Czech the News, February 2002
Message from the Ambassador
Summer Parliamentary Elections Open for Czechs Abroad
The Czech Republic and the EU Enlargement
Washington Daily Highlights the CR
"Live and Learn in Prague"
Visa Waiver for US Citizens Extended
John Marshall Initiates Czech/Slovak Law Institute
New Honorary Consulates Open in Chicago, IL & San Juan, PR
Privatization Update: Delays Announced
Trade Deficit Decreases
Central Bank to Pursue Weaker Koruna
Leciva Drug Maker to Swallow Slovakofarma
Investment Soared in 2001
Toyota - PSA Arrives in the CR
TV Commercials Highlight Prague
Book Review: Lovers & Murderers
Karel Husa Honored at Alice Tully Hall
Introducing Czech Dialogue
Events at the Embassy
American Screenings of Dark Blue World
Czech Events Around the USA
Final Subscription Announcement
Message from the Ambassador
As I write these lines, the first medals of the 19th Winter Olympics in Salt
Lake City are being distributed. By the time you read this message, we will
have already watched the Closing Ceremonies. By then, we will know whether
the golden Czech ice-hockey team has once again made it to the victory
podium, or if it was defeated. We will know who else has succeeded and on
the contrary, who has lost -- the emotional time and the excitement will have
passed. But the Olympics is not only a great competition of first-class world
athletes, nor is it merely a magnificent spectacle for those watching from their
homes all over the globe or for the onlookers who went to the venue to greet
the best of the sportsmen nominated by their respective countries to represent
their nation: to find success at the Olympics undoubtedly means to find great
joy and national pride. And yet, the very idea of the Olympics means much
more than just pride, it also means tolerance and fair play. Perhaps the
ultimate Olympic glory belongs to the hosting country, the hospitable nation
that receives all foreign athletes and visitors, graciously celebrating the
diversity of all cultures that accompanies such a gathering with friendly
openness, mutual intercourse, and communication via the Olympic
competition. I am certain that the American organizers who have worked day
and night to achieve this goal will be rewarded in the end by the gratitude of
all that could, in one way or another, as protagonists or as observers, take
part in the Games. We may be worried about what will be bestowed upon us
by international politics in the coming years and decades, but I think that there
is no better example to follow than the Olympics, with its atmosphere of
peaceful co-existence, friendly rivalry and spirit of understanding, where
different cultures of the world can be united, rather than divided.
Summer Parliamentary Elections Open for Czechs Abroad
Advance Registration Necessary
The elections to the Lower House of the Parliament of the Czech Republic are scheduled for Friday, June 14 and Saturday, June 15, 2002. For the first time in history, Czech Embassies and Consulates throughout the world will serve as polling stations. All Czechs abroad participating in the elections will vote for candidates from the South Moravian region, as decided by a random draw on February 6, 2002. Those who wish to vote are required to register with the Czech Embassy or Consulate General in their area. Registration must be done by May 5, 2002. By this date, all prospective voters should submit, either in person or in writing, the following documents: proof of identity and Czech citizenship (one of the following: a Czech passport, personal I.D./obcansky prukaz/ or certificate of citizenship) and proof of residence (government-issued I.D.). If a photograph does not appear on the citizenship certificate, another photo I.D. must be submitted.
Once registered with the Embassy or Consulate General (not later than May 5, 2002), voters (continued on page 3) (continued from page 1)must appear in person on June 14 or 15 to participate. A valid Czech passport must be presented at the time of voting.
Any Czech citizen without a valid Czech passport is strongly recommend to apply for one immediately, since the procedure to issue a passport may take up to three months.
For more information on the elections, please see the Embassy web page at
The CR and the EU Enlargement
The accession of the Czech Republic to the European Union is a question of national interest. The country links its membership in the EU above all to the vision of a strong and dynamic Europe, a Europe with a prospering economy and cultural diversity. The Czech Republic is also prepared to offer the enlarged EU its human potential, skill and creativity. The Czech government has expressed its determination to adopt the EC legislation by January 2003.
The enlargement of the European Union is unprecedented in its scale and significance. While the transition will undoubtedly involve short-term challenges, the future benefits for Europe and the wider international community are considerable and worth highlighting.
Enlargement will increase political stability throughout Europe. A transatlantic relationship of common European and US interests and projects will be reinforced and have a wider field of application. The EU enlargement will complement NATO's inclusion of new members. It will improve environmental security and provide an opportunity to more effectively tackle transnational problems.
The goal of enlargement has already reinforced economic reform efforts within the applicant states. The full EU membership of Central European countries, the Czech Republic included, will provide an enormous potential for growth and investment in the coming decades. US business will profit from further economic and financial consolidation within the candidate countries, from the simplification and standardization of procedures and access to an even larger market.
EU membership of the Czech Republic will bring a range of immediate and tangible benefits to thirdcountry business, including those of US interest. The acceding states will adopt the same open standard of treatment of third countries, which the current EU applies. For trade in goods, the Union's Common Customs Tariff (CCT) will be implemented on accession, which in most cases will lead to lower tariffs than in the interim pre-accession period.
