Press Review

EU enlargement treaty in Athens, photo: CTK

The signing of the EU enlargement treaty in Athens is the main news story on all front pages. "History-making signature in Athens", " A new era for the Czech Republic" and more cryptically: "We're in" - those are some of the lead headlines in today's papers.

EU enlargement treaty in Athens, photo: CTK
The signing of the EU enlargement treaty in Athens is the main news story on all front pages. "History-making signature in Athens", " A new era for the Czech Republic" and more cryptically: "We're in" - those are some of the lead headlines in today's papers.

"For the present this may seem to be a marriage of convenience - with the newcomers greedily counting the euros that their membership in the rich nations' club will bring," says Michal Mocek in Mlada Fronta Dnes "but, beneath the surface, a new Europe is being born - a continent of free movement and labour with a potential that far exceeds that of its individual member states."

How will the Czech Republic face up to the challenge of EU membership? "We have a lot to learn," says Lidove Noviny. "Our country will need astute politicians to defend its interests but at present it seems that our political leadership cannot even agree on what those interests are," the paper notes, referring to the discrepant views that the Czech Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla and President Vaclav Klaus presented to journalists in Athens. The Prime Minister advocated further EU integration - the President warned against its "dire consequences".

While the Czech delegation in Athens celebrated the occasion, here in Prague, in the Lower House of Parliament, the opposition parties made good use of the absence of several deputies of the governing coalition to block three important bills that were expected to pass thanks to the government's one vote majority in Parliament.

"A triple fiasco" Lidove Noviny calls it, saying that the governing coalition will be especially sorry about the draft law which was to have opened the way for a higher consumer tax on alcohol and cigarettes. Enacted it would have brought an additional 1.5 billion crowns to state coffers and the Cabinet was counting on those extra funds, the paper says.

Is the former Prime Minister Milos Zeman trying to make a comeback? That question has surfaced once again and both the media and politicians are trying to work out who actually keeps bringing it up. Pravo's reporter claims that Mr. Zeman gave him a phone interview in which he said he was thinking of how to help the party regain its credit on the Czech political scene. Challenged by Lidove Noviny, Mr. Zeman denied having said any such thing.

Pravo has contacted several of Zeman's former party colleagues and notes that only a few of his staunchest supporters would want to see him back. Most Social Democrat members are growing increasingly frustrated with Mr. Zeman's behaviour - especially since his banishment to the Moravian highlands was self-induced, Pravo says. "I can understand that Mr. Zeman misses the media attention but he is doing us more harm than good" one party member allegedly told the paper.

And finally, there is widespread concern regarding the safety of postal workers in rural areas. Pravo reports that, increasingly, they are being targeted by gangs of robbers for whom a mail van robbery holds a significantly lower risk than robbing a bank or post office. Wednesday's robbery of a mail van was the second in four days, the paper reports. The postal worker told the police that his attackers gassed him before making off with about 2.8 million crowns collected from post offices in the region.