Press Review

The outcome of a recent public survey which shows that Czechs' support for EU membership is cooling, has received a lot of publicity. The support rate is now at its lowest since 1996 when the Czech Republic started accession talks with the European Union, having dropped from an all time high of 50% to it's current level of 40% while the number of opponents has risen from 15 to 20%.

Mlada Fronta Dnes, which has devoted a full page to the issue, believes that the growing skepticism can be attributed to three main factors: that Czech politicians themselves are very much at odds over the benefits of EU membership, that the government has not done enough to explain what EU membership would entail, and -in the face of attempts to curb free movement of labour for EU newcomers - that Czechs suspect that as EU members they might be treated as second class citizens.

Labourers, civil servants and pensioners are all fearful of the impact that Czech membership in the EU might have on their jobs and income, says Hospodarske Noviny. No one has emphasized the fact that financially the country will be receiving more than it contributes to EU coffers, and that for instance in Greece, almost every large construction site bears a notice saying how much EU money is involved in the project. EU funds will bring new jobs and development, the paper notes.

The ongoing controversy over the Temelin nuclear power plant and increasing pressure from Austria and neighboring Germany may also have something to do with people's fear of submitting to decisions made in Brussels. Lidove Noviny points out that while the Czech government remained unfazed under pressure from Austria, the possibility that the German Chancellor Gerhard Schroder might throw the full weight of his support behind his Austrian counterpart is a matter of grave concern. If they oppose Temelin jointly Schroder and Schussel would be a force to be reckoned with and the Czech Republic could find itself in a very tight spot, says Lidove Noviny.

Across the country towns, cities and districts are designing new heraldic symbols - and in many areas the process has evoked heated disputes. The worst conflict is said to be raging in south Moravia where historians, the regions' inhabitants and the authorities are unable to agree on what should go on their flag. "A war is raging in south Moravia over a two headed eagle and a bunch of grapes," says Lidove Noviny. At the centre of this dispute is the speaker of the Lower House Vaclav Klaus, whom Czech law awards the last word on the matter.

The paper quotes Vaclav Klaus who admits to being somewhat unnerved by the intensity of the conflict. "The passions this has aroused are unbelievable" Mr. Klaus said, adding that he was doing his best to hear both sides' arguments and make a fair decision after consulting with experts. As a result he has been inundated with mail from south Moravia. Mr. Klaus plans to visit the region at the end of the summer holidays to try to diffuse the tension.

The Czech Republic is currently labouring under an intense heat wave with afternoon highs reaching 33 degs Celsius and today's Pravo carries a doctors warning for the elderly and people with health problems advising them to stay indoors and drink up to three litres of water a day. The paper also tries to discourage people from consuming alcohol in the heat.

Whether or not they take this advice to heart, it will do little to chase away the blues they get after reading that the price of a beer is to reach 20 crowns by the autumn.