July, August 2001
Please note : This is a double issue. The next issue will appear in September.
Message from the Ambassador
As Cal Ripken and his last call recently demonstrated, saying good-bye is a difficult challenge. But, as he said, "I am not leaving, I am just moving on." Indeed, as Martina and I move on, we will miss many friends here. Our daughters will miss their schoolmates and teachers. My son will miss his Capital Little League and his jazz teacher. We will miss our shelter at Spring of Freedom Street in sunny, warm Washington. We will all miss America, a great, beautiful and friendly country.
However, it is time to go home. Despite all of our sentiments, I will go back to Prague with joy and satisfaction. We can be proud of what we have achieved in Czech-American relations over the past decade: we are allies in NATO; business is booming; Czechs in America and at home have found a common language; and finally, I personally have found the opportunity to regain and refresh my sense of idealism.
In the current world, America is often criticized as a hyperpower who does not listen to others. With all due respect to those critics, my experience has been different. We asked the U.S. Congress for its consent with the NATO enlargement and we got it. Jewish, Gypsy and Czech freedom fighters who were persecuted by the Nazis asked U.S. lawyers for their support and are now receiving their payments. Last but not least, we asked to listen to my underground teachers (Lou Reed and the Plastic People) in the White House, and indeed we did.
Now is the time for my gratitude. I thank all of my American friends from both sides of the aisle. Without their support, we would not be here. I thank all Czech-Americans for their heroism, good will and continuing support. I thank President Havel for giving me the chance to serve the Czech Republic here. And finally, I thank all of the hard working people at the Czech Embassy, including those who bring you this newsletter every month. Good-bye.
President Havel Attends NATO Meeting in Brussels
Czech President Vaclav Havel took part at a Special Meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Brussels, Belgium on June 13, attended by 19 heads of state or government.
In his remarks at the Special Meeting, President Havel at first spoke about the Prague summit, which, in his words : ". . . might amount to something of a turning point, since it could make an important contribution to the world=s overall architecture after the fall of its bipolar division. I assume this summit will invite other candidate countries to join the Alliance."
The Czech President mentioned the relationship between the European Union and the North Atlantic Alliance, stating that: "Europe must be capable of solving some of her problems without the assistance of the USA. At the same time, though, this may in no way weaken the transatlantic link which is based on the profound civilizational affinity of our two continents."
President Havel also spoke about the change of the strategic environment after the end of the Cold War, stating that: ". . . the world which we are entering, can indeed not base its peace on the threat of mutual extermination. It cannot base any kind of balance on this concept. We are entering an era in which defensive systems should play an ever more important role compared with offensive ones. Ours is a defensive alliance and this therefore is what we should focus on. Today=s world=s security environment clearly invites us to do so. The argument that missile defense will unleash another round of technical development and of inventing new weapons is in my mind not a legitimate one. We cannot halt technical advances or human inventiveness. This is a part of human nature. The point is that it serve mankind, not threaten it. This is the task and the responsibility of us all."
President Vaclav Havel also met U.S. President George W. Bush on the margin of the NATO meeting. President Bush later said about President Havel that he was a very interesting person whom he admires greatly. President Bush said he has read some of Havel´s writings and he considers President Havel "a legend in many ways in Eastern Europe" and values the good relationship with Vaclav Havel.
Ambassador Vondra´s Farewell Party
On Wednesday, June 20, 2001, a number of distinguished guests came to the Czech Embassy to commemorate the completion of Ambassador Alexandr Vondra's assignment to the United States. Ambassador Vondra, who will be leaving his post this summer, stressed in his remarks that the Czech Republic's most significant achievement during his tenure was to attain entry into NATO, thus further enhancing Czech-American relations.
The evening's speakers included Mrs. Paula Dobriansky, Under Secretary of State, who highlighted Ambassador Vondra's "moral integrity" and wished him well in his future endeavors. Ambassador Martin Butora of Slovakia, a close friend and former colleague of Mr. Vondra, recalled their times together in the former Czechoslovakia when they shared an office at the Prague castle while working for then Czechoslovak President Vaclav Havel. On behalf of the ten NATO aspirant countries, the Slovak representative presented Ambassador Vondra with a baseball cap inscribed "Mr. Summit," in reference to his new position as President Havel and the Government´s Commissioner for organization of the 2002 NATO Summit in Prague. Michael G. Rokos, a member of The Czech and Slovak Heritage Association of Maryland and Vice President of the American Friends of the Czech Republic, presented the Czech Ambassador with a special map of Virginia and Maryland. The map, very first of its kind, dates back to 1670 and was drawn by Augustin Herman, the first known Czech immigrant permanently settled in America. The final speaker of the evening was NATO Secretary General Lord George Robertson, who pledged for a successful NATO summit in Prague and expressed his firm belief that the Summit would result in further enlargement.
As the evening progressed, Latin jazz performers The Eli Staples Band took to the stage to enliven the reception and help disperse of the formalities.
CEELI Award Ceremony and Luncheon
The 2001 Central and East European Law Initiative (CEELI) Award Ceremony and Luncheon will honor President Vaclav Havel, the people of the Czech Republic, and over 5000 U.S. legal professionals who have supported CEELI in providing pro bono assistance in twenty-three countries over the last eleven years.
CEELI is the most extensive international technical project of legal assistance ever undertaken by the ABA.
The luncheon will take place in the Grand Ballroom of the Chicago Hyatt Regency Hotel on Saturday, August 4, 2001 from noon until 2 p.m.
