Vladimir Spidla a Vaclav Klaus, photo: CTKVladimir Spidla a Vaclav Klaus, photo: CTK The main story dominating all papers today is Monday's rejection of the EU constitution by Czech President Vaclav Klaus. Most dailies also speculate on food prices next year, following the release of latest statistics showing the biggest rise in consumer prices in the last twelve months.

PRAVO warns that Czechs are building up high debts this year just to buy Christmas presents, and adds that two fifths of Czech households are taking out loans to shop for the holidays. The paper attributes this phenomenon to growing optimism among society, which predicts a better future and expects salaries to rise next year.

But Raiffeisenbank analyst Ivo Nejdl warns of disappointing developments. While this year saw low inflation, next year could see it rise, slashing some 3 percent off potential wage increases. This means that the purchase power of salaries could end up rising by only 3.5 percent while it stood at some 6.5 percent this year. The paper also points out that according to Czech National Bank statistics, consumer loans totalled some 7 billion Czech crowns in 1997 and had reached 59 billion by September this year.

Ever more Czech deputies are taking up other posts to increase their salaries, writes MLADA FRONTA DNES, featuring a chart which proves that its claim applies to 175 of the 200 deputies in the lower house. Since the general elections last year, numerous insignificant parliamentary committees, sub-committees, and commissions have popped up for a simple reason - deputies can increase their average monthly salary of 46,500 crowns by tens of thousands of crowns, says the paper.

It gives the example of Petr Kott, whose salary rose by over nine thousand crowns after becoming head of parliament's sub-committee for the local police. But what has he done, the paper asks, pointing out that his committee has only met for talks four times since last year's elections. But to be fair, our MPs are not just after the money, some of them have admitted that they like the idea of having a function listed on their business cards, it concludes.

Czech Bishop Vaclav Maly reminisces about holding talks with Francois Mitterrand over breakfast in LIDOVE NOVINY. Fifteen years ago this week, Mr Mitterrand demanded to meet with Czech dissidents during one of his official visits to Czechoslovakia as French President.

Vaclav Maly, who was a dissident at the time says it was a significant event for the dissident movement as it was the first time ever that a head of state had made such demands. Mr Maly also shows appreciation for the numerous ordinary people from abroad who visited dissidents to express their solidarity, give them moral support, gifts, and spread awareness of their situation back home.

The citizens of the north-Bohemian town of Most are crying for help, writes HOSPODARSKE NOVINY. Steps have been taken to sell the local coal mines, thanks to which some thirty thousand people in the region are employed. They fear that after the sale, thousands of people will be laid off, doubling unemployment, which already stands at a shocking twenty percent.

"It is a case of life or death", the paper quotes the director of the town theatre, adding that the grounds of the coal mines also served as meeting points and venues for much of the town's social activities. Most is currently the only town in Europe without a main square, its citizens tell the paper.