Press Review

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German and Slovak elections without exception dominate all the headlines in today's Czech papers: Social Democrat Gerhard Schroeder narrowly the victor thanks to the success of the Green Party in Germany, Mikulas Dzurinda successful in his bid to lead Slovakia for four more years with pro-European policies.

German and Slovak elections without exception dominate all the headlines in today's Czech papers: Social Democrat Gerhard Schroeder narrowly the victor thanks to the success of the Green Party in Germany, Mikulas Dzurinda successful in his bid to lead Slovakia for four more years with pro-European policies.

Nationalist strong-man Vladimir Meciar was the overall winner in Slovak elections, but it was a Pyrrhic victory as Mr Meciar remains isolated in the Slovak political arena; it is Mr Dzurinda who will be set to head the next governing coalition. Here in the Czech Republic, writes Pravo, Slovakia's election results were welcomed by Czech politicians, citing Czech President Vaclav Havel's statement that the election results would see Slovakia through to NATO and the European Union.

On the Czech scene Mlada fronta Dnes reveals that the first challenger for the leadership of the right-of- centre Civic Democratic Party, the ODS, in December's party convention will be Evzen Tosenovsky, an often mentioned name in the corridors of political power. The December convention will decide whether or not the party will choose a new leader or remain with former Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus, who has yet to announce his re-candidacy.

The paper quotes Mr Klaus as saying he would listen with interest to the party programme Mr Tosenovsky envisioned. Meanwhile Mlada fronta Dnes quotes Mr Tosenovsky as saying ODS had to reinvent itself and, in his words, "stop being a subdued party unable to influence policy."

For the first time since 1995 things are looking up for two Czech heroin smugglers currently jailed under poor conditions in Thai prisons: Mlada fronta Dnes says that 26-year-old Emil Novotny and 33-year-old Radek Hanykovics, sentenced to fifty years each after narrowly evading death sentences, have a good chance of being returned to the Czech Republic to serve their jail terms here, after negotiators hammered out a deal with Thailand between the two countries.

The deal is practically unprecedented, since few countries in Europe have similar prisoner extradition contracts. The paper adds that by Czech law the Czech prisoners' sentences could eventually be reduced after they had served two- thirds of their time. Mlada fronta Dnes adds that the possibility that either of the prisoners could receive a presidential pardon also remains open.

Moving on, today's Pravo features an interview with television magnate Vladimir Zelezny, the head of the Czech Republic's most successful commercial TV station TV NOVA, who had been ordered to by a Czech court to reimburse former American partners one billion Czech crowns, or over 30 million US. According to Mr Zelezny some two thirds of the debt was covered by financial partners PPF in return for a large percentage of the company that holds TV Nova's broadcasting licence.

In the Pravo interview Mr Zelezny is adamant he will remain as general director of the station in spite of earlier news information that his days as head of Nova were numbered. Mr Zelezny's aspirations to be elected senator for the east Moravian district of Znojmo are also discussed: in his words he views his bid for the senate not as an entry into politics but as an entry into public service.

Hospodarske noviny reports that the American investment bank JP Morgan has decided not to recommend that the Czech government sell its 48% share in Skoda Holding. Skoda Holding, located in Pilsen, is one of the last massive industrial firms in the Czech Republic where the state still holds a large share.

Since the fall of communism, the once staple of Czech industry has fallen on hard times through its inability to compete with other large Western industrial firms like Siemens of Germany and General Electric of the United States. The American financial firm Appian Group and General Electric are interested in purchasing the Czech governments share in Skoda Holding. The paper reports that if the states share in Skoda Holding is not sold then the company could go bankrupt.

Finally, Mlada fronta Dnes reports on President Vaclav Havel's trip to the United States. At a meeting in New York between Havel and former US president Bill Clinton, Mr. Clinton said Vaclav Havel was a symbol of freedom to not only to Czechs but for the whole world.

During his years as president Mr Havel and Mr Clinton enjoyed a close relationship where the two men worked together on the Czech Republic's accession to NATO and mobilizing forces against ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia. During his visit to the United States Mr Havel had the opportunity to attend a concert in his honor featuring Lou Reed from the legendary underground band Velvet Underground.