The 2001 Jan Masaryk Gratias Agit Award - Professor Keitha Sapsin Fine
Every year, the Czech Minister of Foreign Affairs awards approximately ten outstanding personalities or collectives from the Czech Republic and abroad with the Jan Masaryk Gratias Agit Award. The Award is intended to express the Czech Government's appreciation for the individuals and organizations who spread a positive image of the Czech Republic abroad, and enhance mutual relationships between the Czech Republic and other countries. Primarily, the Award honors activities that the recipients have developed in the spheres of science, education, and arts or public life --in addition to their professional careers.
This year, Foreign Minister Jan Kavan honored thirteen exceptional individuals and two organizations during the awards ceremony held on June 26 in Prague's Cernin Palace. Among those awarded was American scholar Ms. Keitha Sapsin Fine, Professor of Political Sciences at the University of Massachusetts in Boston, MA. Since the 1960s, Professor Fine has actively cooperated on many governmental and non-governmental projects related to Central and Eastern Europe. In the 1980s, she established The East European Cultural Endowment, Ltd., the organization that has since supported social, political, and human rights reforms in former Soviet Bloc countries. The Endowment financed the publishing of the prestigious quarterly that was distributed among Czech dissident groups, The East European Reporter. In addition, Professor Fine extensively supported translations of Czech samizdat literature and worked out scholarly textbooks on political and social sciences and closely cooperated with the Czech Helsinki Committee, the Tolerance Foundation, the Gender Studies Centre, and various Czech universities. Professor Fine is active in Amnesty International and Helsinki Watch.
Among those awarded from the United States in the last four years are: the activist and co-founder of several Czech American societies and foundations, as well as a leading personality of the Czech American exile movement, Mr. Andrew Valuchek (1997, in memoriam); the founder of the Foundation for a Civil Society, Ms. Wendy Luers (1997); the President of the Czechoslovak Society of Arts and Sciences, Dr. Miloslav Rechcigl (1998); the organization, the American Friends of the Czech Republic (1998); the collector and supporter of Czech art, Ms. Meda Mladek (1999); and the Czech American activist Ms. Barbara Lee Podoski (1999). In 2000, the Award was bestowed upon two Czech American activists, Mr. Fred Kala, former President of the American Sokol, and Mr. Vladislav Slavik, former President of the Eastern District of American Sokol (who currently serves as Vice-President of the World Sokol Organization). The third American recipient was the Czech Educational Foundation of Texas, awarded for its long-term outstanding support of Czech - American student and scholar exchanges and its support of educational and cultural programs.
EU Meets USA in Sweden
The heads of states and governments of the European Union countries met on June 15 and 16 in Gothenburg, Sweden to discuss internal matters, EU enlargement, political and economic relations with the United States, and joint foreign policy initiatives. Globalization and enlargement presents the European Union with great opportunities and challenges, and the Czech Republic is one of the current candidates for membership. Providing that progress continues towards meeting the criteria for accession at a steady pace, the EU stated that the most advanced candidate countries are likely to complete entry negotiations by the end of 2002 and to participate in elections to the European Parliament in 2004.
The EU members also emphasized at the meeting a desire to develop and refine its capabilities, structures, and procedures of conflict prevention and crisis management by using either military or civilian means. Substantial progress has been made in building an effective partnership with the UN in the fields of conflict prevention and crisis management, as well as development cooperation, asylum policies, and refugee assistance. This partnership is strengthened by the mutual desire to use conflict prevention strategies. The Western Balkans, the Middle East, and Africa will be given highest priority in this reinforced cooperation.
On June 15, the EU - USA summit was held. Although President Bush did not approve of the Kyoto protocol, it was agreed that climatic change is the most urgent environmental concern. Though the United States chose not to ratify the treaty, they did not choose to work against it either. The summit agenda also included trade issues, security in Europe and selected foreign policy topics (e.g. Balkans, North Korea, Middle East).
The meeting in Gothenburg was a successful and historic event. The European Union is currently in the process of expanding and enlarging itself. As the Union continues to grow, it proceeds to effect the entire world, bringing hopes of greater peace, security, and economic stability for all.
Historical Marker to Honor the Pittsburgh Agreement
The Pennsylvania Historic Marker and Museum Commission recently approved a proposal to honor Tomas Garrigue Masaryk and the signing of the Pittsburgh Agreement with an official historic marker. The proposal was submitted to the Pennsylvania State Commission by the Pittsburgh Chapter of the Czechoslovak Society of Arts and Sciences (SVU), a non-profit international organization which includes, as one of its goals, the preservation of Czech and Slovak heritage in both this country and abroad. A dedication ceremony for the unveiling of the historic marker took place on Thursday afternoon, May 31, 2001 at the corner of Seventh and Penn Avenues in downtown Pittsburgh, near the site of the original signing.
The event marked another success for the recently established Pittsburgh SVU Chapter. Led by Carol Hochman, the local chapter brought a number of interesting guests to the ceremony including Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy, who delivered the opening speech. Also present was the founder of the Foundation for a Civil Society, Mrs. Wendy Luers (wife of former US Ambassador to Czechoslovakia, Mr. William Luers); Honorary Consul General of the Czech Republic, Mr. Peter Rafaeli; Honorary Consul of the Slovak Republic, Mr. Joseph T. Senko; Consul General of the Czech Republic in New York, Mr. Petr Gandalovic; Cultural Counselor of the Czech Embassy in Washington, D.C., Mr. Ivan Dubovicky, and representatives from various Czech and Slovak American organizations. Additionally, resolutions were presented by Congressmen and Senators from the state of Pennsylvania. The official unveiling was performed by descendants of the two men who played such crucial roles in the Pittsburgh Agreement's signing -- Tomas G. Masaryk, leader of the Czechoslovak resistance movement and the first President of Independent Czechoslovakia, was represented by his great-grandson, Mr. Thomas Kotlik, while Mr. Milan Getting, a Pittsburgh Agreement signatory and the first independent Czechoslovakian Consul in Pittsburgh, was represented by one of his great-grandsons, Mr. Thomas Getting.