US business will look at, or is largely already looking at, a single set of trade rules, i.e. a single set of administrative procedures. Simplification and standardization will particularly benefit small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) for which the costs of compliance with trade procedures are proportionately higher. The application of EU competition policy, rules on intellectual property, company law, etc. will create a "level playing field" for US businesses. The application of special EU agreements such as the Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA) will further widen the scope for business and trade.
Central Europe's accession will be supportive not only to regional European trade, but also to further global liberalization. In the case of the EU, the historical evidence is clear: the creation of the customs union and a single market has been accompanied by reductions in trade barriers on a multilateral basis.
US business will benefit from access to a larger market and growing opportunities. The current combined trade and investment relationship between the EU and the US totals $2 trillion. European investment accounts for 60% of all US jobs created by international investors. In contrast, US trade and investment with the candidate countries is relatively small in proportion to the total US trading and investment activity. The Czech Republic's EU membership will further facilitate business activity and open the prospect of a business and trading relationship comparable to the existing one between the US and the EU 15.
More predictable economic conditions including a secure legal and
administrative framework and the access to EU markets have already
benefited US companies in the interim period. In 2000/01, US investment in
the Czech Republic totaled 1.8 bill. USD. The country is rapidly becoming a
strong, low-cost competitor and supplier for established Western European
and global firms. Foreign manufacturers are establishing both greenfield and
joint venture manufacturing projects to take advantage of the country's
competitive advantages and future EU membership.
Washington Daily Highlights the Czech Republic
In late January, The Washington Times devoted an entire section to a special report on the Czech Republic entitled, "History comes full circle as Czechs re-join West." The first page featured articles discussing the Czech Republic's progression towards EU membership, its role in NATO, an overview of Prime Minister Zeman's term in office, and an interview with President Vaclav Havel.
The report called the Czech Republic's goal of EU membership a "top national priority." The Czech Republic has already "closed" twenty-four of 30 "chapters" for accession, and expects to be part of the next round of European Union enlargement. However, despite the country's efforts to adopt EU membership criteria, civil service reform and the budget deficit remain "thorny issues" with Brussels.
The Czech Republic's support for NATO was also a focus of the report. In (continued on page 3) (continued from page 2) order to better cooperate with its NATO partners, the Czech Republic is currently overhauling its military with the goal of complete interoperability with the Alliance. The report stated that the Czech military aims to achieve this goal by shifting from a conscription-based to a fully professional force by 2006.
The report also highlighted several Czech business interests in the United States. Inekon, the Czech trolley maker, recently delivered five trolleys to Portland, Oregon -- the first time in 50 years that an American city has bought a trolley for use on normal streets. Inekon has also signed a contract with Tacoma, Washington, and hopes to be able to market trolleys to other American cities in the future.
The famous Czech beer, Pilsner Urquell, also aims to become a bigger player in the US market. Urquell plans to target a number of cosmopolitan urban areas in the US as a "launching pad" for its US market. Several marketing strategies have been discussed, but in the end, Americans will have to be convinced by the taste of the famous beer, just as the Czechs have been.
For more information about this special report on the Czech Republic, please contact the Press Secretary at the address provided on the back cover.
A full version of the report is also available at: www.internationalreports.net
"Live and Learn in Prague"
The Fund for American Studies, Georgetown University, and Charles University are proud to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the American Institute on Political and Economic Systems program, held in Prague in the summer of 2002. This program offers a cross-cultural educational experience for over 100 university students from at least 25 different countries. The Institute explores the political and economic circumstances concerning the situations of Eastern and Central Europe within the post-Soviet era. Classes are held in the Faculty of Social Sciences Building at Charles University in the historic center of Prague, near Wenceslas Square. The classes are composed of lectures by professors as well as panel discussions, featuring professors from Charles University and other distinguished political figures, economic experts, and heads-of-state. Past speakers have included former Czech Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus and Prime Minister of Hungary, Viktor Orban. The curriculum is fast-paced and intensely packed with daily activities. To maintain a (continued on page 4) (continued from page 2) diverse setting, the Institute welcomes students from various academic levels to share their knowledge and academic experience with others. In addition to what they learn from their courses, students will be surrounded by the Czech Republic's many historical points of interest, as well as theatrical and musical performances and extraordinary architecture, thus giving them an enriching cultural experience in the "heart of Europe." When not attending classes, students will be able to explore the many cafes, museums, and quaint quarters of the old city of Prague. They can visit Baroque style churches, take walks along the Vltava River, or simply enjoy the Bohemian culture and experience and the overwhelming magic of Prague with its cobble-stone streets and breathtaking sights. In addition, students will have various opportunities to take excursions outside the city of Prague, including visits to the charming town of Cesky Krumlov, or the old historic town of Plzen (Pilsen), home of the world famous and only genuine Pilsner beer, Pilsner Urquell. The program is open for undergraduate as well as graduate students and credit will be available from Georgetown University. Classes will commence on July 11 and last until August 4, 2002.
For more information about the program, please visit www.aipes.org or contact
Eric Persons at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visa Waiver for U.S. Citizens Extended
Beginning January 1, 2002 a new visa regime for US travelers to the Czech Republic entered into force. Under the previous regulation, US citizens were allowed to stay on the territory of the Czech Republic without a visa for 30 days; the Czech Government's new initiative extends the limit to 90 days.
