Radio Prague press review

April 7, 2000

MLADA FRONTA DNES reports that Czech protestants are deeply annoyed by the main opposition Civic Democrats' idea to call an addendum to their power-sharing pact with the ruling Social Democrats a "letter of tolerance" - in emulation of a late eighteenth-century edict by which the enlightened Hapsburg Emperor Joseph II granted limited religious freedoms to some non-Catholic denominations. In an angry letter to Civic Democrat leader Vaclav Klaus, the Senior of the Czech Evangelical Synod, Pavel Smetana, has pointed out that for the Czech Brethren, the Letter of Tolerance is a symbol of freedom, life and hope, unlike the so-called "Opposition Agreement". The party has argued that it has merely revived the original meaning of the old edict and said it will not react officially, MLADA FRONTA DNES reports.

Some national papers are concerned over the infiltration of members of the former Communist elite into senior government structures. ZEMSKE NOVINY considers it strange of a top-notch politician to surround himself with proponents of a regime which parliament has condemned as criminal. The man in question, Prime Minister Milos Zeman, employs several pre-1989 Communists in the capacity of his advisors. Mr. Zeman's argument that some of them were but small fry holds no water, the paper points out. How embarrassing for the old Social Democrats, who lived to see their party forcibly merged with the Communists after the 1948 coup. Their leader's benevolence towards former aparatchiks was promptly embraced by the youthful new minister without portfolio, 27-year-old Karel Brezina, who is known to have fruitful ties with members of the former Communist elite, ZEMSKE NOVINY observes.

Also LIDOVE NOVINY notes that ever more people associated with the former regime are appearing in public life. The ruling Social Democrats have an affinity for this category, the paper writes. Small wonder that newly appointed Interior Minister Stanislav Gross has called up a Communist police academy alumnus, Petr Ibl, to serve as his deputy. Mr. Ibl was educated at the former SNB institute - SNB being a Communist-type police whose chief purpose was to keep citizens at bay, concludes LIDOVE NOVINY.

Czechs have discovered the charms of Internet trading, reports today's HOSPODARSKE NOVINY. The country's 12 largest Internet shops last year netted almost 45 million crowns of sales - a six-fold increase over 1998. And what people buy most often on the 'Net'? The paper reports it's mainly household appliances, books, compact discs, electronics, video tapes and computer software. However, the paper cautions, computer illiteracy is still pandemic in the Czech Republic and most people find the costs associated with buying and renting equipment to be too expensive and in fact unaffordable. Moreover, many people shy away from using credit cards, without which Internet trading loses much of its appeal. In addition, this country still has no legislation concerning electronic signatures, which is common in the Western world.

Original article