The Pittsburgh Agreement played a significant role in the course of events leading to the establishment of an independent Czechoslovakian state after the First World War. On May 30, while visiting Pittsburgh, Professor Masaryk addressed a crowd of 20,000 people gathered in enthusiastic support of the new nation. As recounted by local newspaper reports, Masaryk was "greeted with tumultuous and thunderous applause" and delivered a speech that was described as "striking heart fire." The following day, the Pittsburgh Agreement was signed by local Czech and Slovak representatives who pledged their joint support for the formation of an independent country. Masaryk=s visit was a catalyst for the drafting and signing of this Agreement. On October 18, 1918, thanks to the support of President Woodrow Wilson, the Czechoslovak Declaration of Independence was proclaimed. Later that same year, Professor Tomas Garrigue Masaryk became the first president of the newly independent Czechoslovakia.
Slovakia´s New Embassy
The grand opening of the new Embassy of Slovakia took place on June 8, 2001. The Slovak diplomatic representation, previously located at Wisconsin Avenue, has moved to brand new premises located at 3523 International Court, NW. The ribbon cutting opening of the new building, attended by Slovak Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda, was followed by a reception for guests from Slovakia, Slovak-Americans, and friends of Slovakia. We congratulate our friends and colleagues from Slovak Embassy on their new chancery !
At a black tie dinner on June 9, the Czech Ambassador, Alexandr Vondra, presented the Slovak Embassy with a portrait of Milan Rastislav Stefanik, with the following remarks :
. . . After the split of the Czech and Slovak Republics, the Czech Embassy had the benefit of keeping one valuable item in its possession: the portrait of one the most influential Slovak heroes of the 20th century, Milan Rastislav Stefanik, a close collaborator of Tomas G. Masaryk, a leading personality of the Czech and Slovak independence movement during WW I, and one of the founding fathers of Czechoslovakia. . .
. . . I believe the new Slovak Embassy is the perfect place for this great representation of this Slovak hero. Let this portrait and the legacy of Milan Rastislav Stefanik be a small but eternal reminder of the joint effort of our three nations -the Americans, the Slovaks and the Czechs - to fight for freedom and democracy in Europe and the worldLet it also be a reminder of Czech support for Slovak aspirations for NATO membership. Stefanik, a diplomat, politician and astronomer, wanted to reach the stars: his portrait will remind us all that through our mutual cooperation, we can reach what sometimes seems to be unreachable. In the name of Mr. Stefanik, we will continue to nurture our friendship and cooperation so that we can reach the stars together.
SVU Conference in Nebraska
The Czechoslovak Society of Arts and Sciences (SVU) will host its 2001 North American Conference entitled The Czech and Slovak Legacy in the Americas: Preservation of Heritage with the Accent on Youth. The conference, co-organized by the University of Nebraska, will be held in Lincoln, NE on August 2 and 3 of 2001. The dates of the Conference have been selected to coincide with the 40th Annual Czech Festival in Wilber Nebraska, the Czech Capital of the USA.
The event is sponsored by the University's College of Arts and Sciences, its Departments of Modern Languages and European Studies, and by the following community and regional groups: the Czech Language Foundation, The Komensky Club, the Nebraska Czechs of Lincoln, and the Wilber Czechs.
The conference will focus on three main themes, including: Ethnicity and Preservation of Language and Culture, Historical and Contemporary Settlements of People from the Czech and Slovak Republics in the Americas, and The Future Relationships Between the Czechs and Slovaks Living in the Americas and Those Living in the Czech and Slovak Republics.
Conference participants will have the unique opportunity to attend various cultural and social programs scheduled throughout the two days, as well as to attend the Wilber Czech Festival on Saturday and Sunday.
For information on attending the Conference, please contact Cathy Oslzly, Department of Psychology, 238 Burnett Hall, UNL, Lincoln, NE 68588-0308 or go to the web page : www.svu2000.org.
Nebraska Czech Festival
On August 3, 4 & 5, the Annual Czech Festival will take place in Wilber, NE. With an agenda that includes an Art Show, a Czech Historical Pageant, a Czech Heritage Demonstration, and the featured event, 40 Years of Wilber Czech Queens, this year=s gathering will be the 40th Festival to be hosted in Wilber, the proclaimed Czech Capital of the U.S.A.
The Saline County seat of Wilber is rich in Czech history and cultural tradition, providing visitors with both old-world atmosphere and a good time year-round. The community of 1,600 inhabitants has been the Czech capital of Nebraska since 1963 and of the U.S.A. since 1987.
Each year since 1962, Wilber's population swells to over 30,000 during the first full weekend in August as residents celebrate their Czech ancestry at the National Czech Festival. The streets of the entire business district take on a carnival-like atmosphere with arts and crafts, food and drink, games, music, and other amusements. Czech musicians and dancers are featured in daily parades.
The Wilber Czech Museum is a gathering spot during the festival, as well as an interesting place to visit any time of the year. The museum features an outstanding Czech doll collection, beautiful Czech dishes, murals and pictures, a quilt collection, laces and Czech costumes, replicas of early immigrant homes and early Wilber businesses, and many other ethnic exhibits.
For more information about the festival, please visit www.ci.wilber.ne.us/festival.htm or call toll-free 1-888-4-WILBER.
Linnean Avenue or Spring of Freedom Street?