However, the visa waiver does not apply to visitors intending to engage in
gainful activities. In such cases (employment, etc.), a visa will be required for
visits shorter than 90 days. At the same time, the new regulation does not
impact visa requirements for long term visitors (over 90 days) or non US
nationals who are temporarily or permanently residing on US territory.
John Marshall Initiates Czech/Slovak Law Institute
A group of 17 Czech and Slovak attorneys were given introductory instruction on the American legal system, professional responsibility, and commercial and business law during The John Marshall Law School's first week-long installation of the Czech/Slovak Law Institute in Luhacovice, Czech Republic.
The institute is designed to offer programs in the Czech Republic that will expose new Czech and Slovak law school graduates to the American legal and free enterprise systems, with the goal of fostering professionalism and the ability to represent clients in a variety of legal and entrepreneurial environments. The institute is made possible by matching gifts from John and Doris Drost, and Helen Beart and the late Robert W. Beart. John Drost is an alumnus of Masaryk University in the Czech Republic and earned a J.D. at The John Marshall Law School in 1961. Robert W. Beart received his LL.M. degree in intellectual property law from John Marshall in 1951.
Instructors for the week-long institute were Professors Michael P. Seng and Susan Marie Connor from The John Marshall Law School; Adjunct Professor Samuel T. Lawton, Jr., attorney for the Illinois Pollution Control Board and retired partner at Altheimer and Gray; Michael Fieweger, partner with Baker & McKenzie in Chicago; and John A. Smietanka, an attorney in private practice in Grand Rapids, Michigan and a former United States Attorney for the Western District of Michigan and Deputy (continued on page 4) (continued from page 3) Attorney General for the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. JUDr. Vaclav Kral, a representative of the Czech Bar Association, attended the sessions in Luhacovice.
In addition to participating in discussions about American law and practice, the Czech and Slovak attorneys also worked on problems dealing with client counseling, negotiating and drafting contracts, professional responsibility, and dispute resolution.
Evaluations by the Czech attorneys, who were selected from a large list of applicants by the Czech Bar Association in Prague, showed their appreciation for the practical interchange that they had with the American lawyers. The participants asked that a similar program be organized next year.
The institute is the newest development of the on-going Czech Legal Exchange Program at The John Marshall Law School, started in 1993. John Marshall has a sister school relationship with Masaryk University and with Komenius University in Bratislava in the Slovak Republic. Each fall it conducts a trip for American lawyers to the Czech Republic, where the lawyers put on a two-day continuing program for the Czech Bar Association in Prague. John Marshall has co-sponsored a number of academic conferences with Masaryk University and has conducted training in intellectual property and aviation law with the Brno Technical University.
John Marshall also has a Czech Student Exchange Program. Czech students from the Faculty of Law at Masaryk University are selected to come to the John Marshal Law School to study in the J.D. program for one semester. Since its inception, seven Czech law students have participated in the program.
Professor Michael P. Seng was a visiting professor at Masaryk University in
1996. During the fall of 2000, a Masaryk law instructor received a Fulbright
award to study employment discrimination at The John Marshall Law School.
In Spring 2002, Chicago attorney and John Marshall alumnus Joseph Vosicky
will teach as a Fulbright Scholar at Masaryk University.
New Honorary Consulates Open in Chicago, IL and San Juan, PR
In November and December 2001, new Honorary Consulates of the CR commenced activities in Arlington Heights, a suburb of Chicago, Illinois and in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
George T. Drost has been appointed to the post of Honorary Consul in Illinois:
Drost, Kivlahan & McMahon, Ltd.
11 South Dunton Ave.
Arlington Heights, IL 60005-1475
tel. 1-847-577 2227
fax 1-847-577 2204
Ms. Judith Ann Conde (Gordon) has been appointed to the post of honorary consul in San Juan, PR, located at:
62 Caleta San Francisco
Old San Juan, Puerto Rico 00901
tel. 1-787-722 0939
fax 1-787-723 5787
P.O. Box 9022254
San Juan, PR 00902-2254
For more detailed information on the new consulates, please see Czech the
News December 2001 and January 2002 or visit the embassy web page at
Charter 77 Remembered
January 4 President Vaclav Havel commemorated the 25th anniversary of the
former Czechoslovakia's dissident manifesto by saying that Charter 77 should
still inspire people. Mr. Havel, who was among the document's first 242
signatories and one of its first spokesmen, said that the declaration's spirit of
decency, mutual respect, and solidarity carries lessons for people even today.
He added that it also expressed the will to fight for good, even when such a
struggle had no immediate hopes for success. On January 29, signatories of
Charter 77 as well as a number of people who helped the activists, met in the
Senate to remember the anniversary. The gathering was held under the
auspices of Senate Chairman Petr Pithart, himself a Charter 77 signatory, with
President Vaclav Havel in attendance. Over 1,800 people signed Charter 77
before the fall of the Communist regime in 1989.
Czech President Heads to Canary Islands to Convalesce
January 8 Vaclav Havel departed for Lanzarote (Canary Islands), where he will
recuperate following a bout of pneumonia in late December, his spokesman
said. President Havel is expected to spend about two weeks at the island
residence of Spanish King Juan Carlos.
