Message from the Ambassador
Czechs Stand with Americans to Defend Freedom
Martin Palous - New Ambassador to the United States
Jan Kavan Visits the USA
Last Forum 2000
Minister Kavan Speaks at CSIS
Moravian College Celebrates 10th Anniversary of President Havel's Visit
TG Masaryk Statue Approved in the House
Are Czech Businesses Ready for the EU ?
CSA and Travel Industry Hit by Cancellations
Can the CR be Spared From Global Economic Woes?
Skoda Unveils the New Superb
The 2001 Andrew Elias SVU Human Tolerance Award
Introducing Czech Dialogue
A Gallery of Celebrities
Events at the Embassy
Czech Events Around the USA
Message from the Ambassador
Hello and welcome to these strange new times. September 11’s attack on the United States has dramatically changed our perception of the prospects and possible futures of mankind in the beginning of the 21st century. The challenge presented by international terrorism must mobilize all of us to stand in defense of civilization and to protect the basic values and principles which do not belong exclusively to ”our” western spiritual and cultural traditions, values that must be perceived and treated as a legacy for the whole of humanity. As it has been said by many in the recent weeks, what is happening is not a war of cultures, religions or civilizations — it is a life or death struggle with those who do not hesitate to kill thousands of innocent people to achieve their political and/or religious goals. It is a struggle for freedom and democracy, for moderation and tolerance, for openness and dialogue, for respect and compassion for the other societies in our complex, multicultural, post-modern world.
As it has been stated repeatedly and unequivocally by president Vaclav Havel, Prime Minister Milos Zeman, and other political representatives of our country, the Czech Republic is ready to assume her role in this struggle, standing side by side with her NATO allies and all of the democratic and freedom-loving countries of the world. Above all, the Czech Republic is ready to stand by the side of the country that has become the direct target of these terrorist attacks, the United States.
I came with my family to the United States only a couple of weeks ago. It is evident that there is and will be a number of questions that I am supposed to deal with in the context of my new appointment. I know that my job in Washington will not be a walk in the park. It is natural that one can not always reach an easy agreement, even with his best friend. However, the clear awareness of where we stand and what is at stake now is filling me with hope for a good start. I would like to assure you that I am ready to work hard and to the best of my capabilities for the future development of Czech – U.S. relationships. Anything that you might do to help me to reach this goal will be strongly appreciated.
Czechs Stand with Americans to Defend Freedom
In the wake of the terrorist attacks against the United States, Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman addressed the Czech nation in a televised speech on October 2, 2001. In his speech, Prime Minister Zeman reiterated the Czech Republic’s full support in the fight against those who perpetrated the horrible terrorist acts in the USA and assured the nation of the government’s steadfast position in the fight against international terrorism.
According to Prime Minister Zeman, the Czech Republic stands on the side of those countries who ”subscribe to the values of individual freedom, respect for human life and respect for tolerance,” and for that reason, ”the Government of the Czech Republic is prepared to provide - not only in words but in deeds - effective assistance to its allies, in its own interest and within the scope of its own power and its own possibilities.” Minister Zeman specifically spoke about the offer to send out field hospitals, anti-chemical units and a brigade of special units.
In concluding his speech, Prime Minister Zeman stated that the Czech government ”is not a government of cowards, and in the coming and prolonged trials and tribulations it will not be found trembling with fear.”
Shortly after the September 11 attacks, Premier Milos Zeman denounced the heinous acts and called the attacks on New York ”attacks on Prague.”
Foreign Minister Kavan Visits the USA
Czech Minister of Foreign Affairs Jan Kavan visited the USA from September 27 to October 2, 2001. The Minister’s visit began in New York, where he inspected the site of the September 11 terrorist attack in lower Manhattan and met with New York City Officials. While in New York, Minister Kavan also held a meeting with U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan.
During his stay in Washington, D.C., Minister Kavan met with Secretary of State Colin Powell, as well as National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice to discuss bilateral Czech-American relations and the current international situation in light of the recent attacks on New York and Washington, D.C. Bilateral and (continued on page 3) (continued from page 1) unilateral cooperation in fighting international terrorism was a central focus of their discussions. Minister Kavan also met with Paula Jones, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs and Senator Richard Lugar (R-Indiana). The Minister’s schedule included a lunch with representatives of Czech-American organizations hosted by Milton Cerny, President of the American Friends of the Czech Republic (AFoCR), and a meeting with the media in the evening.
On the last day of his visit, Foreign Minister Kavan spoke at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) on ”Enlargement Processes Forming Europe Whole and Free.”
Martin Palous - New Ambassador to the U.S.
Martin Palous was appointed Ambassador of the Czech Republic to the United States by Czech President Vaclav Havel in the summer of 2001. He presented his letter of credence to President George W. Bush on October 10, 2001.
Born in Prague on October 14, 1950, Mr. Palous received a RNDr. degree (Doctor of Natural Sciences) in chemistry from Charles University, Prague in 1973 and went on to study philosophy and social sciences (graduating in 1977). He has also studied law (1996-1999).
Mr. Palous was one of the first signatories of Charter 77 and served as spokesman for this dissident human rights group in 1986. A founding member of the Civic Forum in November of 1989, he was elected to the Federal Assembly in 1990 and became a member of its Foreign Affairs Committee. He joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Czechoslovakia as adviser to Minister Dienstbier and was Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs from October 1990 to October 1992.
