Press Review

Verkehrsunfall auf Autobahn D1 (Foto: CTK)

There's a mixed bag of stories in today's papers - from prime ministers clashing with presidents, to Interior Minister Stanislav Gross threatening to resign over planned cuts in the police force. And also today, the Czech Republic at the top of the league table of European road deaths, but what to do about it?

There's a mixed bag of stories in today's papers - from prime ministers clashing with presidents, to Interior Minister Stanislav Gross threatening to resign over planned cuts in the police force. And also today, the Czech Republic at the top of the league table of European road deaths, but what to do about it?

LIDOVE NOVINY reports today on a sharp exchange of views between Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla and the French President Jacques Chirac at the recent EU Summit in Greece. The dispute was over the Palestinian militant group Hamas, of all things. The paper writes that thanks to Mr Spidla's insistence, Hamas was specifically mentioned by name in an EU statement on Palestinian terror attacks against Israelis.

Mr Spidla, writes LIDOVE NOVINY, had insisted on the statement including the following passage: "the European Council is urgently investigating the possibility of taking wider action against the financing of Hamas". Mr Chirac, no pushover at the negotiating table, was strongly against the idea, and protested loudly. But with the help of the British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Mr Spidla managed to ensure that Hamas was mentioned by name. "This is proof that Czechs will continue to make their voice heard in Europe" Mr Spidla said.

Meanwhile PRAVO reports how Interior Minister Stanislav Gross threatened to resign over planned budget cuts in the Czech police force, part of wider public finance reforms. The paper says that thanks to Mr Gross's brinksmanship, policemen's salaries will actually increase: a new law to be submitted to parliament would ensure policemen are given an extra 6,000 crowns per month. This would give them a gross - excuse the pun - monthly salary of around 32,000 crowns per month, around double the average wage.

Accident on the main motorway between Prague and Brno, photo: CTK
MLADA FRONTA DNES says the Czech Republic is still near the top of the European league table of road death statistics. "We drive like madmen and have no idea how to behave on the road," says the paper. As a result, the country has one of the worst road safety records in Europe. Last year more than 1,300 people died on the roads: that's almost 4 people every day. Only in Greece, Portugal and Poland are you more likely to meet your maker on the motorway.

The Transport Ministry says it's drawing up concrete solutions to deal with the problem, and will submit them to the government by February. It certainly has its work cut out, says MLADA FRONTA DNES: Czech drivers are either ignorant or indifferent towards road safety. Vaclav Spicka, from the Czech Automobile Association, gives just one example. "Not wearing your seatbelt in the back seat has been illegal in this country for fifteen years," says Mr Spicka. "But still everyone does it."

And just below that article is a sobering study on life expectancy in Europe. This time Czechs are towards the bottom of the table. Of the 25 nations of the new European Union, only Poles and Hungarians live shorter lives. The Czechs, with an average life expectancy of 74.8 years, are in 23rd place. The healthiest people in Europe, says MLADA FRONTA DNES, are Spaniards, Italians and the French. Maybe it's time to start belting up in the back.