Cabinet Rejects Proposal for University Tuition Fees
January 9 The Social Democratic (CSSD) government rejected a deputies' bill
providing for the introduction of tuition fees at universities, as it found the bill
to contradict its policy statement. According to Petr Mateju, Freedom Union
deputy and one of the authors of the bill, the bureaucracy of the Education
Ministry is too extensive. He proposed to introduce a system of scholarships,
loans guaranteed by the state, and social support for students from families
with lower incomes. The draft bill also envisages savings for study, state
support, and tax reliefs for working students.
Government Approves a New Draft Law on Heritage
January 9 The Cabinet approved a new draft law on cultural heritage which is designed to replace the outdated current law and react to the post-1989 changes in ownership. The law plans to set up the National Heritage Institute managed by the Ministry of Culture with branches in all regions. However, all decisions concerning monument protection will be made by the Central Institute. According to regional representatives, the law installs strict centralism and does not respect the main goal of the civil service reform or measures which have already been taken in this respect. The regions also insist that the law should clearly define the source of compensation to the owners of monuments who would have to spend large sums to accommodate the demands of the monuments' protectors.
Kavan Discusses EU, Terrorism with Vedrine
January 10 EU enlargement and the fight against international terrorism were
the main topics discussed by Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan and his
French counterpart Hubert Vedrine in Paris. The French Foreign Minister
praised the Czech Republic's progress in its preparation for entry to the EU.
Minister Kavan stressed that the Czech Republic would want to again discuss
the distribution of seats among future European Parliament members so that
the number actually corresponds to the size of the population of individual
countries. The Ministers also discussed the fight against international
Klaus to Lead his Party's Prague Electoral Lists
January 12 Civic Democratic Party (ODS) Chairman Vaclav Klaus will head the
Prague electoral lists of his party in the 2002 parliamentary elections. He was
elected to the position at an ODS regional meeting in Prague, gathering the
support of 82 of the 95 members present. His chief rivals will be Social
Democratic Party Deputy Chairwoman Petra Buzkova and Freedom Union-Democratic Union Chairwoman Hana Marvanova.
Czech and British Armed Forces Have A Number of Common Activities
January 14 Czech Army Chief of Staff Jiri Sedivy discussed military
cooperation with British officials in London. The two armies have closely
cooperated in the peace-keeping operations in the Balkans since 1995. "We
have been involved in a relatively big number of common activities since the
beginnings of IFOR, that is since the end of 1995 and beginning of 1996...Our
rapid deployment brigade is integrated in the division of Great Britain," General
Darjanin Becomes Expo 2005 Czech General Commissioner
January 16 The government appointed Vladimir Darjanin, the principal
organizer of last year's successful exhibition, "Ten Centuries of Architecture,"
to be General Commissioner of the Czech participation in Expo 2005 World
Exhibition, to be held in the Aichi prefecture, Japan. The exhibition's main
theme will be the discovery of nature's wisdom. Expo 2005 will be orientated
towards the environment, natural power sources, the growth of the world
population, and mankind's food supply. Each theme will relate to the idea of
harmonization with natural law.
Czech Officers Join the Enduring Freedom Command in Kuwait
January 18 Members of the international contingent for the "Enduring
Freedom" international anti-terrorist operation, including two Czechs, took off
today from the U.S. military base in Ramstein, Germany heading for Kuwait.
Together with their American and German counterparts, the Czechs will
facilitate the participation of Czech troops in the operation. The Czech
deployment comprises about 350 troops from the chemical protection company
based in Liberec, north Bohemia. The soldiers are to leave for Kuwait at the
end of February. According to Defense Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik, plans for
sending the reinforced chemical protection unit are ready, and Czech
representatives in the headquarters of the Enduring Freedom operation in
Tampa, Florida are participating in their preparation.
Czech Army Building a Facility for Treatment of Biological Attack Victims
January 18 Defense Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik said that a military facility for
protection against biological, bacteriological, and other weapons of mass
destruction is being built in Techonin, east Bohemia. According to him, the
September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks against the U.S. were an "important
impulse" for launching the project. The Czech Army is building a specialized
hospital to treat victims of a possible biological attack, as part of its new
system of protection against such weapons. The facility will also carry out
research, but will not store any dangerous substances. The Defense Minister
stressed that the Czech Army would continue to honor the 1972 Biological
Czech Entry to EU in 2004 Very Realistic - Wissels
January 18 European Commission negotiator for the Czech Republic, Rutger
Wissels, praised the progress in the preparation for entry to the EU achieved
by the Czech Republic in the last two months. He said that the country had a
big chance of completing the accession talks with the EU this year and
becoming a member of the EU in 2004. The Czech Republic's admission to the
EU in 2004 is a very realistic possibility, Mr. Wissels told journalists at the end
of his four-day visit to the Czech Republic. The Czech Republic has closed 24
chapters in its accession talks with the EU with six chapters remaining to
Czech Republic Ratifies European Firearms Convention
January 18 The Czech representative at the Council of Europe (CE), Mr.
Martin Boucek, handed ratification documents on the European Convention on
the Control of the Acquisition and Possession of Firearms by Individuals to CE
Secretary General Walter Schwimmer. The convention establishes a system
of control for the movement of firearms among signatory countries and
concerns sale and other transfers of firearms from one country to another.