How Washington, D.C. Honored Revolutions in Eastern Europe
Many people in the Washington area, though quite knowledgeable of the city's intricacies, are unaware of the small street, named Spring of Freedom Street, where our Embassy is located.
Nearly ten years ago, on June 26, 1991, the Public Works Committee and the Council of the District of Columbia approved Bill 9-177, the "Spring of Freedom Street Designation Act of 1991," submitted by council member James. E. Nathanson. By renaming the small part of Linnean Avenue "Spring of Freedom Street," the Washington authorities expressed their recognition of the important political changes that occurred after 1989 in the former Soviet satellites. The purpose of the legislation was "to commemorate the recent political and economic freedom achieved by the eastern block countries . . . " Mr. Stephen P. Belcher, Chair of the Advisory Neighborhood Commission, noted in his letter of support that, "Bill 9-177 will quite correctly have a bit of District geography reflect our admiration for the historic events of 1989 in Eastern Europe which brought to an end the 'Cold War' and inaugurated instead an era of closer friendship and understanding." Though this may seem a rather small step, it was of great symbolic value for the Czech, Slovak and Hungarian Embassies. As we now approach the tenth anniversary of the street's renaming, we would like to take this opportunity to express our gratitude for the city's recognition.
June 5 : After almost fifteen months and several rounds of talks, the negotiating teams of the Czech Republic and the Vatican completed a working version of a bilateral treaty. The treaty must be approved by the Czech Cabinet and Parliament and by the Holy See before it can be finalized and signed. The agreement will have no legal bearing on the resolution of outstanding property issues between the Catholic Church and the Czech government.
June 6 : In Zagreb, Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman praised the Croatian government for its efforts towards integration with the EU and NATO and expressed the Czech Republic's full support in the process. The Czech Prime Minister and his Croatian counterpart, Ivica Racan, signed an agreement regarding the repayment of the Croatian debt. Both Prime Ministers pledged to support mutual investment and discussed a joint plan to enable the further development of tourism, as Croatia's Adriatic coast has traditionally been a favorite holiday destination for many Czechs.
June 9 -10 : Prime Minister Milos Zeman, accompanied by Defense Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik and Chief of Staff Gen. Jiri Sedivy, visited Czech units operating in the peacekeeping missions in the Balkans. The Ministers praised the Czech soldiers' performance in both Bosnia and Kosovo and presented several medals. The Prime Minister inspected the soldiers' working conditions and joined them for a lunch of beef soup and sirloin.
June 14 : Prague Mayor Jan Kasl met for the first time with a preparatory committee for the 2002 NATO summit. The committee began planning a budget to pay for police services, rental of the Prague Congress Center, reinforcement of public transit, traffic restrictions, and cleanup. In addition, special accommodations must be made for the 19 member states and 46 guest heads of state. The preparations committee will meet again in November.
June 14 : The Human Rights Committee of the Czech Senate held a public hearing on the draft law regarding the rights of minorities which was recently approved by the Chamber of Deputies (Lower House of Parliament). Representatives of the country's leading minorities - Slovaks, Poles, Ukrainians, Greeks and Germans - were asked to present their views and suggestions. According to the government's Human Rights Commissioner, Jan Jarab, the legislation has made progress in specifying the definition of a national minority, in guaranteeing the right for bilingual signs in areas where it is appropriate, and in introducing a new definition of misdemeanors involving racial discrimination.
June 15 : The City Court in Prague sentenced former state prosecutor Karel Vas, now 85, to seven years in prison. Mr. Vas was found guilty of planting false evidence during the 1949 trial of Gen. Heliodor Pika. During World War II, General Pika served as an intelligence officer in the Balkans for the London-based Czechoslovak government-in-exile led by President Benes. After the Communist takeover in 1948, Gen. Pika was accused of spying for the British intelligence and subsequently convicted on fabricated charges, sentenced to death, and finally executed. The Vas case is regarded as a critical step toward bringing Communist-era criminals to justice.
June 19 : The center-right opposition four-party coalition presented its draft bill introducing direct presidential elections as a replacement for the current method in which the two houses of the Parliament jointly elect the head of state. The bill does not provide for changes in presidential powers and would not replace the country's current parliamentary system with a presidential one. According to the proposal, candidates for president could be nominated by political parties, as well as citizens, after collecting signatures of at least 20,000 citizens aged over 18. The four-party coalition wants to officially submit the bill later this year after a broad range of experts, politicians, and citizens have assessed it.
June 19 : Defense Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik announced today that the State Security Council has decided to reinforce the Czech contingent in KFOR from the current 170 troops to up to 400. It was also agreed that a joint Czech-Slovak unit would begin operations in KFOR in March 2002. The Czech Army will end its operation within the SFOR peacekeeping mission in Bosnia by the end of the year. However, a small group of Czech officers will remain at SFOR command liaison positions and at centers for cooperation with the civilian population.
June 20 : The Constitutional Court confirmed the validity of the appointment of Czech National Bank (CNB) Governor Zdenek Tuma and Vice Governor Ludek Niedermayer. President Havel appointed Tuma and Niedermeyer in November 2000. However, Prime Minister Milos Zeman challenged the appointments, claiming that President Havel needed a counter-signature from the Prime Minister to make the decision. The Court ruled that the President did not violate either the law or the Constitution. Judge Vladimir Klokocka pointed out that President Havel has been appointing CNB representatives without a counter-signature for eight years without any previously complaints.
June 20 : The Czech government unanimously approved sending Czech soldiers to Macedonia as part of the potential NATO operation "Essential Harvest," an effort to help bring an end to the conflict between ethnic Albanian rebels and Macedonian armed forces. The NATO forces will be deployed at the request of the Macedonian government and only after both sides in the conflict agree on a peace plan. The unit will have up to 120 Czech troops consisting of professional soldiers with experience from similar Balkan missions. Defense Minister Tvrdik welcomed the fact that the Czech Cabinet acted on the same day that NATO discussed the conditions for its potential operation in Macedonia.
