April 2003   česky

There are spies everywhere, it seems. Two members of the cabinet - Ministers Gross and Tvrdík, naturally - claim the BIS, the domestic intelligence service, has been spying on them. Gross offered little evidence of it other than some strange men hanging around a political meeting he attended last year. But his allegations drew attention to his wife, who has set up a rather cozy life for their family as an Amway dealer. If somebody is snooping around the Ministry of the Interior, suggests one newspaper, it might have something to do with all that soap and shampoo she's been selling lately. The case of Tvrdík also happens to involve a family matter. BIS agents were supposedly acting on tips provided to them by recently departed members of Tvrdík's own military intelligence. Apparently they wanted to get back at him for the goods he had on them, which the Minister of Defense got from his brother, another recently departed member of the same intelligence outfit. No similar exit was in store for four members of the Czech chemical warfare unit stationed in Kuwait. Their names recently turned up on a list of former spies for the Communist era military. Tvrdík says he isn't happy about them still being in uniform but, as usual, he's leaving it up to others to decide their fate. He has enough problems just trying to set up a field hospital in Kuwait. The government offered the hospital as a means of humanitarian support during the war in Iraq, but for President Klaus that was going too far. He was afraid any move without UN permission would put the Czech Republic behind the U.S. in the war. Since taking office Klaus has made it clear that he plans to keep his country squarely in the middle of things. This led him to ask U.S. ambassador Craig Stapleton to take the Czech Republic off the list of Washington's Coalition of the Willing. Stapleton eventually stormed out of their meeting, reportedly after Klaus hinted that if any weapons of mass destruction are found in Iraq, they were probably planted there. But just like that, the war was over and both men started playing down their differences. It was too late for Czech travelers, however, as the U.S. immediately slapped tougher visa restrictions on them. It could be too late for Klaus as well. Despite his conciliatory tone, there's still no word he will get to meet Bush during his visit to America this summer. At least he won't have to run the gauntlet of the U.S. embassy in Prague, or his own Ministry of the Interior. An Iraqi woman attempted to enter the Czech Republic to seek treatment for her ill son, but was turned away by immigration officials, despite having a valid visa. Things have changed now because of the war, declared the officials as they sent her packing. Normally the media-conscious Gross would have jumped to the woman's rescue and reversed the decision, but it seems those spies are getting to him. He defended the actions of his police and even suggested the woman carefully read the immigration law before filling out her next visa application. Presumably she did, because within days she was granted another one and this time it worked. As Gross continues to stumble, Klaus is gaining on him in popularity. The president declared it his intention to rule as the governed would rule and that he has done. Most of his people were against the war, so he was too. Most Czechs don't want him to issue a presidential amnesty, so he won't. He went to Athens to sign the accession treaty to the European Union, which a majority of Czechs support, even squeezing out his EU ambassador for the honors. But the ink was barely dry when Klaus showed that his Euro-skepticism still wasn't behind him. To be a member of the European Union, he said, could be a dream for some, a nightmare for others. His remark caused Foreign Minister Svoboda to declare that Klaus couldn't pass a bar exam thinking the way he does about Europe. Klaus shot back that Svoboda would be lucky to make it out of kindergarten these days. And they weren't the only ones carrying on a childish charade. The entire Broadcasting Council was dismissed by Parliament as a result of the arbitration debacle with TV Nova. Some members of the Council, however, refused to accept the order and announced they were staying put. This is my chair and you can't take it away from me! But in the end it was a losing cause. Somebody has to pay, even if not always. A judge suddenly declared the ailing Union Bank bankrupt and left the government facing 16-more-000,000,000,000 crowns in deposits to cover. The government retaliated by throwing the judge in jail and swore it would go after the bank's officials next, who have been involved in everything from extortion to kidnapping lately. But just when it looks like they're finally reining these guys in, one of the former "captains of industry" is acquitted of plundering the company he ran back in the days when Klaus was premier. The court decided that somebody has to foot the $10,000,000 he took from his company but it ain't gonna be him.