Under the convention, the signatory states are to cooperate in fighting arms
smuggling and in seeking missing arms. The convention takes effect in the
Czech Republic on May 1.
Visegrad Four to Jointly Upgrade Military Equipment
January 23 Defense Ministers of the Visegrad Four - the Czech Republic,
Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia - agreed in Budapest to jointly upgrade the
Soviet military equipment used by their armies. The first planned step is to
upgrade the Mi-24 helicopters. The four Defense Ministers also agreed to
boost cooperation between their intelligence agencies in order to combat
terrorism and advance NATO expansion.
Czech Government to take over Explosia
January 23 The government decided to take over the Explosia company, which
produces the plastic explosive Semtex, in order to increase state control over
this sensitive business in line with EU norms. Finance Minister Jiri Rusnok said
that the government will pay 1 million crowns (some $27,350) for the company
and will restructure its debt.
President Signs Electoral Bill
January 24 President Vaclav Havel signed into law a bill amending the
electoral law, which makes it possible to hold parliamentary elections in mid-2002. The bill was approved by the Senate on January 17 and by the Chamber
of Deputies in December of last year. Under the amendment, balloting is to
take place in two consecutive days in 14 electoral districts. The proportional
system has been maintained and the d'Hondt system is to be used for the
calculation of mandate distribution. It also requires at least a five-percent gain
for a party, even within the coalition, to get into the Parliament. This means
that the Four-party Coalition (4K), which is composed of three formations
following the merger of the Freedom Union with the Democratic Union, must
gain at least 15 percent to be represented in the legislature.
Czech and Slovak Presidents present flags to joint battalion
January 25 President Vaclav Havel and his Slovak counterpart Rudolf
Schuster presented flags in Cesky Krumlov, southern Bohemia, to the joint
Czech-Slovak peacekeeping battalion. The battalion is to take part in the
KFOR operations in Kosovo. The two countries' defense ministers, Jaroslav
Tvrdik and Jozef Stank, also attended the ceremony and both emphasized that
10 years after the split of Czechoslovakia, the armies of the two countries are
operating together. Havel said the battalion is a symbol of the two states'
realization of "their joint responsibility for peace in Europe and the world."
Schuster said the battalion is leaving for Kosovo at a time when one of its units
belongs to NATO and the other does not, but he believes that when it returns
from its mission, both units will belong to the Alliance.
Army Plans to Build New Modern Land Forces Bases
January 28 The Czech Army intends to build new modern bases for its mechanized units in the vicinity of its training grounds by the end of 2006. The new bases are to save money for the transfer of the units. Ground forces bases are to be built in Podborany, west Bohemia, Bechyne, south Bohemia, and Praslavice, central Moravia. The Army Air Force is to have its bases in Caslav, central Bohemia, and Namest nad Oslavou, south Moravia.
About 2,500 professional soldiers of the first mechanized division are to be employed at each ground forces base. In the future the division will become a part of the German-U.S. army corps in NATO.
Privatization Update: Delays Announced
The privatization commission for energy giant CEZ recommended to the cabinet that the tender be canceled since neither of the bidders submitted a proposal that would meet the requirements. Enel-Iberdrola again offered CZK 136 billion, a figure that is the same as its previous offer. The second offer, from EDF, was not opened. The bidder had more objections to the tender conditions than it did in December. However, EDF reportedly offered CZK 213 billion.
On January 23, the cabinet canceled the tender but left the possibility of selling it, or at least initiating the sale of it prior to the elections, open. The Ministries of Finance and Industry were asked to prepare their recommendations by the end of February. Industry and Trade Minister Miroslav Gregr indicated that a direct sale cannot be ruled out. However, the price tag of CZK 200 billion would not be lowered and other restrictive conditions remain. The opposition parties said they will do everything to block the sale without the tender.
As for the telecom privatization, seven consortiums submitted indicative bids
for Cesky Telecom: Deutsche Telekom, Orange, CVS Capital Partners,
Spectrum Equity, a consortium of the American financial house Warburg
Pincus, and British Doughty Hanson and Apax Partners. Reuters reported that
Orange, part of France Telecom, is only interested in the cellular network
operator Eurotel. This would require Orange to join with a fixed-line operator.
Deutsche Telekom would reportedly like to see the sale postponed. Neither
Telefonica of Spain nor Vivendi of France submitted an offer. Analysts agree
that the privatization of 51.1 percent of the company will likely be delayed until
after the elections.
Trade Deficit Decreases
Czech foreign trade ended with a deficit of CZK 119 billion ($3.5 billion) in
2001, according to the Czech Statistical Office (CSU). The results show slight
improvement as compared to the previous year. Both imports and exports have
grown by more than 10 percent. So far, trade volumes have shown little
volatility to both the global slowdown and the recession in Germany. There is
a significant improvement in the trade balance with 12 of the 20 largest target
markets, such as Britain, Ireland, the Netherlands, and France.