Mr. Palous has held a number of teaching positions at Charles University since 1990. He became a member of the Faculty of Social Sciences in the Foreign Relations Division in 1994 and served for some time as the Faculty's Vice-Dean. In 1993, he joined the Centre for Theoretical Studies, a research center run jointly by Charles University and the Czech Academy of Sciences, headed by Ivan M. Havel. He has lectured extensively in the United States. Until 1998, Mr. Palous was also active in various non-governmental organizations (including serving as Chairman of the Czech Helsinki Committee and Co-Chairman of the Helsinki Citizens Assembly). In October 1998, he became Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic.
Mr. Palous is the author of numerous publications, including the chapter on the Czech Republic in the European Commission publication, Democratization in Central and Eastern Europe, ”Totalitarianism and Authoritarianism,” in the Encyclopedia of Violence, Peace and Conflict (1999), and ”Between Idealism and Realism: Reflections on the Political Landscape of Post-communism,” in Between Past and Future: The Revolutions of 1989 and their Aftermath (2000). He translates the works of Hannah Arendt.
Mr. Palous is married to Pavla Palousova, nee Nemcova. They have two children: Michal (born 1986) and Johana (born 1989).
Last Forum 2000
The fifth and final Forum 2000, beginning on October 14, 2001, was hosted in Prague by Czech President Vaclav Havel. The forum, which began in 1997 as the brainchild of President Havel and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Wiesel, focuses on important events that are occurring in the world and seeks a way to put ”conscience” back into public policy. This year’s topics included human rights and the issue of what should be done with the problem of international terrorism. Some of the guests included former US President Bill Clinton, Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, Elie Wiesel, and the political philosopher Francis Fukuyama. The so-called Prague Declaration, a summary of all of the findings and suggestions that have resulted from the previous forums, was also drafted. Overall, the five fundamental Forum 2000 meetings have met their goal: they have tried to answer the eternal question of why mankind does not always take conscientious action when it should. The findings of Forum 2000 will be used to make peaceful recommendations to leaders around the world. Although this was the last such forum, many hope that the general theme of searching for conscientiousness in public policy will carry on in the future.
Minister Kavan Speaks at CSIS
On October 2, 2001, Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan spoke at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington on ”Enlargement Processes Forming Europe Whole and Free.”
The Minister’s speech focused on the Czech Republic’s outlook as a new NATO member and an aspirant country seeking EU membership.
Mr. Kavan was introduced by Anthony Blinken, former director for European Affairs at the National Security Council and foreign policy adviser to President Clinton, who pointed out that the United States ”greatly appreciates the solidarity with the American people after the events of September 11, 2001.”
Minister Kavan opened his speech with reflections on the terrible events that took place in New York and Washington and continued with remarks on the fight against international terrorism and the role of the Czech Republic in this fight. While speaking about these issues, Foreign Minister Kavan stated that ”we are witnessing a birth of a new alliance as nations of all cultures and religions offer their support to the United States in its struggle to exterminate world terrorism once and for all.”
The second portion of Minister Kavan’s speech focused on NATO enlargement and the summit of the Alliance in Prague next year. He stated that holding the summit in Prague is ”a great political and diplomatic challenge for the Czech Republic and the Czech government is fully aware of its importance. We consider it a symbolic acknowledgement of the new member countries’ efforts within the Alliance and of the idea of NATO enlargement in general.”
Minister Jan Kavan concluded his speech with the subject of the European Union. The Czech government believes that EU membership will help strengthen political stability and economic development of the country. In this respect, Minister Kavan stated that: ”As a member of NATO and a country striving to join the EU by the fastest route, the Czech Republic already feels a certain joint responsibility for European defense and security and we want to participate in this process to the maximum extent possible. Moreover, the nature of today’s security threats -- especially terrorism, requires the close co-operation of all countries on the continent.”
Moravian College Celebrates the 10th Anniversary of President Havel´s Visit
This month, Moravian College in Bethlehem, PA will celebrate the 10th anniversary of an important event in the history of the college and its rare statue of Jan Amos Komensky - Comenius. In October of 1991, President Vaclav Havel visited the United States where he spoke to a joint session of Congress in Washington, D.C., and gave a speech on the West Coast. On October 26th and 27th, he visited Lehigh Valley (PA) where he was presented with the ”Comenius Medal” by the President of Moravian College. On the 27th, the President, accompanied by Radim Palous, Rector of Charles University at the time, rededicated the rare statue which (continued on page 7) (continued from page 3) adorns the campus of Moravian College on behalf of the people of Czechoslovakia. The college hopes that the newly appointed Czech Ambassador to the U.S., Martin Palous, will visit the campus at his earliest convenience.
The previous article describing the events of 1991 has been reprinted with the kind permission of Moravian College.
Tomas Masaryk Statue Approved in the House
On Tuesday, October 2, the House of Representatives passed bill No. H. R. 1161 . The bill was presented by the Honorable Benjamin Gilman (R - NY) and authorizes the Government of the Czech Republic and its designee, the American Friends of the Czech Republic, to establish a memorial in honor of T. G. Masaryk in Washington, D.C. The bill must now pass in the U.S. Senate, after which the signature of President George Bush is needed for AFoCR to move ahead with the final step -- bringing the statue to its post.
The statue will be obtained from the National Gallery in Prague, which has pledged to provide its transportation to Washington, DC. The statue is a masterpiece made by one of the most renowned Czech sculptors of the 20th century, Vincenc Makovsky (1900 - 1966), a choice which is also appreciated by members of the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts.
