Press Review

Inevitably, the panic over foot-and-mouth disease continues to fill the pages of the Czech papers. "State Veterinary Authority Draws Up Emergency Action Plan" reads a front-page headline in Mlada Fronta Dnes. "Czech Farmers Prepare For Worst-Case Scenario" echoes Lidove Noviny. The papers carry detailed information about the disease as well as reporting on how it was tackled when it last appeared in the Czech Republic in 1975.

The state of the Czech political scene both right- and left-of-centre also attracts considerable attention today. With Friday's talks on the future of the opposition agreement - the power-sharing deal between the ruling Social Democrats and the right-of-centre Civic Democrats - commentators speculate about possible changes of allegiance. Recent developments are not very reassuring, says Hospodarske Noviny.

Both parties have realised that the electorate wants change, the paper notes. In order to survive, the Civic Democrats are accusing their allies of violating the opposition agreement and thereby distancing themselves from the governing party's failures. In turn, says the paper, the Social Democrats are seriously considering some form of co-operation with the Communist Party.

This would mean repealing a 1995 Social Democrat resolution banning ties to the Communists, but chances are it would bring back a large number of former left-of-centre supporters who were disillusioned by the party's power-sharing pact with the Civic Democrats. Observant readers, says Hospodarske Noviny, cannot fail to detect that the politicians' main concern is how to revive their own fortunes rather than what to do for the electorate, the paper notes.

Meanwhile the opposition Four-Party Coalition, which has for months tried to present itself as a much needed "wind of change" on the Czech political scene, has abandoned its lofty aspirations and is involved in petty squabbling over the division of seats in a shadow cabinet. The country's SECOND shadow Cabinet, the paper reminds readers. It is somewhat ridiculous to see the passion with which the parties are fighting for power and positions which are not yet theirs, concludes Hospodarske Noviny. Pravo is of a similar opinion, saying that nothing cracks facades so easily as the vision of power.

Meanwhile, Lidove Noviny asks why Czech women are generally unenthusiastic about entering politics. There are only a dozen or so of them in Parliament, and few are eager to hold top posts. The paper says their interest wanes with every passing year and every new political scandal.

The Social Democrats, which have an internal party regulation guaranteeing at least one woman in a senior party post, is having serious problems convincing the few there are to run for office, the paper says. So what is keeping women away? In an opinion survey 83 percent of Czechs said it was family obligations, 53 percent expressed the view that politics was too rough and too dirty for women to stomach.

And finally, Zemske Noviny has an interesting piece about the growing number of manual workers who are signing up to learn foreign languages, especially English and German. Foreign firms in the Czech Republic pay their manual labourers more - but they also require some foreign language abilities. And while few Czech manual workers are willing to uproot their families and try their luck working abroad, they are prepared to make that extra effort to get a well-paid job with a foreign firm here in the Czech Republic, says Zemske Noviny.