Central Bank to Pursue Weaker Koruna
One of the problems that Czech exporters have to face is the constant strengthening of their currency. Earlier this month, the Czech National Bank and the government announced they were joining forces to fight against the strong koruna and its further strengthening due to expected massive privatization revenues. In a quick move, the Czech National Bank used all of its tools to depreciate the currency. After a verbal intervention, CNB surprised brokers by announcing an extraordinary Board of Governors meeting to discuss monetary policy changes. The central bank has also lowered all key interest rates and confirmed an intervention on the foreign exchange market.
The interest rates were cut to historic lows for the second time in less than
two months. All the interest rates were cut by 25 percentage points, so that the
two-week repo rate stands at 4.5 percent, the discount rate at 3.5 percent and
the Lombard rate at 5.5 percent. Analysts say the koruna's strength is mainly
the result of the knock-on effect of high levels of foreign direct investment in
recent years, which is expected to continue due to continuing privatization.
Leciva Drug Maker to Swallow Slovakofarma
The U.S. owner of the Czech Republic's largest drug maker Leciva plans to buy its Slovak counterpart Slovakofarma if regulators in both countries agree to the deal. American investment fund Warburg Pincus has agreed to purchase a 69 percent share in Slovakia's largest pharmaceutical firm because it believes a partnership will help push both companies further into Central and Eastern European export markets like Poland, Russia and CIS countries.
Although a preliminary agreement has been signed, the purchase price and details of the partnership are still being worked out and must be approved by competition regulators. No decisions have been made about the possibility of layoffs among the nearly 3,500 employees by the two companies if Warburg Pincus chooses to streamline operations.
Slovakofarma has been up front about its desire to find a strategic partner with
enough capital to pour into development and marketing. While Warburg
Pincus, the firm that bought Leciva from the Czech government in 1998, aims
to strengthen the company with the latest deal, it has also said it would sell the
Czech producer to a larger drug company with the financial backing to help it
enter new markets. According to Leciva's General Manager Jiri Michal, a
gradual integration of the Czech and Slovak companies could lead to further
Investment Soared in 2001
The Czech Republic attracted $2 billion in foreign direct investment in 2001,
a figure that includes the planned investment by Toyota and PSA Peugeot
Citroen of about $1.35 billion. Toyota-PSA could qualify for up to $203 million
in incentives. The single largest incentive of CZK 1.62 billion ($46 million) went
to Bosch Diesel, which plans to spend CZK 8.5 billion enlarging its
manufacturing plant in Jihlava. The cabinet is expected to expand the
investment incentives by mid-year to include projects in the area of research
Toyota - PSA Peugeot Citroen Arrives in the CR
The consortium of Toyota and Peugeot/Citroen announced the decision to
build a new car manufacturing facility in Kolin in Central Bohemia. As Prime
Minister Zeman pointed out, the new plant will be bigger than both
Volkswagen's investment in Skoda, and the new Phillips electronics factory in
the town of Hranice na Morave. The project is valued at 1.5 billion ($1.3
billion). When complete in 2005, the plant will provide 3,000 jobs and create
another 7,000 in services and supplies. Jean-Marc Nicolle, the Vice President
of PSA Peugeot Citroen, supplied details of the project. The plant will produce
a new range of very small and inexpensive cars.
January 4 The cabinet agreed with Czech National Bank Governor Zdenek
Tuma that part of the CZK 150 billion the state receives for privatization of
Transgas and Unipetrol will go into the transport and housing funds and part
will go for paying some of the public debt.
January 7 The Czech unemployment rate increased to 8.9 percent in
December 2001, up from 8.5 percent in November. The new figure is the
highest of the last ten months. The highest unemployment - in some counties
over 20 percent - remains in the mining and heavy industry regions of North
Bohemia and North Moravia. Prague and the surrounding districts have the
lowest number of jobless people - around 3 percent.
January 8 The European Union announced plans to support the Czech
Republic's growing tourist industry. The EU's Phare assistance program has
already provided some CZK 400 million or $11 million towards tourism-related
projects in the Czech Republic since 1994. EU Ambassador to the Czech
Republic Ramiro Cibrian said he believed the Czech Republic would become
one of the most visited countries in Europe, thanks to its historical treasures,
magnificent cultural sights and the beautiful landscape.
January 11 The City of Karlovy Vary will sell its 3 percent stake in Jan Becher-Karlovarska Becherovka to Salb, a subsidiary of French Pernod Ricard, for
CZK 68.8 million. Salb will therefore increase its stake in the Becherovka
spirits producer to 97 percent.
January 14 The EC has given preliminary approval to a 300 percent increase
in Czech exports of food products to the EU, subject to preferential quotas.
However, approval depends on a reduction in customs duty on processed
goods imports from the EU. Once an agreement is reached, Czech exports
under preferential conditions could rise from E5.5 million ($4.8 million) to
E17.5 million ($13.5 million).
January 15 The Japanese company Tokai Rika will invest $82.9 million (CZK
3.03 billion) in a plant to produce auto parts in the Lovosice industrial zone.
The plant should provide 250 new jobs by 2004 and up to 400 jobs by 2007.
January 16 U.S.-based power tools and electric appliances manufacturer
Black & Decker announced it would invest around $5 million in a new plant in
Trmice, North Bohemia. The company will manufacture and assemble electric
power tools, employing 600 people. The production, most of which will be
exported to the EU, should open later in 2002. Trmice will also become the
company's regional distribution center.
