Press Review

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Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla's conciliatory statements in Austria on the post-war expulsion of the Sudeten Germans receive a mixed reception in today's papers: the story is headline news in PRAVO, but relegated to the inside pages of both LIDOVE NOVINY and MLADA FRONTA DNES.

Vladimir Spidla in Austria, photo: CTK
Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla's conciliatory statements in Austria on the post-war expulsion of the Sudeten Germans receive a mixed reception in today's papers: the story is headline news in PRAVO, but relegated to the inside pages of both LIDOVE NOVINY and MLADA FRONTA DNES.

Both those papers report on controversial proposals by the opposition Civic Democrats to introduce equal social security for all. A year after proposing a flat-rate income tax, says LIDOVE NOVINY, the party has come up with another controversial proposal. Instead of social benefits, health insurance and pensions, the state would pay each citizen over the age of 18 the sum of 4,000 crowns, or around 150 dollars. It would then be up to them to decide what to do with the money, says the paper.

The proposals were unveiled at the weekend by the Civic Democrats' shadow Finance Minister Vlastimil Tlusty. Mr Tlusty says the system would cost no more than the existing social welfare system, but would have a clear advantage: people themselves would be responsible for deciding how, when or even whether to invest in things such as health care or pensions.

However, says LIDOVE NOVINY, the curious proposals have been ridiculed by economists. "Social welfare serves a social purpose, not just an economic one," analyst David Marek tells the paper, and he goes on: "The system would lead to what right-of-centre parties like the Civic Democrats are so opposed to: millionaires would receive the same amount of money from the state as the poor. There's just no reason for it."

Meanwhile PRAVO reports on the latest provocative work by controversial sculptor David Cerny. Mr Cerny - known for painting a tank pink in the early 1990s and more recently for his black babies crawling up Prague's TV tower - has now taken a dig at President Vaclav Klaus and Milan Knizak, director of the National Gallery. And David Cerny's new piece is certainly cheeky stuff.

The artist has built two huge male figures out of plastic, bending over with their heads disappearing into a wall. A ladder leads up to a hole in the figures' behinds. When you crawl up and peer into the hole, you see a video of likenesses of Vaclav Klaus and Milan Knizak feeding each other spoonfuls of slop.

David Cerny says the piece of work is an allegory of the state of Czech society. Milan Knizak says he's off his head. "It's always the same," Mr Knizak tells PRAVO. "David Cerny is a sad man with a chip on his shoulder who's desperate for publicity. It's all becoming rather tiresome." The gallery involved has distanced itself from the work, says the paper.

And finally MLADA FRONTA DNES reports that from July 1st the nation's grottiest pubs will have to clean up their acts. New regulations that come into force on Tuesday mean that pubs will have to conform to strict European hygiene rules. For a start, gone are the days of soggy hand towels next to toilet washbasins: from now paper towel dispensers will have to be installed.

Is this the end of the traditional Czech pub? asks MLADA FRONTA DNES. Maybe so, it says. The new hygiene regulations concern not only paper towels but also the storage and heating of food. The traditional "hotovka" - or simple pub food such as goulash which is reheated and served all day - could be on the way out. Under the new rules, pub meals can be reheated a maximum of three hours after they've been cooked.