On October 14, Mr. Milton Cerny, President of the American Friends of the Czech Republic, discussed the project in New York City with Director General of the National Gallery in Prague, Milan Knizak and Mr. Jan Hird Pokorny, a well-known NY architect who is working on the base for the statue.
wSeptember 5 Minister of Labor and Social Affairs Vladimir Spidla, the leader of the governing Social Democrats, announced that the Czech government has approved a framework budget bill for 2002. ”The cabinet’s objective is to have the budget approved,” the government spokesman said. The draft, prepared by the Finance Ministry, plans a deficit of 52.2 billion crowns with 700 billion crowns of revenues and 752.2 billion crowns of expenditures, including the losses of the Ceska konsolidacni agentura bail-out agency. Since the Social Democrats have a minority cabinet, they must seek support among other parties for the crucial legislation.
wSeptember 6 The World Conference against Racism and Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance was held from August 31 to September 7, 2001 in Durban, South Africa. Many delegates described this conference as only a partial success. The atmosphere at the conference was very tense, especially after the Israeli and US delegations walked out in protest. The European Union, as well as African countries, is satisfied with omitting the passage that equated Zionism with racism in a declaration on the Middle East that was being prepared at the UN racism conference. Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan was not overly optimistic about the consensus that was reached on the last day of this conference. He added that it was essential that delegates agree on a program and measures which would begin to narrow the gap between rich and poor countries.
wSeptember 10 In the Slovak capital of Bratislava, House of Deputies Chairman Vaclav Klaus discussed the ”dual face” of the European Union. During his visit to Slovakia, Vaclav Klaus presented his lecture ”Back to Europe or ahead to the EU?” to the members of the Mont Pelerin Society. His speech focused on the pros and cons of EU membership. ”On one, good side, the EU represents an element of opening, liberalization, and deregulation, which is exactly what we wanted after the Communist era. Many barriers disappear…but on the other side, the EU concurrently represents regulation, patronizing, protectionism, various complications, enforced standards and an attempt to bring everything into line, to allegedly harmonize it.” He added his belief that the battle over the EU shape would continue as the (EU's) Nice agreement could not stop human history to be the conflict of ideologies, ideas and visions.
wSeptember 11 Terrorist attacks on New York and Washington have been condemned by many Czech representatives, including President Vaclav Havel, Premier Milos Zeman and the chairmen of both Parliament chambers, Vaclav Klaus of the House of Deputies and Petr Pithart of the Senate. President Vaclav Havel expressed condolences to family members of all victims and to survivors of the tragic event. He said that he perceived the events in the USA to be an attack against human freedom and democracy. ”I believe that this is a big warning for our civilization which compels us to mobilize our responsibility for this world,” President Havel said. Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan has expressed his deepest sympathy on behalf of the Czech citizens to the U.S. people. In his letter to U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, Kavan also voiced his hope that this violent act against innocent civilians would not stand unpunished. Czech Premier Milos Zeman was shattered by the extent of the terrorist attacks in the USA and expressed his deepest sympathy to the survivors and full support for the American people.
wSeptember 12 The Cabinet approved Interior Minister Stanislav Gross’s report on extremism in the Czech Republic in 2000. To reinforce the fight against extremists, the government will establish a permanent inter-ministerial commission. Once a month, the Interior Minister will brief the Prime Minister on racially motivated crimes. Minister Gross had been asked to work out draft measures in fighting ”organized nationwide extremist crime with international aspects.” According to Gross, the government is determined to handle extremism far more carefully and vigorously than it has in the past.
wSeptember 12 President Vaclav Havel announced that the unprecedented terrorist attacks against the United States on September 11 will have to find reflection in the Czech Republic’s security strategy, including the planned reform of the Czech Army. Havel added that the USA’s latest experience should affect documents of fundamental importance, including the national security and military doctrine. He also highly praised the wave of solidarity which flowed throughout the Czech Republic after the news of the destructive terrorist acts in New York City and Washington.
wSeptember 13 The Czech Republic is ready to evaluate forms of aid to the USA, including military help, and thus fulfil the commitments stemming from its NATO membership. Regarding the forms of support to the USA, NATO and Czech constitutional bodies will decide according to the results of the investigation of the terrorist attacks. The Czech Republic also joined the EU's decision to declare Friday, September 14 as a day of mourning for the victims of the attacks. The government called on citizens to honor the victims by observing three minutes of silence at 12:00 noon. Additionally, flags were held at half-staff at public buildings and sirens sounded at noon. On Wednesday, the NATO Council decided that if the attacks were launched from abroad, NATO would take action on the basis of Article 5 of the Washington Treaty, which binds NATO member countries to help their attacked fellow members. The Council did not discuss any military action in this connection. The Council’s decision, the first of its kind in NATO’s history, was unanimously supported by President Vaclav Havel, the Czech government, and political parties in the Czech Parliament with the exception of the Communists.
wSeptember 14 Shortly before observing three minutes of silence for the victims of Tuesday’s horrific attacks in New York and Washington, President Vaclav Havel and his wife Dagmar laid a wreath on the grave of President T.G. Masaryk in Lany on the 64th anniversary of his death. Masaryk was instrumental in the founding of Czechoslovakia in 1918 and became the country’s first president. He remained in the post until 1935 and passed away in 1937. President Havel said that while honoring Masaryk, he also thought about the solidarity of people around the world who understand the extent of the misfortune which has befallen the American people and wish to help. ”Of course, a person would also have to be hit by the thought of what Masaryk would do if he were alive in these times,” said Havel. Masaryk's reputation as a good person as and as a humanist may be somewhat grounded in myth, said Havel, but he would want those who were responsible to be punished in the name of justice after such tragic events.
wSeptember 17 U.S. ambassador to Prague Craig Stapleton passed a ”thank you” letter from U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell to Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan. In the letter, Powell thanked Kavan for the Czech Republic’s support of U.S. citizens in connection with last Tuesday’s attacks. Powell also said that U.S. President George Bush was immensely gratified by the Czech Republic’s displays of sympathy and solidarity. In the letter, Powell stated that the U.S. will soon ask the Czech Republic about the possibility of joint forces forming a coalition of nations and organizations which would be ready to punish the perpetrators of the terrorist attacks and do away with all forms of international terrorism.