January 17 Despite the slump in air travel after September 11, Prague's
Ruzyne International Airport showed an increase in the number of planes and
passengers dispatched last year. The airport dispatched 97,542 planes last
year, a 3.6 percent increase since 2000, while passengers increased 9.8
percent to 6.1 million.
January 18 Budejovicky Budvar brewery established a subsidiary in London
to distribute and promote Budvar beer all over Britain. After Germany, the UK
is the brewery's second largest foreign market with annual sales of nearly 2.4
million gallons. The subsidiary's establishment in London is a great challenge
for the brewery due to the large quantity of imported beers on the British
market. Nevertheless, Budvar has managed to gain a foothold there. On
January 9, the government ordered the Finance Ministry to reject all hitherto
submitted proposals for the privatization of brewery Budejovicky Budvar and
to exclude Budvar's assets from privatization. The Agriculture Ministry
contends that the state-held Budejovicky Budvar should not be privatized until
all trademark disputes, mostly with the U.S. company Anheuser-Busch, are
January 21 According to the CzechInvest agency, Japanese investors have
invested and are planning to invest a total of 2 billion USD since 1991 to
employ a total of 20,000 Czech workers. The volume makes Japanese
investment the second largest, with neighboring Germany maintaining the
lead. Japanese companies choose the Czech Republic to build their
production centers for European markets mainly for its strategic location and
accessibility of skilled and relatively cheap labor, as well as a simple but
attractive system of investment incentives.
January 22 The country's two largest mobile phone operators have released
figures showing a sharp increase in customers in 2001. Eurotel, the country's
largest network, said it gained just over a million new customers last year,
while the second largest, Paegas fell slightly short of the million mark. Figures
were not yet available for the third network, Oskar. The Czech Republic now
has just over 10 million inhabitants and a staggering seven million mobile
phone owners. Analysts say mobile penetration could exceed a staggering 80
percent by the end of 2002.
January 23 Total mortgage volume reached CZK 16.7 billion last year,
according to preliminary estimates. Nine mortgage banks on the Czech market
provided 14,700 loans for a total value of CZK 7.7 billion.
January 24 Czech postal service Ceska Posta made a CZK 704 million profit
last year, CZK 147 million less than in 2000, according to preliminary figures.
The lower profits were due to increasing costs while basic postal fees
Book Review: Lovers & Murderers by Vladimir Paral
Vladimir Paral is one of the most important and entertaining Czech authors of the Prague Spring generation. His black comedies of the human condition deftly mix farce and pathos in a way that is both powerful and enjoyable.
More than any of his other novels, Lovers & Murderers presents Paral's dark vision of mankind caught in a cyclical process, in which ideology pales before the pettiness, cruelty, and self-justification of human nature. Every character sees himself as a poor victim trying to get for himself what is justly his, what is being withheld from him by the "haves." And when these "have-nots" become "haves" themselves, they continue to see themselves as the victims of the hordes baying for what is justly theirs, and they have neither the energy not the security to enjoy what they have obtained.
Lovers & Murderers looks at this ongoing struggle in the microcosm of an apartment building owned by a large chemical factory. The principal goal of the young people who share rooms in the building is to move into their own room and, some day, a real apartment. They scheme to get what they're after: they form short-lived alliances, petition, frighten, marry, become pregnant, anything that might work.
What truly sets Paral's novels apart is their prose style. Repetition, myriad
details, and long, breathless, rhythmic sentences carry the reader along with
them in a unique reading experience. The Times Literary Supplement, in a
review of the Czech original, wrote that Paral's novels "are like whirlwinds, with
fragments of real life spinning around in what eventually emerge as
meticulously organized patterns." Paral's use of repetition, as well as his
cyclical vision, serve to hold this long novel together rather tightly. Paral is
also a master of playing along the fine line between comedy and pathos,
looking at both the schemes and dreams of his characters, both realized and
unfulfilled. The result is an exhilarating ride through human nature's cavern of
horrors. To obtain this and/or other books by various Czech authors, please
contact Catbird Press,www.catbirdpress.com or call 1.800.360.2391.
TV Commercials Highlight Prague
The Czech Republic is quickly becoming a main destination for television commercial production. Ads shown in Italy, Germany, Holland, France and Britain are increasingly being shot in Prague and other attractive spots in the Czech Republic. Like the film business, commercial production is booming; last year, the Prague production companies Stillking Films and Milk & Honey recorded a 20 percent rise in commercials, while their younger competitors Czech Connection and Flying Colours both saw an annual increase of 40-50 percent.
Approximately three quarters of the ads shot in the Czech Republic are destined for foreign markets, primarily Britain, the United States, Germany and France. Stillking, whose long list of foreign ad credits include Pepsi, Nike, Adidas and Sony, has recently wrapped-up its busiest month yet, with four shots for the domestic market per week. While there has been a huge increase in production levels, producers still save an average of approximately 40 percent when compared to other world studios. A typical three-day shoot in Prague costs the producer $200,000, as compared to $315,000 in London.
Yet the attraction is not purely monetary -- while the financial aspect was the
major factor a few years ago, foreign producers repeatedly praise the quality
of workmanship, impressive range of locations, and overall enthusiasm within
the country. Prague can double for a number of European cities, such as
Paris, Vienna, Rome and even London, yet is set apart from the rest of the
region for its infrastructure and Barrandov film studios.