June 21 : President Vaclav Havel said in an interview that Czechs should not forget that over ten years ago, the country was occupied by the Soviet Army. The final train carrying Soviet troops left Czechoslovakia on June 21, 1991. "Very many of our citizens are perhaps not aware that ten years and a bit ago we were an occupied country. Those who experienced it have pushed it out of their minds a bit. A new generation is coming up which did not experience it. For many different reasons it is good to often remember it," said Havel in the interview. Havel also thanked all those who helped remove Soviet troops from Czechoslovakia. The demand to withdraw the Soviet troops appeared after the fall of the communist regime in November 1989. Havel continued to say that more than twenty years of occupation has left a deep mark on society, on the moral climate, and on social consciousness.
June 25 : Czech Premier Milos Zeman met with French Minister for European Affairs Pierre Moscovici to discuss the Czech Republic=s candidacy for the European Union. Moscovici praised the Czech Republic for the progress it has made in its EU accession talks. Moscovici informed Zeman that the Czechs were leading the group of candidate countries for EU membership and that their intention to close accession talks by the middle of next year was realistic. Both leaders agreed that the Nice treaty on reforming the EU had to be ratified, otherwise enlargement of the Union would be extremely difficult. Zeman said that the Czech Republic has finished 19 of the chapters in its accession talks and hopes to close six more by the end of the year. The remaining talks should be finished by mid-2002.
June 25 : Heads of the Foreign, Defense and Security, and European Integration Committees in the Parliaments of the Visegrad countries (the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia) met in Prague to discuss the enlargement of the EU and NATO. The meetings are held twice a year to coordinate positions and exchange experiences from the integration processes. The participants agreed that the period during which workers from new EU states would not be allowed to work in other EU countries should be as short as possible. They also expressed support for the strengthening of transatlantic relations.
June 26 : The Chamber of Deputies overruled the presidential veto today regarding the new media legislation. President Vaclav Havel vetoed the law earlier in June, since, in his opinion, the measures stated in the law limit the possibility for those newly interested to enter the nationwide radio and TV market in the Czech Republic. The Czech President also disapproved of the 200 million CZK administrative fee set by the bill for extending the TV broadcast license to up to 12 years. According to the president, the legislation will limit free competition and unjustifiably restrict people's rights to do business.
June 27 : Irish Foreign Minister Brian Cowen and Czech President Vaclav Havel met in Prague to discuss the recent referendum in Ireland in which the Nice treaty was rejected. Cowen said it was not a vote against the existence of the EU, but rather an attempt to pave the way toward future enlargement of the EU. The rejection of the treaty was not reflective of an Irish opposition to the EU, for polls show that 56 percent of Irish people are for the European Union.
Dallas and Austin Hold Seminars on Business Opportunities in the Czech Republic
On June 12 through 14, 2001, the Texas Department of Economic Development, the Greater Dallas Chamber of Commerce, the Czech Embassy in Washington, CzechInvest, and CzechTrade organized a series of business seminars on business opportunities in the Czech Republic. The seminar explored trade opportunities in the Czech Republic and diversified investment portfolios, including information technology, software development, electronics, and aerospace. Texas business representatives learned why the Czech Republic has become the premier foreign investment destination in Europe at the event which took place at the Wyndham Garden Hotel in Dallas. A similar discussion has been arranged by the Texas Department of Economic Development's Business Breakfast on June 14 by the Austin Community College in Austin.
Anti-Monopoly Office Wants New Immunity Rules
The Czech competition watchdog UOHS seeks to introduce U.S.-style incentives to examine and break up industry cartels. The competition office hopes to draw up the new rules by the end of the year. The rules will follow guidelines similar to those of the U.S. Department of Justice, offering complete immunity to companies that inform on cartels in the making or those already existing. UOHS is looking at the existing systems in the United States, Australia, and New Zealand as models.
UOHS chairman Mr. Josef Bednar has made the fight against cartels one of his top priorities. If his plans proceed, the changes would make the competition office one of the best equipped in Europe to clamp down on cartels.
Cabinet Proposes Changes to Boost Central Bank Independence
New changes aimed at giving the Czech National Bank (CNB) more independence were approved by the government on June 13. The Cabinet passed two changes to address the European Commission=s criticism that the current law on the central bank's powers infringes upon the European Agreement. The first change revokes current provisions, forcing the bank to set its inflation targets in agreement with the Cabinet. The second piece removes the government's power to oversee the central bank's operating budget, thus confirming its financial independence.
The controversial amendments were opposed by President Vaclav Havel and the Senate. The European Commission also noted that the proposed provisions on the central bank could hamper the country's membership negotiations. However, the latest government proposals are likely to spark some difficult discussions in Parliament. Strict central bank independence is a basic demand for any country becoming part of the euro-zone and adopting the euro, the single European currency.
June 4 : The Ministry of Industry and Trade has launched a new $2.5 million project to help develop Czech electronics manufacturers. The project is expected to increase the volume of exports from 6 percent to 20 percent within three years and will be implemented through CzechInvest, the government foreign investment arm.
June 7 : Czech car maker Skoda Auto, a unit of Volkswagen, increased sales by 14.6 percent in the first five months. Skoda sold 35,439 new cars between January and May. Sales of the smaller commercial cars Pick up and Van Plus jumped 45.1 percent to 1,593 units.