wSeptember 17 Premier Milos Zeman said that the Czech government is ready to help its NATO allies quickly and effectively in connection with the September 11 terrorist attacks against the U.S. ”The government is prepared not only to provide a gesture of solidarity but - be it at any price - immediate and effective help, within its means of course, which our allies ask for,” said Zeman after a cabinet meeting. Zeman added that the cabinet has given Interior Minister Stanislav Gross and Defense Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik the task of proposing measures against people who endorse or support terrorism. ”The fight against international terrorism will be long and will include military and other aspects,” said Zeman. He added that terrorists have to have their sources of finance cut off; tax havens have to be monitored, as do money-laundering and the drug Mafias. Gross said that to support criminal activities is a crime in the Czech Republic. If terrorism is a crime, then supporting it is also a crime.
wSeptember 17 The Czech government approved a bill concerning same sex partnership cohabitation. The legislation is devised to create the same status for same sex cohabiting partners as it does for married heterosexual couples. The bill has yet to be passed by parliament. The lower house, the Chamber of Deputies, seems to be about equally divided with only the Christian Democrats unanimously against the bill. Under the bill, which was drafted by the Justice Ministry, cohabitation would differ from marriage because homosexuals would be denied the right to adopt children. On the other hand, they are to be given the opportunity to officially seal their partnerships by a mayor or other members of local authorities and to collect pension if their partner dies. The cancellation of a partnership is to be done by court on the proposal of one of the partners.
wSeptember 17 Following a meeting of the inter-ministerial emergency committee, Interior Minister Stanislav Gross said that no sources of anthrax or botulotoxin exist on the territory of the Czech Republic. He noted that they had existed in the past in two army institutions and some civilian laboratories, but that those sources were destroyed. ”We are now checking that this has really been done,” Gross said. He added that two special teams have been set up to look into the matter.
wSeptember 19 President Vaclav Havel and his Hungarian counterpart Ferenc Madl, who was on a two-day official visit in the Czech Republic, agreed that the terrorist attack against the USA last week will strengthen both the integration of European democratic countries and transatlantic relations. President Havel believes that this tragic event will not slow down the upcoming enlargement of NATO and the EU. ”This tragedy will bring democratic countries closer together and will call for the integration of all their power against threats, which concern everybody,” said Havel. He added that he believes the terrorist attacks could significantly influence and speed up the transformation of NATO and the armed forces of the new member states. Hungarian President Ferenc Madl agreed that solidarity inside the EU, NATO and the transatlantic alliance would be strengthened as well as solidarity among NATO and EU candidate states.
wSeptember 20 At a conference in Brussels, the President of the Lower House of the Czech Parliament Vaclav Klaus said that today’s European Union is held captive by the false ideology of a unified continent and the idea of being European. Klaus stated that this ideology represses the role of nation states and pushes a harmful supranational approach. Klaus, also chairman of the opposition Civic Democrats (ODS), was speaking at a Euro Invest conference on the EU's eastwards enlargement. He went on to say that while the countries of Central and Eastern Europe had dreamt of an open society, they were being offered mass regulation and protectionism instead. Unifying laws are forced on them, said Klaus, as are regulations and policies. Such regulations lead to the weakening of the democratic processes that have been developing for centuries.
wSeptember 20 President Vaclav Havel, together with the leaders of most of the political parties and other senior officials, agreed at a meeting at the Prague Castle that the time is ripe for a significant reform of the Czech Army. It was agreed at the meeting that the country needs a very mobile, well-equipped and well-trained army that is capable of reacting to a great variety of situations quickly. Havel stated that this would mean that the army should become professional within a few years. The Social Democrat (CSSD) government announced a plan for army reform in July that envisages the army being fully professional starting in 2007. It would have around 35,000 soldiers and 10,000 civilian employees.
wSeptember 21 President Vaclav Havel appointed Alexandr Vondra, former ambassador to the United States, as the commissioner with the rank of ambassador for the preparation of the NATO summit to be held in Prague in November 2002. The summit is expected to accept new members. ”It’s a summit which may become a watershed. For the first time supreme officials of not only 19 NATO members, but also 46 countries which have a partnership relationship with the Alliance will meet behind the Iron Curtain,” Vondra stated. The Czech Republic has been preparing itself for the summit since the spring and the government made Vondra commissioner in March. The proposed budget is about 350 million crowns (USD 9.2 million) for organization and 300 million (USD 7.9 million) for security measures.
wSeptember 21 Chairman of the Chamber of Deputies Vaclav Klaus told leading European Commission (EC) figures in Brussels that all Czech political parties were in favor of joining the European Union. Klaus also voiced his objections to European integration. Klaus’s Belgian counterpart, Herman De Croo, also attended the meeting. EU Commissioner Verheugen had said last year that the Czech Republic’s economic woes were a consequence of the period when Klaus was prime minister. Klaus, however, said that he had assured Verheugen that ”differences of opinion on some matters are not an obstacle to good relations.”
Are Czech Businesses Ready for the EU?
The Czech Republic is practically a textbook example of a small and open economy with a significant dependence on external economic developments. The country’s geographical location makes it a natural destination for European firms with both the mature, rich EU market and the emergence of Eastern Europe in mind. The Czech Republic lacks natural fuel sources and must import gas and oil, requiring exporting in order to earn currency. Moreover, the Czech Republic is presently an ideal location for foreign investors due to its combination of relatively less expensive yet very skilled labor.
