From the weeklies brings you a selection of the most interesting stories from Czech weekly newspapers and magazines.
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By Daniela Lazarova

This week Czechs have been looking back - the T.G. Masaryk anniversary is prominently featured in most periodicals, historians have met for a conference on the T.G. Masaryk legacy and television channels have featured documentaries on the first Czechoslovak president. The man whom Czechs called "Daddy Masaryk" and whose picture the bolder of Czech citizens put up in their windows in the heady days of the 1989 revolution. Both Tyden and Respekt, two prominent weeklies into political analysis, feature profiles of TGM and draw paralels to President Vaclav Havel.

Historian Antonin Klimek, whom Respekt has interviewed, recalls Masaryk's often saying his head was in the clouds but his feet were firmly planted on the ground. He knew that a politician could not be an idealist, Klimek says. It helps to have a philosopher in the presidential post but in political decision making he must necessarily be practical. This is one of his many principles which remain true today. Both Masaryk and Havel have this philosopher-king image and there is good reason for it, the weekly notes. After the break up of the Austro-Hungarian empire each of the newly emerged states needed an authority to look up to -in Poland it was a marshal, in Yugoslavia the future King Alexander, the Czechoslovak mentality required a man of letters - a philosopher. Similarly after the fall of communism in 1989, when the nation needed to re-build, and re-embrace the democratic tradition, they chose someone who was not only totally trustworthy - but a writer and philosopher in the bargain, someone who has upheld moral values through thick and thin, regardless of whether it was politically appropriate. Both Masaryk and Havel's power stemmed more from their moral authority than their position as head of state. Ten years after the Velvet Revolution is the Czech nation learning to overcome this need for a strong leader who is expected to serve as the highest moral authority in the land and resolve most of the country's problems?

A question there for Professor Klimek - and his answer is that yes, slowly Czechs are learning to overcome their need for a father-figure at Prague Castle. There's nothing wrong with needing that kind of moral authority, as long as it does not interfere with the authority of the government and Parliament, Professor Klimek notes. And Tyden adds, a moral figure casts a long shadow, far more effective than changes ordained by law, which can be amended or scrapped. T.G. Masaryk's teachings were so powerful they gave the Communists some sleepless nights. For instance, in the four decades of their rule the Communist Party never seriously challenged the post of president and at the outset Communist President Klement Gotwald enraged the politburo by insisting that if the Communists wanted to acquire absolute power in the country they had to do it democratically.

Tyden magazine carries an article entitled "Call in the EU team", reporting that two parallel campaigns are now underway to inform Czechs about the various privilages and duties stemming from EU membership. One is financed by the EU Commission through the PHARE programme, the other by the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The two are meant to be complemenary and should be well coordinated, according to Foreign Ministry spokesman Ales Pospisil. Pospisil makes it quite clear that this is no brainwashing campaign to increase the number of EU supporters in this country, but an attempt to answer some of the questions people really want answered about how EU membership would affect their lives - such as what will happen to my apple orchid, will it mean the end of my present livelihood and will I be able to afford my present way of life. A team of Czech experts on EU matters, which holds debates with the public at the Prague EU information centre is available to present seminars in the smallest towns and the most obscure parts of the Czech Republic if invited to do so.

Schoolchildren who are unlikely to reach 18 years of age before the EU referendum happens have not been left out either. EU media and communications experts have launched a full-blown campaign aimed at primary and secondary schools using tactics that kids respond to, from comic books to competitions. Instead of stating the current top brand of soft drink or chewing gum, kids are asked to list the names of EU top officials or answer questions about the current EU member states. So far both the government and EU officials in Brussels are said to be happy about the way the parallel campaigns are going. They are far less happy with the Czech media - newspapers, radio and television - whom they accuse of not giving EU matters sufficient attention. Most recently the Foreign Ministry clashed with TV journalists over the contents of a cycle of EU documentaries it had commissioned. The cycle was called "Can we catch the EU train" and in one of the series its makers mentioned that Czech Prime Minister Zeman cold-shouldered modern information technology. This aroused such anger at the Foreign Ministry that the series was immediately cut short and the contract annulled. In coming days it should be replaced by an EU TV ad made up of a fast-paced series of events documenting the changing face of Europe these past ten years. What effect all this will have on the public's stand regarding EU membership remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, Reflex magazine is still wondering if there is a political power in the land capable of breaking up the existing Opposition Agreement between the Social and Civic Democrats. In Austria, the long-term power-sharing pact of two left- and right-wing parties helped Jorg Haider's party to power. In the Czech Republic the much shorter-lived power-sharing pact between the left-of-centre Social Democrats and right-of-centre Civic Democrats is already raising the popularity of the four-party coalition on the right and the Communist Party on the left, the weekly notes. Unlike the Communists, the coalition of four smaller right-wing parties does present a political alternative and opinion surveys give it an estimated 30% of the vote - but is it ready to handle that responsibility? In order to beat its rivals in the elections the four-party coalition would have to mesh, produce a viable programe, a shadow cabinet and settle on a single leader - in other words do what the Slovak Democratic Coalition did to beat authoritarian leader Vladimir Meciar. Indeed it would have to be much stronger, Reflex notes, for already the Slovak Democratic Coalition is riddled with conflicts and Meciar, whose popularity has been steadily rising, is now pushing for premature elections. What our own four-party coalition has shown us so far is woefully inadequate, Reflex notes. They are unable to agree on a leader, much less a shadow cabinet.

As for a common policy programme - all we are getting is improvisation. Not even the four parties activities in Parliament would point to a common programme. The only thing they have at present is a firm belief in their future success - which may well come thanks to the unpopular opposition deal. The question is what would happen after their dubious victory - and come to think of it which alternative is actually the worst? Reflex concludes.

And finally, the Profit business weekly features a report on training courses for top business managers which are gaining popularity in the United States and which some really well-off Czech firms might like to send their managers to. The idea is to stretch their abilities to the limit at a camp similar to that for a rapid strike force unit, or else send them to a monastery in the mountains. What they get in both is sleep deprivation: 4 hours of sleep a night, a low food intake and seemingly endless hurdles for the mind and body throughout the day. Physical activity takes place in the mountains, in the woods and swampland. Oh, and no privacy - 60 to a room for a three-month period. Only the fittest of the fit survive - and you'll know you picked the right man for your managerial post if they come back and still want to work for you, says psychologist Miroslav Musil. Even if all goes well, you should expect your manager to return severely underweight and experience health problems for a certain period of time. For all that you pay the princely sum of twenty to thirty thousand dollars.

There is the monastery version in the Alps - closer to home and more acceptable to our Central European mind, Musil adds. A prison-like cell, a bible and cross, four hours of sleep and the rest of one's time divided between prayers and work. In total isolation one learns to recognize priorities and work effectively, Musil admits. Mercifully it only lasts a fortnight. Does that idea sound insane? 8,000 German managers underwent this training course last year alone - to their employers satisfaction. Musil suggests that something financially more acceptable could be done on home ground in the Sumava mountains . Well, after all, how much money do you need to make a few managers' lives hell for a fortnight? I'm sure that there are plenty of employees who'd volunteer to do their bit for free.

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