25-04-2003

A mix of headlines on the front pages - Mlada Fronta Dnes leads with a new opinion poll claiming support for Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla has fallen from 75 percent in September to just under half that today. Meanwhile Lidove Noviny says flat prices have risen by 25 percent in the first quarter of this year. And Hospodarske Noviny warns of a brain drain to Brussels as the nation's finest look for new jobs with the European Union.

Staying with brains, and Pravo leads with news that the Education Ministry is planning widespread reform of the country's much-criticised education system. If the reforms are passed, says Pravo, Czech primary school kids will no longer simply have to memorise pages of facts and figures, but will actually start using their brains.

Fifty-four primary schools are involved in a pilot project to test the new education methods, says the paper. Greater emphasis will be placed on developing the child's ingenuity, language and communication skills and independence, and less on simply learning facts off by heart, says a senior ministry official. "Kids should be able to understand things in context, so they can develop a global vision of the world," he tells Pravo.

Details of the Czech government's EU referendum campaign are revealed in the papers today. Lidove Noviny carries a front-page picture of the billboard ads that will be unveiled around the country on May 1st, six weeks before Czechs go to the polls to vote "Yes" or "No" to EU membership. The billboards will feature an Austrian pensioner, a Portuguese fisherman and a Spanish bus driver saying "Welcome to the Community."

Meanwhile similar ads on TV will feature Irish, Finnish and Greek EU citizens all saying the same thing, writes Lidove Noviny "We chose countries with similar historical experiences to the Czechs," says Martin Charvat, from the Leo Burnett advertising agency which produced the campaign. "All these countries joined the EU fairly recently, all of them had economic problems, and several had also experienced totalitarian regimes."

But the last thing this country needs, says the paper's commentator Petruska Sustrova, is a public row between President Vaclav Klaus and Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda over what EU membership will mean. The whole affair - now being endlessly spun out in the media - should never have happened in the first place. The two men should have kept their mouths firmly shut, she says.

And finally back to Mlada Fronta Dnes, and a word of warning in the paper's Prague section: shopping in huge malls can be bad for your health (as if we men didn't know that already.) The paper says the ambulance service is having to deal with a sharp rise in the number of people collapsing in shopping malls: seven people died of shopping last year.

Paramedics often have problems fighting their way through hordes of shoppers to treat people, says Mlada Fronta Dnes, or have to drive long distances to malls located on the edge of town. The ambulance service has even drawn up a detailed study of the problem, which adds a whole new meaning to the phrase "shop til you drop".

25-04-2003