The country is one of the leading EU membership candidates in the area of harmonization of legislation. However, Czech legislation is not the only area that must be harmonized prior to EU accession -- the country’s industry must also comply with EU regulations. While many Czech companies are eagerly anticipating the entry date, as well as the benefits and new opportunities to be found on the EU markets, others are still rather unprepared.
The increasingly open economic situation is obvious when looking at the greatly increased levels of exports throughout the nineties: from CZK 385 billion in 1993 (35 percent of GDP) to CZK 1,121 billion in 2000 (59 percent of GDP). This year, exports are expected to rise to CZK 1340 billion, which is almost two-thirds of the GDP. These changes reflect an enormous shift from the distorted economic relations at the end of the era of central planning. Czech exports are largely concentrated: 3.5 percent of all exporting firms accounted for more than 80 percent of overall exports. The country’s largest exporter, SkodaVW, accounted for 10 percent of all Czech exports. On the other hand, 84 percent of all exporting firms accounted for only 4 percent of overall exports.
Exports to European ”transition economy” countries reached 35 percent of the overall Czech exports in 1993. At the same time, exports to EU countries accounted for 57 percent. The share of exports to those countries has declined 21 percent over the past eight years. On the other hand, the share of exports to the EU increased to 70 percent last year.
The structural changes of the Czech economy and the territorial changes of exports have induced new commodity patterns of Czech exports. The commodity structure has changed since 1993,favoring labor-intensive goods. Agricultural products decreased, from 6 percent in 1993 to 3 percent in 2000. Conversely, the share of machinery and transport equipment rose during this period, from 29 percent to 44 percent, tripling (continued on page 9) (continued from page 7) since 1993. The export of manufactured consumer goods experienced strong growth as well, rising 147 percent since 1993.
Czech exporting firms have managed to quickly reinvent themselves remarkably well and have largely succeeded in reorienting trade toward the EU. This process was facilitated by an aggressive depreciation of the Czech currency in the early nineties; however, the stable Czech koruna (CZK) has not since deterred Czech exports. It is not an exaggeration to say that Czech industry has managed to shift from the steel heart of the Soviet empire to the relatively unsophisticated manufacturing base of the EU.
Can the CR be Spared from Global Economic Woes?
While global central banks are busy doling out assurances and bailout packages to world economies in an attempt to prevent a looming global recession after the September 11 attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C., the Czech economy may have a chance to stay afloat. Due to a combination of factors, the country looks to be spared the headaches stemming from more expensive borrowing. Since the past summer, the risk of inflation has disappeared and the Czech National Bank (CNB) no longer needs to contemplate a rate hike. The U.S. dollar is understandably weakening against the Euro and the Czech crown, which has helped to reduce the costs of imported oil for Czechs — a key factor fueling the inflation. With a global wave of interest rate cuts, it is likely that the CNB will leave its rate stable and support domestic economic activity. However, (continued on page 8) (continued from page 7) in the case of an extensive U.S. or NATO military campaign, the dismal outlook for the world economy would eventually take its toll on the Czech economy, and inflation could rise if oil prices skyrocketed.
The Czech economy has been growing fairly robustly this year. The latest annual GDP growth was at 3.9 percent at the end of June, feeding mostly on domestic demand rather than the slowing external demand from the EU.
However, the government had to resolve two imminent threats to economic stability — the budget deficit, which is expected to reach close to 11 percent of the GDP, and the current account deficit, which is growing close to 7 percent of the GDP. The current account deficit is safely offset by the high inflow of foreign investment at a pace of USD 4 - 5 billion a year. The government is currently working on issuing EUR 0.5 - 1 billion of Eurobonds to finance the deficit.
Analysts say that the foreign direct investment that had boosted the Czech economy in the past two years might cool off in reaction to the global turmoil, but so far there are no imminent signals, especially among non-U.S. investors. For example, Japan’s investors continue to maintain enthusiasm for investing in the Czech Republic, taking into account more long-term factors such as the EU accession.
Like all European stock exchanges that plummeted after the bad news from the U.S., the Prague Stock Exchange was no exception. On Tuesday afternoon and again on Wednesday, Czech stocks fell to a three-year low. Wednesday saw trading on both the Prague Stock Exchange and the RMS stock exchange suspended for around two hours. Economic analysts say it is difficult to assess the full impact that the tragedy in New York will have on the global economy.
CSA and Travel Industry Hit by Cancellations
As the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States took their toll on international travel and tourism, Prague hotel managers and Czech Airlines (CSA) executives admitted that they will strive to lure frightened travelers. CSA, an allied partner of Delta Airlines, watched with astonishment as nearly 6,000 people canceled their flights during the week after the attacks. The Four Seasons Hotel, one of the largest, most elaborate and centrally located hotels in Prague, as well as the Diplomat in Prague 6, have already registered enough cancellations to issue warnings about their winter revenues. Experts predict business to slow down through the end of the year and only return to normal in the first quarter of 2002, as long as the typical holiday travel rush is not interrupted.
Czech Airlines had to cancel six flights over the North Atlantic in the aftermath of the tragic disaster. The other airlines in the SkyTeam network, including Air France and Delta, have been similarly affected regarding the number of canceled flights. CSA has said that it expects a 10 percent drop in revenues over the next several months. That loss seems small, however, when compared with the many American airlines now estimating a huge revenue loss and massive layoffs. CSA is the only airline providing direct flights between New York and Prague.