June 8 : The third Czech mobile operator Cesky Mobil, controlled by Canada's TIW , now claims more than 500,000 subscribers. Cesky Mobil launched services last March. Approximately 40,000 new users have been activated every month this year, with 39 percent choosing the more lucrative post-paid services as opposed to pre-paid phone cards. The Czech mobile market is dominated by Cesky Telecom's Eurotel and Deutsche Telekom's RadioMobil, who together serve 97 percent of all mobile users, thus up to 60 percent of the total population.
June 10 : The Czech Anti-Monopoly Office (UOHS) canceled government tenders for advisers on the privatization of the energy sector. A spokesman for UOHS said the ruling has been made, but has yet to take effect. The government voted to appoint new advisers on the planned privatization of large energy firms such as power producer CEZ and unlisted gas distributor Transgas. Deloitte & Touche and N.M. Rothschild and Sons won a tender to advise the government on the sale of CEZ and its stakes in the regional power producer, while Salomon Brothers and Citibank were chosen to advise on the sale of Transgas. But the awarding of the tenders was challenged by Dutch bank ABN Amro, which filed an appeal with the UOHS over a battle worth a combined CZK 150 billion ($3.9 billion).
June 11 : Czech telecoms group Cesky Telecom said it is continuing talks to buy 49 percent of mobile operator Eurotel from Verizon Communications and AT&T. Cesky Telecom already has a 51 percent stake in Eurotel, which generates a large share of its profits. Full ownership of the mobile operator would increase the value of the dominant Czech telecoms company as the government and other shareholders prepare to sell a majority stake in Cesky Telecom to a strategic investor.
June 14 : The Czech cabinet approved on Wednesday the opening of a tender by the end of July to sell a 63 percent state stake in the country's leading refinery and petrochemicals group, Unipetrol. Trade Minister Miroslav Gregr said the cabinet would approve a winning bid by the end of this year. He added that HSBC has been hired to assist the state with the sale. "The government sees the timeline for a winning bid by the end of the year," Gregr said. Unipetrol controls refinery Ceska Rafinerska, petrochemicals units Chemopetrol and Kaucuk, and runs Benzina, the country's largest chain of gas stations. With a market capitalization of $260 million, the group posted a 2000 net profit of CZK 2.37 billion CZK ($59 million).
June 17 : European Union leaders said at the EU weekend summit in Goteburg that if the most advanced candidate states continue their current pace of moves towards accession, the talks could be wrapped up by the end of 2002, enabling them to join by 2004. The EU opened membership talks with Hungary, Estonia, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, and Cyprus in 1998 while Slovakia, Lithuania, Latvia, Bulgaria, Romania and Malta began talks in 2000.
June 18 : Czech retail sales growth accelerated to a faster-than-expected 5.7 percent in April after a 3.1 percent growth in March, according to the CSU. The market had expected a 4.6 percent rise. The CSU said that the retail sector was led by car sales and repairs, which rose 10.1 and 16.1 percent respectively. The result is another sign of the economy=s acceleration after healthy industrial and construction output figures for the past months. Overall sales in services, including sales in retail, transportation, communications and other sectors, grew 8.4 percent after a 5.6 percent growth the previous month.
June 19: Czech telecoms firm Ceske Radiokomunikace said that it has started to pay dividends from last year's windfall profits despite a pending legal dispute. The state, which plans to sell its 51 percent stake in the firm soon, pushed through a dividend of CZK 395 per share at a general meeting in April.
June 20 : Seven of the Czech Republic's nine mortgage banks have lowered their rates recently, leading to increased customer interest. About 15,000 mortgage loans are expected to be issued this year, an increase of about 20 percent. The biggest obstacle to more lending is the 30 percent down payment required by all banks other than GE Capital Bank, which only requires 15 percent.
Consular Offices of the Czech Republic in the USA
The Consular offices of the CR provide all consular services to Czech citizens in the USA and foreign nationals traveling to the Czech Republic. Following is a list of Czech Consulates in the USA :
Consulate General of the Czech Republic
1109-1111 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10028
Phone : (212) 717-5643
Fax : (212) 717-5064
E.mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
Consul : Mr. Ladislav Koudelka
Jurisdiction : New York, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont.
Consulate General of the Czech Republic
10990 Wilshire Blvd, Suite 1100
Los Angeles, CA 90024 Phone : (310) 473-0889
Fax : (319)473-9813
E.mail : email@example.com
Consul : Mrs. Daniela Vyzvaldova
Jurisdiction : California, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.
Embassy of the Czech Republic
Consular Section 3900 3900 Spring of Freedom St., NW
Washington, DC 20008 Phone: (202) 274-9121
Fax: (202) 363-6308
E.mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
Consul: Mr. Richard Krpac
Jurisdiction : all the states that do not fall within the jurisdictions of the Consulate General of the Czech Republic in Los Angeles, CA and the Consulate General in New York, NY.
People in Need Foundation in Washington, D.C.
On June 13, 14 and 15, three key representatives from the People in Need Foundation (Clovek v tisni), a non-governmental organization established in 1992 visited Washington, D.C. to hold introductory meetings with administration officials, Congress staffers, and non-profit organizations. The delegation included Mr. Thomas Polar, Director of the Foundation, Mr. Simon Pane, Chief of Humanitarian Aid Operations, and Mr. J. Michael Luhan, Director for Institutional and Program Development.
The introductory meetings were held at the State Department, the USAID, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the House International Relations Committee, the World Bank, the American Enterprise Institute, the German Marshall Fund, the Open Society Institute, the U.S. Committee for Peace in Chechnya, the Freedom Forum, and the Freedom House. The National Endowment for Democracy hosted a luncheon discussion.
