17-10-2003

President Vaclav Klaus's speech in the lower house on Thursday makes headlines in most Czech dailies. In his first address to the lower house as President, Mr Klaus criticised, among other things, the coalition government's reform of public finances. LIDOVE NOVINY writes his speech provoked mixed reactions in the chamber - only members of the opposition Civic Democrats, a party headed for many years by none other than Mr Klaus, agreed with what he said.

The government ministers felt offended by the president's reproaches and LIDOVE NOVINY quotes Culture Minister Pavel Dostal as saying that Mr Klaus's address was a declaration of war on the government. While MLADA FRONTA DNES just quotes coalition representatives who said that Mr Klaus spoke more like a Civic Democrat leader than a president, PRAVO pulls no punches in its headline that says: "Klaus speaks in lower house as opposition leader".

Staying with PRAVO, and the paper writes that there are almost twice as many women old age pensioners than there are men in this country. The average pension of a Czech man is 7,900 crowns, while women receive only close to 6,500 crowns. PRAVO notes that the planned reform of the pension system poses many hidden risks - it puts women at a disadvantage because of their earlier retirement age.

Deputy Social Affairs Minister Jiri Hofman told PRAVO that the solution to this is an equal retirement age for both sexes which is also demanded by the European Union. The paper adds that last month Parliament nevertheless approved that women with children would still be allowed to retire earlier.

"State to expropriate Grandmother's Valley" - reads a headline in LIDOVE NOVINY. Grandmother's Valley is in fact a historic monument closely connected with Czech literature. It is a small area in East Bohemia where the 19th-century writer Czech Bozena Nemcova lived as a child and where her best-known novel "Babicka" or "grandmother" was set. Several historic buildings which belong to it, including Bozena Nemcova's native house, were bought by businessman Zdenek Wolf eight years ago.

However, LIDOVE NOVINY points out, Mr Wolf has neglected the monuments and the buildings are falling apart. For some reason Mr Wolf has refused all offers of assistance and moved to Slovakia. The state has now resorted to the ultimate option and started expropriation proceedings with Zdenek Wolf. A spokeswoman for the Culture Ministry told LIDOVE NOVINY that the value of the monuments is so high that they could do nothing else but try and dispossess Mr Wolf of them. It is the first such case since the fall of communism in 1989, LIDOVE NOVINY notes.

MLADA FRONTA DNES comments on a recent survey suggesting that Czechs spend less time watching television than they did a year ago. An average Czech over the age of 15 watches TV three hours nine minutes every day compared to three hours forty minutes last year. Media specialist Milan Smid tells PRAVO that the reason for the decline might be a certain stagnation and lack of creativity on the part of Czech broadcasters.

"Czech Television is in crisis, it repeats its old programmes, which means that the largest commercial television TV Nova feels no pressure to invest in new programmes," PRAVO quotes Mr Smid. On the other hand, advertising expert Vladimir Jurasek tells PRAVO that the figures just mean that people watch television less but they chose more carefully what they are actually watching.

17-10-2003