European Union, reports PRAVO today. MPs from the ruling Social Democrats blocked the law on Tuesday, with one clear aim: "We want a general law on referendum, which would allow a public vote on any issue of importance to this country," the lower house deputy chairwoman, Petra Buzkova told PRAVO. Meanwhile Social Democrat MP Zdenek Jicinsky said there was no hurry to discuss the Czech Republic's accession to the EU anyway, because the approval procedure for membership will probably be very short.

And on a lighter note, CESKE SLOVO writes that many people are succumbing to the stress that accompanies Christmas, just over three weeks away. Most Czechs are eagerly awaiting the Christmas carp, which--along with potato salad--is the typical dish eaten at the Czech Christmas table.

CESKE SLOVO writes that carp from ponds all over the country will appear in the typical wooden barrels in three weeks' time. At the moment the carp are kept in fish hatcheries under very strict conditions: the water temperature, for instance, isn't allowed to drop below 12 degrees Celsius. Pressurised water is pumped into the hatchery direct from the River Vltava, which prevents the fish from hibernating. A nice, plump carp can weigh up to eight kilos, and it's definitely something to look forward to on December 24th, writes CESKE SLOVO.