Skoda Unveils the New Superb
Skoda has revealed the first glimpse of its new model, the Superb. The company describes the vehicle as ”executive-sized,” slightly larger than the similar Volkswagen Passat.The car was officially unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show on September 11. It has been 67 years since Skoda first used the name Superb for one of its models, a large saloon car launched in 1934.
wSeptember 1 Industrial production in the Czech Republic accelerated to 3.9 percent in July, up from a 3.7 percent increase in June. Industrial sales rose by 5.7 percent annually.
wSeptember 2 The Central bank board announced that the sale of the third largest Czech bank Komercni Banka (KB) to France’s Societe Generale should be completed in two to three weeks. The transfer of the state’s 60 percent stake to the French bank will raise the proportion of foreign-controlled Czech banking assets to 95 percent. The government picked Societe Generale in a tender in June 2001 after the bank offered 1.19 billion EURO for the majority stake. French banks will control about 20 percent of total assets in the Czech banking sector. Austrian banks control the largest slice of the market with 25 percent.
wSeptember 4 The Hungarian oil and gas company MOL and the chemical group TVK submitted a letter of intent to buy a stake in the Czech petrochemicals firm Unipetrol. According to the National Property Fund (the Czech state privatization agency - Fond narodniho majetku), around 20 companies had expressed a preliminary interest in a 63 percent stake in Unipetrol. The Czech government hopes to complete the sale by next year.
wSeptember 9 Retail sales, including sales of motor vehicles and fuel, increased 5.8 percent in July. Sales in transportation rose 4.6 percent, communication services advanced 20.4 percent, and data processing grew 8 percent. All retail sales significantly exceeded economists’ expectations.
wSeptember 10 The Volkswagen unit Skoda Auto said it expects 77,000 new car registrations in Germany this year, a figure which is up 10 percent compared to last year. Their top-seller is expected to be the compact car Fabia with around 40,000 new car registrations, followed by the mid-range Octavia with 35,000 registrations. At the IAA Car Show, Skoda presented their new executive-sized Superb make, based on the VW Passat. The Superb will be launched in Germany in the spring of 2002 with a DM 44,000 price tag. The company expects to sell 7,000 Superbs in Germany in 2002, which is 35 percent of the total production capacity in the Czech Republic.
wSeptember 11 The unemployment rate in the Czech Republic remained stable at 8.5 percent in August, half a percentage point lower than one year previous. The labor offices recorded 443,000 job applicants at the end of August. There was a slight increase in the percentage of school graduates enlisting at labor offices. The lowest unemployment rate was, as usual, in Prague and the surrounding Central Bohemian regions - between two and four percent. The most severe rates are reported from the former coal-mining and heavy industry regions of North Bohemia and North Moravia.
wSeptember 12 The inflation rate reached 5.5 percent annually in August 2001. In monthly terms, inflation dropped by 0.2 percent from July. The so-called net inflation, which eliminates the influence of administrative price regulation, was minus 0.3 percent month-on-month and 4.1 percent annually. The results were mostly influenced by a decrease in the prices of food and beverages and the stagnation or decline in most of the other consumer prices. On the other hand, the prices of transportation, utilities and health care increased sharply.
wSeptember 16 Steeling itself for the looming liberalization of the Czech electricity market next year, the dominant electricity producer CEZ is offering low-price power to key buyers in order to encourage them to sign supply contracts before the market opening begins. CEZ’s aggressive strategy to secure as much of the market as possible (a move which is expected to completely wipe out its profits in 2002), is causing uproar among competitors who have accused the company of unfair competition. Among the potential bidders for CEZ are Britain’s International Power, France’s EDF, and the U.S.-based company NRG Energy.
wSeptember 18 Thousands of people took advantage of free-of-charge telephone calls offered by the fixed-line carrier Czech Telecom and mobile phone operator Eurotel to callers trying to reach the United States in the wake of the terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C. Meanwhile, the No. 3 mobile phone company Cesky Mobil gave away phones and pre-paid SIM cards. Some 700 people went into Eurotel branch stores during the three days following the tragic events to call the U.S.
wSeptember 19 The cabinet agreed to cut the number of UMTS licenses it will issue from four to three. Only two mobile operators, Eurotel and RadioMobil, have indicated they would pay 6.7 billion Czech crowns per license. The third and smallest mobile operator, Cesky Mobil, said it would wait for better conditions before deciding on a course of action. The cabinet has long-planned to raise CZK 20 billion ($535 million) for the state through the sale of the licenses.
The 2001 Andrew Elias SVU Human Tolerance Award
The Czechoslovak Society for Arts and Sciences (SVU) Human Tolerance Award was established in the Spring of 2001 on the initiative of Dr. Andrew Elias. This year, with the approval of the executive board, the committee has chosen Father Anton Srholec as the recipient for setting an example in his life and work of tolerance, compassion and faith in humanity. The 2001 nomination committee includes Honorable Thomas Luke of Geneva; Dr. Ladislav Macho of Bratislava; Professor Zdenek Slouka, the Prague-Committee Liason; and Professor Alexander Tkac of Bratislava.
Father Srholec, who was sentenced to over twelve years of labor during a communist crackdown on religious freedom, was a constant source of strength and hope for his fellow inmates. While imprisoned, he secretly studied for the priesthood and wrote books and articles which brought compassion to many. He established a home for the homeless in 1992. His kindness toward others can only be fittingly rewarded by the SVU Human Tolerance Award.
New Cultural Counselor Arrives to Washington, DC
I would like to take a moment to introduce myself to all of you. I assumed the position of Cultural Counselor for the Czech Embassy on September 20 and replaced Dr. Ivan Dubovicky. My previous post was in Australia, where I served as the Deputy Chief of Mission for the Embassy in Canberra.
While here in America, I look forward to maintaining and enhancing all of the relationships between the Embassy in Washington and other individuals and groups, both Czech and American.
