July 2003   česky

A special meeting was convened by the heads of government to discuss the situation involving Frantiąek Kinský, a man in his 60s with long yellow teeth and enormous sideburns. Kinský, who has lived most of his life in Argentina, had won his fifth court case in an attempt to recover the property confiscated from his family after World War II. Almost 1.5 billion Euro is at stake and Culture Minister Pavel Dostál is determined to keep Kinský from getting any of it back. His ministry administers much of the property, including the current location of the National Gallery on Prague's historic Old Town Square. Last year the government began returning castles and huge swaths of land to the former nobility, among them good friends of Dostál like Karel Schwarzenberg. At the time there was no fear that this fat nobody from South America would get his hands on anything because his father was an ethnic German who had collaborated with the Nazis. So far the courts have chosen to see it another way and that was the gist of the meeting: how to deal with independent-minded judges. That led one constitutional court judge to hint that the politicians were acting like the authorities of the former regime. Nothing was actually settled at the meeting. The coalition partners have more pressing matters to worry about other than whether the director of the museum, another good friend of Dostál's, will have to start packing soon. Their united front took a hit when Josef Hojdar abruptly announced he would resign from his party's parliamentary club. He denied he had been bought off by either of the opposition parties, although the premier had once passed on Hojdar for a cabinet position because he was deemed too corruptible. Hojdar did little to dispel the rumors by showing up at the Karlovy Vary film festival as the guest of the monopoly that controls the nation's electrical power supply. IT Minister Vladimír Mlynář also arrived in style, at the expense of Telecom, another monopoly and one that has a vested interest in Mlynář's satisfaction. Mladá fronta Dnes had a scoop on the seedy connection between the minister and the monopoly but quashed the story because it was a media partner of the festival's organizers. The ethical lapse resulted in the resignation of its most celebrated reporter, Sabina Slonková. Last year she exposed the corrupt practices of former Deputy Foreign Minister Karel Srba, who was just sentenced to prison for putting out a contract on Slonková. The tabloid Blesk also sat on a story that Vladimír Papeľ used to visit whorehouses. Nobody knew who Papeľ was until he became the nominee for the justice ministry. Nor did anyone know he had a drunk driving record, but that information came from within his own party. With the united front crumbling, President Klaus decided to reverse himself and veto the bill that would raise the rates on value added tax. His official reason for the change of heart is he wanted to give Parliament a chance to think it over again. In fact, he knows there's nothing to think over. Either the government gets its public finance reforms through or it's history, and Klaus' old party, the Civic Democrats, are poised to take over. Another reason could be attributed to the famous Klaus pique. The White House, still angry over his opposition to the war in Iraq, rolled out the red carpet for Premier ©pidla during his visit to the US, whereas Klaus was given just enough time to shake the vice-president's hand during his earlier visit. Klaus tried to offset ©pidla's meeting with Bush by going to France to meet with Chirac, but even that ended on a sour note. Klaus complained the whole time about the European Union and freely admitted he wasn't dancing in the streets after the EU referendum passed. One French daily was moved to write that never was a president like Havel succeeded by one so completely different as Klaus is. Havel's reputation is certainly one thing the French and Americans can agree on, though. ©pidla was no more out the door when Havel walked through to gleefully accept yet another award. He didn't linger around because the Rolling Stones were scheduled to play in Prague. It was a big media event, with Mick scheduled to turn 60 years old while there. The Stones were reluctant to play in Prague for a fourth time, but agreed to add it to their tour at the request of Havel. The former president appeared on stage with them and was happy to accept their donation of $100,000 to his foundation. In return, he gave Keith Richard a shirt with "Fuck the Commies" written on it. Not surprisingly, it was designed by the same artist who put up the grotesque neon heart above the Castle during Havel's final months in office.