Press Review

The Japanese Emperor Akihito and his wife Michiko make it to the front pages of just about all today's Czech papers, with pictures from their tour of the sites of old Prague. But on the front pages the smiles of the imperial pair contrast dramatically with the grim expression of Hana Marvanova, last week's loser on the Czech political scene.

Last Thursday, just before the long weekend, Ms Marvanova announced that she was resigning as head of the right-of-centre Freedom Union, one of the parties about to enter a coalition government with the Social Democrats. Unlike her party colleagues she was not willing to enter a government which she saw as socialist. All today's papers analyse that decision and no less than three of them carry extended interviews with the politician who was briefly the most powerful woman in the Czech Republic. She tells MLADA FRONTA DNES that she feels she has failed as party leader, primarily because of the party's disappointing showing in the June election. In the long run she speculates that the Freedom Union might merge with the largest right-wing force, the Civic Democratic Party - ironically the party that the Union broke away from four years ago.

MLADA FRONTA DNES comments that Ms Marvanova's resignation could sign the death warrant for the Freedom Union. Her party colleagues decided it would be better to go into a left-wing government than to be abandoned on the sidelines in the limbo of opposition. But MLADA FRONTA DNES concludes that they are naive if they think that this will save them from sinking into obscurity. It points to the example of the now almost forgotten Civic Democratic Alliance, a party that was in government for most of the 1990s.

And PRAVO speculates that Hana Marvanova's departure could pose a real danger to the new government. It points out that she resigned because she objected to the incoming government's programme. Because she will remain a member of parliament, this means that the new government will not be able to count on her and Karel Kuehnl, the other Freedom Union member left in the dark, to vote with them in parliament. This could swing the political scales in a house where the three coalition parties have a majority of only one seat. The economic daily, HOSPODARSKE NOVINY takes the same line. It sums up the situation simply. When she left as party leader, Hana Marvanova made it clear: "I may have given my reluctant nod in favour of forming a government, but that doesn't have to mean that I'll vote for their bills in parliament."

While the Czech political scene remains murky, the country's rivers are rapidly getting cleaner. HOSPODARSKE NOVINY reports that toxic emissions into Czech rivers have declined by 90 percent in the last ten years. The Elbe is a classic example. At the end of the 1980s there were only 52 life forms left in its waters. Now that figure has risen to ninety, not far behind the numbers of sixty years ago. And since 1998 we have even seen salmon back in the waters of what was recently one of Europe's filthiest rivers. Tomas Kava from the Czech Angler's Union tells the paper that he's tasted a salmon from the Elbe, and found it delicious.

But it's not just good news. The paper doesn't recommend that you go swimming in the river Bilina nearby. There you might find yourself swallowing traces of DDT. One of the main problems is that many villages and small towns still lack proper sewage treatment plants, which means that household waste is still being pumped into rivers.

And finally we go back to MLADA FRONTA DNES, which reports that in all likelihood no-one will ever be brought to justice for one of the more seedy episodes in the history of the old regime. Following the model of the Soviet Union, the regime broke its own laws by keeping lists of people of Jewish origin. Vladimir Vachovec from the Bureau for the Investigation of Communist Crimes tells the paper that because of the statute of limitations, it is too late to bring the perpetrators to justice. He adds that evidence has not been found that the lists had serious consequences for those included. The head of the Jewish Museum in Prague, Leo Pavlat, is furious. He tells MLADA FRONTA DNES that this shows the total inability of today's criminal justice system to confront the illegalities of the Communist regime.