Atelier Langhans : A Gallery of Celebrities
PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHY OF JAN LANGHANS
FROM THE LATE 19TH AND EARLY 20TH CENTURIES
A chemist by training, Jan Langhans (1851-1928) later became enchanted with the process of photography. In 1880, he established the Atelier Langhans Studio and quickly earned a reputation for having the most prestigious and advanced photography studio in Prague. Langhans’s modernity, however, was wedded to a certain conservatism concerning his approach to his customers. It is likely that Atelier Langhans’s popularity lay precisely in that combination of traditional customer service and a modern approach to advertising.
Toward the end of the 19th century and during the first decade of the 20th, Jan Langhans was one of the most recognized portraitists in Bohemia. It was only natural that various celebrities and personalities went to the Atelier Langhans Studio to have their portraits taken. Though Langhans’s success was based in his portraiture, he also devoted himself to photographs of spontaneous, candid moments and scenes of Prague. These are documented in a lesser-known collection of Langhans’s work, compiled in the book Stara Praha Jana Langhanse (Jan Langhans’s Historical Prague). Langhans also took an active role in professional photographic societies, first by becoming a member of the oldest association of photographers in Austria-Hungary in 1882 — the Photographers’ Society in Vienna, and then by holding the seat of Honorary Chairman of the Bohemian Photographic Society in Prague in 1905. This organization was the first to bring professional photographers from the Czech Lands together.
From 1880 to 1948, a period of almost seventy years, hundreds of thousands of people passed through Atelier Langhans. However, in 1949, after the studio had been passed down for two generations, it was nationalized and forgotten. The archives of negatives that for decades had been carefully cultivated were destroyed. In the early 1950s, the whole archive was taken to a warehouse in a village near Prague. All of the glass negatives were smashed to pieces and all that remained for the family to keep were two boxes containing several photographs and some souvenirs. One of them is a folder, which bears the title Atelier Langhans Galerie vyznacnych osobnosti (Langhans Studio -- A Gallery of Celebrities) and comprises a list of important people within the arts, cultural, and political societies in the Czech Lands – people who at one time had their portraits made in the studio. The list had been compiled in the late 1930s when, evidently for fear of the Nazis, the negatives with the portraits were removed and deposited in a special place. The list contained ten densely written pages with more than one thousand names.
In the autumn of 1998, the building was returned to the Langhans family. During an inspection for the building’s renovation, workers discovered an old wooden cabinet in a shed in the courtyard. The cabinet held about three hundred boxes of glass negatives with portraits of notable personalities from Bohemia and the rest of Europe, including groups of actors, singers, writers and politicians. Last year, the family discovered another hidden portion of negatives. However, the negatives of artists, musicians, scholars, scientists and aristocrats remain missing.
The Exhibit is located at the Czech Center New York, 109 Madison Avenue (at 83rd St.), NY, NY: Subway 4,5,6 to 86th Street. Open Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 9am-5 pm, and Thursdays 9am-7 pm. The exhibit opens Thursday, October 18, 6:30-8:30 pm and will be on display through November 30.
Events at the Embassy
Friday, November 9 The Third Annual Dinner With Arts & Absinth -- A Benefit for Czech Cultural Events
Now in its third year, the Embassy of the Czech Republic presents the ever-popular and much anticipated annual benefit Dinner with Arts and Absinth. Held to support the organization of future Embassy cultural events, this year’s Dinner will feature one of the most engaging Czech actors and comedians, Tomas Hanak, accompanied by Jiri Podzimek on the guitar. The performance will be in English.This event will be held on November 9 at 7:30 p.m. at the Czech Embassy, 3900 Spring of Freedom Street, NW (off Tilden). Tickets are $30; reservations are strongly recommended. Please call 202/274-9105.
One of the most celebrated and prolific Czech entertainers, Tomas Hanak is a regular with the famed Theatre Sklep, as well as a screenwriter, director and singer whose talent and charm scarcely conceal one of the greatest minds of Czech culture. In addition to his work with the Sklep Theatre, Hanak is the co-lead singer of the MTO Univerzal Orchestra, a mocking group that performs Czech pop music from the 70’s and 80’s (incidentally, Hanak's co-singer is the award-winning artist Frantisek Skala who appears for all MTO shows dressed in a suit made of styrofoam). Tomas Hanak is also a playwright and scriptwriter (The Good Bank). Of late, he spends his time writing newspaper columns for major Czech periodicals and preparing for the role of Phil Marlow.
This special evening will be flavored with a delectable buffet Czech dinner and a reprise of last year’s exclusive Czech Absinth Tasting — a practice which is legally limited to the territories of nations in which the notorious drink is legal. The preferred liqueur of 19th century artists, Absinth is a drink with a history as rich and compelling as the culture it has influenced. This event has been organized to benefit the future arrangement of cultural events by the Embassy of the Czech Republic. Seating is limited. To reserve seats, please call 202/274-9105 for further instructions. At 7:30 pm at the Czech Embassy. Reservations are required.
Czech Events Around the USA
Czech Independence Day
Opening October 20
Lucie Pribik - A Solo Exhibition - the miracle of Pribik's painting is that the two domains seem completely dependent on each other. Abstraction seems to provide nature with a deeper sense of structural lawfulness. Painter Lucie Pribik was born in 1960 in Prague and currently lives in Berlin.
Gallery X, 23 W 129th Street, NYC
3 - 6 PM
For more information, please call 212-534-7044
On view through November 10, 2001
Concert of Czech Music with Ivan Zenaty, violin and Katarina Bodova, piano at
Lang Recital Hall, Hunter College, NYC on 5 PM
November 2 - November 4
Bohemian Fin-de-Siecle: New Czech Films - five Czech films including: Divided We Fall, Loners, Angel Exit, Buttoners, and Wild Flowers.
