Press Review

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A colourful mix of domestic and foreign stories jostle for attention on today's front pages. There are snapshots of President Havel celebrating the third anniversary of the Czech Republic's admission to NATO at army headquarters in Prague, with Defense Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik at his side. The latter's gloomy looks are attributed to the fact that after an upbeat speech he was forced to field reporters' questions about an alleged information leak at the defense ministry and the resignation of one of his deputies.

A colourful mix of domestic and foreign stories jostle for attention on today's front pages. There are snapshots of President Havel celebrating the third anniversary of the Czech Republic's admission to NATO at army headquarters in Prague, with Defense Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik at his side. The latter's gloomy looks are attributed to the fact that after an upbeat speech he was forced to field reporters' questions about an alleged information leak at the defense ministry and the resignation of one of his deputies.

Yet despite the odd problem , the anniversary is perceived in a very positive light . The papers all describe it as a milestone in the Czech Republic's development. Pravo says that achieving the country's admission to NATO was one of the best things politicians have done for the Czech Republic in recent years. It has brought a feeling of security, jump-started badly needed reforms in the military and, in the long run, it may even dispel the Czech army's age-old trauma about not going to battle at critical moments in their country's history, says the daily.

There is a great deal of enthusiasm for the fact that the Czech Republic is finally on the way to getting a civil service law. "Ten years of waiting and it's finally here" says Lidove noviny, which like the other papers, does not appear to be overly concerned by the fact that the bill still has to win approval in the Senate. The bill paves the ground for the kind of civil service the country needs, the paper says, but much will depend on how the law is implemented.

Mlada fronta Dnes says that if there's a price to be paid for getting proper service at government institutions -then by all means let's pay it. Because let's face it -do we really want to go to these institutions and deal with a bored, incompetent overweight bureaucrat who's eating salami with one hand and using the other to chat over the phone while she tells you to come back when you've filled in your application correctly? If better work conditions for them mean better service for us - then by all means let's co-finance higher wages for them and a few extra perks in return for a professional attitude, the paper says. The country's general elections are just three months away and Czech politicians are doing their best to draw attention to themselves - but if you think that includes parading their wives in public- think again. According to several of the papers the country's most popular politician - 32 year old interior minister Stanislav Gross - is facing the painful realization that his wife is his political Achilles heel. The blond and attractive Mrs.Gross is pursuing a successful career in business, but how much insider help has she received from her husband? The Cabinet minister who has masterminded the government's "Clean Hands" anti-corruption operation is now having to provide a few explanations himself regarding the law on conflict of interests.

Until now the activities of spouses and relatives had gone pretty much unnoticed, but now the media pressure is so strong that the majority of politicians are keeping tight-lipped about their wives' business activities, says Pravo. Amid speculation regarding how much this scandal will hurt Stanislav Gross Lidove noviny notes that president Havel's vision of young, ambitious cabinet ministers unspoiled by life in the communist regime has somehow failed to materialize. Five of the President's bright hopes have dimmed, the paper says.

Stanislav Gross, the nation's darling, has problems. The former environment minister Martin Bursik, an ardent green activist who showed promise, has fallen into oblivion. Michal Lobkowicz, former defense minister and a member of the old nobility - is described as "the prince who fell asleep" and Vladimir Mlynar, a former journalist and Cabinet minister has proved to be a mere flash in the pan, the paper says. Cyril Svoboda is presently the most promising of the president's "young men who would change the face of Czech politics" but even his career is uncertain. No matter who wins this years general elections - a Cabinet of ministers under 40 will most likely remain a lost vision, the paper concludes.