The People in Need Foundation's (PINF) activities uniquely combine humanitarian aid and vigorous human rights & freedoms advocacy. Their Mission Statement aims "to inspire a largeness of spirit in Czech Society by helping others in need, and to promote democratic freedoms for all." The Foundation has gained a reputation for effective cross-border and cross-regional assistance in closed or semi-authoritarian societies, as well as in areas wrecked by war. PINF has delivered more than 17 million USD in relief, rehabilitation and other assistance to 25 countries including Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Albania, Chechnya and Afghanistan.
As part of the effort to advocate human rights and democratic freedoms in close partnership with cultural and civic organizations, PINF established the annual 'One World' international human rights film festival in 1999 -- the first in Central Europe and currently one of the most influential in the world. PINF has recently moved into the production of professional print and video materials for the Czech media. Since 1998, the Foundation has produced a regular series of special supplements on crisis areas for Respekt, the Czech Republic=s leading political journal, as well as more than 20 documentary films for Czech Television. So far, PINF's cameras have witnessed such crises as the current war in Chechnya, the exodus and return of Kosovo Albanians, the extinction of Tibetan culture, the persecution of independent journalists in Belarus, the life of Afghan refugees in Iran, and street children in Vietnam.
In 1998, PINF crossed an important developmental threshold when it received funding from the National Endowment for Democracy (U.S.A.) for its activities in support of pro-democracy forces in Belarus. The PINF program organizes visits for Belarussian activists to the Czech Republic; provides material support to independent media, NGOs and youth groups, and arranges training and seminars for Belarussian lawyers, economists, journalists, teachers, and university students.
In September 1998, PINF launched a nationwide pilot project to ameliorate the oppressive conditions of the Roma minority in 15 localities of the Czech Republic. The Foundation operates a number of programs on behalf of Czechs in the diaspora.
The Foundation routinely collaborates with a broad spectrum of partners in its project activities. These include UN agencies such as Mercy Corps, CRS and the International Rescue Committee; civic and cultural associations; and independent media. Funding for the Foundation's activities is provided by private and corporate donors via fundraising campaigns in the Czech Republic, as well as the Czech Government=s foreign aid program and a variety of U.S. and European institutions. People in Need is particularly grateful for the long-standing support of its co-founder, Czech Television, as well as the City of Prague, the Open Society Fund, the Foundation for Civil Society (Phare), the Charles S. Mott Foundation, and the National Endowment for Democracy.
In recognition of its achievements, PINF received the Czech Foreign Ministry=s Gratias Agit award in 1997 for outstanding contributions to the Czech Republic=s image abroad. The Foundation also received the Democracy and Civil Society award from the United States and the European Union in 1998.
Artist of the Month : Petr Zelenka
Introduced by Chad Evans Wyatt´s Project Praha 2000
Scriptwriter and director Petr Zelenka (1967) is one of the great talents of recent Czech cinema. He was born into a family of scriptwriters, Bohumil and Otta Zelenka, who wrote primarily for television. The younger Zelenka studied script writing and dramaturgy at Prague's Film Academy and wrote his first script for Czech Television. He shot two pseudo-rockumentaries about the punk group Visaci zamek (literally translated as "padlock"). Zelenka himself is an active rocker and jokes about the generation of directors of electric guitar. His feature-length film debut, the film "Mnaga Happy End," conveys with irony and sarcastic mystification the birth, rise and fall of one group. The film has gained recognition, but so far mostly for a domestic audience only. The breakthrough came in 1997, when Zelenka shot his story "The Buttoners," which quickly earned cult status among Czech youth; several lines in the film have already become popular. This film brought Zelenka international recognition and collected honorable mentions and awards at various festivals. As a result, Czech cinematography became spoken about as the current language of expression. Zelenka made a statement on the domestic scene the following year, when he refused to appear at the ceremony of the annual Czech Lion film awards, saying "The bottom line is that I do not attend certain show business events and this event seems to me already a bit too much." In 2000 Zelenka wrote a script for the film Samotari (The Loners) directed by David Ondricek.
Divided We Fall Shown in the USA
Jan Hrebejk, director of a famous Czech movie Divided We Fall (Musime si pomahat) attended its US premiere in person on June, 8, 2001. The best Czech movie of 2000, also nominated for an Oscar in the Foreign Films category this year, has won five Czech lions (Czech awards for best films). The rights for this movie were already bought in February by Sony Pictures Classics, who also own the rights for video, DVD and TV distribution in the USA and Canada. Divided We Fall is the first Czech movie on the US market financed exclusively by Czech investors. The Oscar-winning Kolja in 1994, also shown in America, was partially financed by foreign investors.
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Events at the Embassy
May 15 -September 20
In a fascinating display by one of the most notorious and respected artists of the Czech Republic, Skiers, a selection of sensitively and humorously created images of mature characters on skis in a variety of circumstances, is not an exhibit for ski aficionados only. Artist Martin Velisek, a graduate of the Academy of Applied Arts in Prague, primarily concerns himself with glassmaking, painting, drawing, illustrations, graphics and photography. His work has been exhibited in galleries in Prague, Liberec, Vienna, Paris, and Melbourne, among others. Martin Velisek is a member and court artist of the music group Uz jsme doma. His work Skiers will be on display through September 20, weekdays from 9-5 and evenings during events.
Events around the U.S.
The Czech Voice of Cleveland, a Sunday Morning Czech Show hosted by Joe Kocab
WRMR 850 AM Radio
11:00 a.m. to Noon
WERE 1300 AM
1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Karlin Wednesday Dances
Czech Food served from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., dancing from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. Karlin Hall and Club, 5304 Fleet Avenue, Cleveland, OH
July 18 Northern Ohio
July 25 Ben Landfeld
August 1 Frankie Spetich
August 8 Ed Zalar
August 15 Hanslik / Kurka
August 22 Bob Sabatka
August 29 Homesteaders
September 5 "Labor Day Jam" with host F. Moravcik
September 12 Maple Hts.