Directors Jan Hrebejk and David Ondricek will participate in a discussion following their respective screenings. Brooklyn Academy of Music, Brooklyn.
(For more information, please see the next issue of Ahoy or go to www.bam.org and www.czechcenter.com)
Karlin Wednesday Dances 2001-10-09 Czech food served from 5:30 to 7:30 PM, dancing from 7:30 to 10:30 PM. Karlin Hall and Club, 5304 Fleet Avenue, Cleveland, OH.
November 7 - Hanslik/Kurka
November 14 - Homesteaders
November 21 Sousedska
November 28 Frankie Spetich
December 5 Maple Heights Brass Band
For reservations, please call 216.429.2450. For more details, call 216.883.4760
Beginning October 25
The National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library’s Exhibit, Roads to Understanding offers rare historic pieces from the National Museum in Prague.
30 16th Avenue, SW, Cedar Rapids, IA 52404
Admission is free to members; Adults $5, Seniors $4, Youth $2
For more information, please contact 319.362.8500
The American Czech-Slovak Cultural Club of North Miami hosts Dozinky, a CzechoSlovakian Harvest Festival with food, beer, music, dancing and more. 13325 Arch Creek Road, North Miami
Admission is $12, includes one Dozinky Plate, music and dancing
For more information, please call 305.891.9130 or visit http://hom.att.net/~fjpworld/
The American Czech-Slovak Cultural Club of North Miami celebrates Czechoslovak Independence Day with live music and a Czech dinner. Guests are invited to wear their kroje.
For more information, please visit http://home.att.net/~fjpworld or call 305.891.9130
The Old York Road Symphony Orchestra will perform its first concert of the 2001 - 2002 season at Abington High School in Abington, PA. In observation of the founding of the First Czechoslovak State and the Czech Republic’s Independence Day, one of the Czech Republic’s premier violinists, Mr. Ivan Zenaty, has been invited to perform as a soloist.
For further information, please call 215.885.0163 or call Peter A. Rafaeli, Hon. Consulate General of the Czech Republic - Philadelphia, Bethlehem Pike, Suite #102 P.O.Box 777 Spring House, PA 19477-0777 USA Phone: 215.646.7777 Fax: 215.646.7770 www.czechrepublicpa.com
WRTI-FM will broadcast 18 hours of Czech in the 4th Annual Day of Czech Music. This program is sponsored by the Honorary Consul of the Czech Republic in Philadelphia and Mrs. Rafaeli in cooperation with the Czech and Slovak Heritage Association of Maryland, Rev. Michael G. Rokos, President, in observation of the Czech National Holiday. The broadcast will reach Eastern and Central PA, Delaware, and Southern NJ via the following stations: WRTI 90.1 FM Philadelphia, 97.7 FM Reading, 97.1 FM Allentown, WRTQ 91.3 FM Ocean City, WJAZ 91.7 FM Harrisburg, 90.7 FM Ephrata-Lebanon, 90.7 FM York, WRTX 91.7 FM Dover, WRTY 91.1 FM Mt. Pocono, 94.9 Wilkes-Barre, 99.1 FM Pottsville, 106.1 FM Scranton.
Other information about activities relating to the Honorary Consulate General of the Czech Republic in Philadelphia can be found at www.czechrepublicpa.com
The Czechoslovak Genealogical Society International presents the 2001 Genealogical/Cultural Conference, ”The Urban Immigration Experience.”
For more information, please read our article in the magazine or visit www.cgsi.org
November 1 - 4
GOH Productions in association with Anne & Fay’s House Children’s Theatre presents the 7th Annual Festival: The Magic of Czech Puppetry with a performance of The White Doe.
At the Bohemian National Hall, 321 East 73rd Street, New York
7:30 PM (3 PM Matinee November 4)
Admission is $15, or $8 for children 12 and under
For reservations, please call 212.330.8866
The St. Francis of Assisi Parish Center hosts An Evening in Prague with music by Joe Polach and ”Czech Express” from St. Louis.
6:30 - 8 PM dinner, followed by music and dancing until 11:30 PM
6850 Mayfield Road, Cleveland, OH
Admission is $35 (donation)
Fore tickets and information, please call Joe Soukenik at 440.442.3417
The National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library hosts the Fall Concert Series with the Red Cedar Chamber Orchestra.
Grand Hall, Cedar Rapids
Admission is $12
For more information, please contact 319.362.8500
Sokol South Omaha presents a fundraiser Spaghetti Dinner for the Gym Club.
Sokol South Omaha, 2021 ”U” Street, Omaha, NE 68107
For information, please contact 402.346.9802
The Czech and Slovak Sokol Minnesota hosts a pancake breakfast, bake sale, and boutique.
383 Michigan Street, St. Paul, MN 55102
9 AM - 2 PM
For information, please contact 612.290.0542
The National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library hosts Learn at Lunch. Bring a sack lunch and learn about Czech and Slovak traditions.
WFLA Heritage Hall, Cedar Rapids
Admission is free
For more information, please contact 319.362.8500
SVU Washington presents its Annual SVU Christmas Bazaar. Come and taste Czechoslovak dishes, pastries and Christmas cookies and patronize the many stands selling books, paintings, pottery and much more. At the Bradley Hills Presbyterian Church, 6601 Bradley Blvd., Bethesda, MD.
12 PM - 4 PM (special auction at 1:45)
Admission is free
The National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library presents Kava a Knihy (Coffee and Books). Guests are invited to come and discuss Karel Capek’s Hordubal, Meteor, and An Ordinary Life.
WFLA Heritage Hall, Cedar Rapids
Admission is free
For more information, please contact 319.362.8500