Press Review

Making headlines in the papers today - claims that British Prime Minister Tony Blair is worried about an influx of Czech Romanies following EU enlargement, a dispute in the cabinet over registered partnerships for gay couples, and denials from Labour and Social Affairs Minister Zdenek Skromach that the government has reached an agreement over regulated rent.

Mlada Fronta Dnes leads with the registered partnership story, reporting on severe differences of opinion within the three-party ruling coalition over the matter. The Social Democrats, the largest coalition partner, wants to introduce a law on registered partnerships at all costs. However the junior coalition Christian Democrats are fundamentally opposed to the idea and have vowed to fight it.

The Social Democrats are so determined, says Mlada Fronta Dnes, that they're willing to bypass the cabinet and try to get the law passed with the help of the opposition. Christian Democrat MP Jan Kasal says the coalition agreed when it was formed two years ago that the government would never submit a law on registered partnerships to parliament.

Lidove Noviny reports today that Agricultural Minister Jaroslav Palas has shown Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla a document claiming to prove that he collaborated with the KGB. Mr Palas says the document is clearly fake, an explanation Mr Spidla has accepted without reservation. Mr Palas will show the document to the rest of his cabinet colleagues on Wednesday.

Zdenek Skromach,  photo: CTK
Pravo quotes Labour and Social Affairs Minister Zdenek Skromach as saying there is no agreement between Finance Minister Bohuslav Sobotka and Local Development Minister Pavel Nemec on regulated rent. Speaking to the BBC on Tuesday, Mr Skromach called into question the existence of the crucial agreement, which allegedly sets out how much and how quickly state-controlled rent should rise.

"I simply can't imagine that state-controlled rent is going to rise by 20 percent in the space of four months. Such an agreement would be extremely difficult to accept,"Pravo quotes Mr Skromach as saying, adding that Finance Minister Sobotka had assured him there was no deal on rent deregulation.

The Prague section of Mlada Fronta Dnes reports that the City Council is mulling the introduction of a Congestion Charge similar to that unveiled last year London Ken Livingstone. For ages they've been talking about it as just one of many options, says the paper, but now it's clear: Prague cannot survive without a Congestion Charge.

The details are still being discussed, says Mlada Fronta Dnes, and it's not clear exactly when it will be introduced. But introduced it almost certainly will be, says the paper. Drivers could pay up to 100 crowns - around three and a half dollars - each time they want to drive into the City Centre.