For reservations, please call 216.429.2450
For more information, please call 216.883.4760
The National Czech & Slovak Museum hosts a screening of "The Fireman's Ball" (1968), Milos Forman's satirical social commentary. In Czech with English subtitles. WFLA Heritage Hall, 30-16th Avenue, SW, Cedar Rapids, IA 52404.
Admission is Free
For more information, please call 319.362.8500
The Quintet of the America's woodwind ensemble performs "Birds in the Garden," a concert at the Bar Harbor Music Festival. The Quintet will create a musical picture of birds, featuring "Five Poems" by Karel Husa, among others.
Bar Harbor Congregational Church, 29 Mount Desert Street, Bar Harbor, Maine.
For more information, please call 212.222.1026 or 207.288.5744 or visit http://www.barharborinfo.com/
Ceska sin Karlin hosts the Sokol Greater Cleveland Fish Fry at Bohemian National Hall.
5 p.m. -7 p.m.
No reservations required. For information, please call 440.237.4114
July 20 -22
The Nebraska Czech Festivals announces the Dwight Czech Festival, including the Little Czech Dancers and Car Show, concerts, parades and more.
At the Legion and Church Halls, Dwight, Nebraska.
For more information, please call 402.435.6914, or visit www.nebraskaczechs.org
July 23 -August 6
Sokol South Omaha announces the American Sokol National Instructor=s School.
For more information, please contact: Sokol South Omaha, 2021 "U" Street, Omaha, NE 68107
The National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library hosts a screening of Milos Forman's second American film, "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" (1975). In Czech with English subtitles. WFLA Heritage Hall, 30-16th Avenue, SW, Cedar Rapids, IA 52404.
Admission is free
For more information, please call 319.362.8500
Ceska Sin Karlin presents the 77th Vojan Day at D.T.J. Farm with chicken or duck dinners and the Hanslik-Kurka combo.
For more information, please call 440.888.0483
The National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library hosts "Life Long Learning Series," with a lecture by Kay Wilson Jenkins of Grinnel College. The lecture will cover the art and artists of communist-era Czechoslovakia. WFLA Heritage Hall, 30-16th Avenue, SW, Cedar Rapids, IA 52404.
Admission is free
For more information, please call 319.362.8500
The National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library hosts a lecture on Moravian-born psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud by Jacob Sine of the University of Iowa. WFLA Heritage Hall, 30-16th Avenue, SW, Cedar Rapids, IA 52404.
Admission is free
For more information, please call 319.362.8500
The Nebraska Czech Festivals announces the Wilber Czech Festival, located in the Czech Capital of Nebraska and the USA. Come and celebrate with an Accordion Jamboree, a Children=s parade, Czech dinners, museum tours, crafts, and the Miss Czech-Slovak USA Queen and National Historic Pageants.
5 p.m. Friday - Sunday evening
For more information, please call 1.888.494.5237 (1.888.4wilber), or visit www.nebraskaczechs.org
Ceska sin Karlin of Cleveland celebrates the D.T.J. Harvest Festival with Czech food, music, and a parade.
For more information, please call 440.543.8494
The National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library hosts "Learn at Lunch" --bring a sack lunch and learn about Czech and Slovak traditions. WFLA Heritage Hall, 30-16th Avenue, SW, Cedar Rapids, IA 52404.
Admission is free
For more information, please call 319.362.8500
The National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library hosts a screening of "Amadeus" (1984), directed by Milos Forman. WFLA Heritage Hall, 30-16th Avenue, SW, Cedar Rapids, IA 52404.
Admission is free
For more information, please call 319.362.8500
The National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library hosts a screening of "Madeleine Albright," a biographical film about the former U.S. Secretary of State. WFLA Heritage Hall, 30-16th Avenue, SW, Cedar Rapids, IA 52404.
Admission is free
For more information, please call 319.362.8500
The Nebraska Czech Festivals announces the Omaha Czech Festival, sponsored by the Sokol South Omaha Czechs. The festival includes a Polka Dance, a Czech museum, pork & duck dumplings, bakery items, and games.
Sokol South Omaha Hall, 21st and "U" Streets, Omaha, NE.
12 p.m. -5 p.m.
For more information, please visit call 402.435.6914
The United Moravian Societies celebrates their 62nd Moravian Day Festivities with special performances by the Mistrinanka Brass Band from Moravia. Union Hall #150, 6200 West Joliet Road, Countryside, IL.
8:00 p.m. Welcoming Dance (Saturday)
10:00 a.m. Holy Mass (Sunday)
2:00 p.m. Program (Sunday)
For more information, please call 708.562.2307
Czech Center New York
Exhibition : Selected Affinities - paintings by Katerina Stenclova and objects and drawings by Michal Skoda. Two abstract artists working in the traditions of Czech abstract art but also influenced by the 1960s American abstract artists like Frank Stella and Kenneth Noland, and by the minimalist movement.
Exhibition at the Czech Center New York, opening June 28 at 6:30 - 8:30 p.m. - on view through September 7, 2001.
Czech Center in July
July 19 - The Ride, video at Czech Center, at 8 pm
Czech Center in August
August 2 - The Gentle Barbarian, video at Czech Center
August 16 - The Joke, video at Czech Center
August 21 - Lecture on the "Prague Spring" by Alan Levy
August 30 - Whisper, video at Czech Center