Introducing Czech Dialogue
The Czech Dialogue is a bilingual monthly magazine in Czech and English for Czechs living in the Czech Republic and abroad. One of the first privately owned magazines to appear in post 1989 Czechoslovakia, Cesky dialog / Czech Dialogue strives toward the mutual exchange of opinions, experiences and life stories of people of Czech and Slovak origin the world over. The magazine supports the development of democracy and the cultural, historical and spiritual values of the Czech nation as it stands at the crossroads of current events and changes in Europe. This magazine is distributed to many Czech organizations and private subscribers all over the world.
To order or to obtain more information on Cesky dialog, please contact:
Cesky dialog/Czech Dialogue, Legerova 61, 120 00 Praha 2, Czech Republic
tel./fax: (420-2) 2494-1149
WEB : www.cesky-dialog.cz
Karel Husa Honored at the Alice Tully Hall
The Ithaca College Wind Ensemble and Symphony Orchestra will perform the music of Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Karel Husa at Alice Tully Hall in Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in March. Husa, who taught composition at Ithaca College from 1967 to 1986, turned 80 last year. He will be attending the concert, which is being given to honor his life and music.
Husa's compositions have won him many honors, including a Pulitzer Prize in 1969 for his "String Quartet No. 3." Nine years later, he was awarded the Czech Republic's highest civilian honor -- the State Medal of Merit, First Class, which was presented to him by the president of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Havel.
The concert will feature the Ithaca College Wind Ensemble and Symphony Orchestra. The wind ensemble will perform Concerto for Wind Ensemble and Concertino. Grant Cooper will conduct the symphony orchestra in three works: "Celebracion," "Portrait," and Husa's most-performed piece, "Music for Prague 1968." "Music for Prague 1968" has earned a place in the standard repertoire of wind bands and orchestras. Composed after the Soviet invasion of Husa's native Czechoslovakia, the piece was banned by the Communist government and could not be played in its namesake city for more than two decades. It finally received its Prague premiere in 1990 under the baton of the composer.
The performance will take place on Monday, March 4, at 8:00 p.m. Ticket prices are $35 for adults and $20 for children 12 and under. Tickets may be ordered from Center Charge Tickets at (212) 721-6500, or at www.lincolncenter.org. For more information, contact the School of Music at 607.274.3366.
Events at the Embassy
Saturday, February 23
Exhibit•Following in the ancient Czech tradition of wood-turning, artist Jan
Honza's exhibition of wooden objects offer a glimpse into the imagination of a
toy-maker with wooden fantasy characters. This exhibit will be on display
weekdays from 9 - 5 and evenings during events.
Monday, March 18
Presentation•This presentation by renowned architect David Vavra offers an
introductory glimpse into the contemporary work of Czech architects and
designers in both public and private spaces. A unique project detailing works
from this new period, this presentation also expands into the future and new
horizons of design. At 7:30 p.m., admission free.
Tuesday, March 19
Film•As part of the Washington Environmental Film Festival, the Czech Embassy presents some of the most imaginative films ever to be made on modern Czech architecture. Produced by Czech TV and directed by Radovan Lipus, the films from the series Bustling Cities were written and created by the architect, actor, writer and comedian David Vavra and directed by Radovan Lipus. This unique evening will feature three films from the series, introducing the architecture of the Czech towns of Spindleruv Mlyn, Liberec, and Cesky tesin. At 7:30 p.m. at the Czech Embassy. Reservations are not required, admission is free.
American Screenings of Dark Blue World
Directed by Jan Sverak
3-01 Boca Raton, FL Shadowood Square
3-01 Miami Beach, FL South Beach 18
3-01 Sunrise, FL Sunrise 8
3-01 Mission, KS Fine Arts Theater
3-01 Milwaukee, WS Oriental 3
3-01 New Orleans, LA Canal Place
3-01 Boise, ID Flicks Four
3-01 Portland, OR Fox Regal
3-01 Baltimore, MD Charles Theatre
3-08 Birmingham, AL Galleria Ten
3-08 Knoxville, TN Regal Downtown
3-08 Nashville, TN Green Hills Com
3-08 Scottsdale, AZ Camelview Plaza
3-08 Corvallis, OR Avalon Cinema
3-08 Eugene, OR Bijou Twin
3-15 Chapel Hill, NC Chelsea Theatre
3-15 Durham, NC Carolina 3
3-15 Raleigh, NC Colony Cinema 3
3-15 Bonita Springs, FL Bonita Theatre
3-15 Delray Beach, FL Delray 18 Cinema
3-15 Ft. Myers, FL Bell Tower 20
3-15 Tampa, FL Channelside Theatre
3-15 Memphis, TN Studio Theatre
3-22 Asheville, NC Fine Arts Theatre
3-29 Indianapolis, IN Castleton Square
For information on showtimes and
locations, etc., please contact the local
Czech Events Around the USA
February 5 - March 15 The Czech Center New York presents "I'm Gonna Make
you Wonder if you are my Friend," an exhibition by Milena Dopitova to mark
the occasion of the artist's residency with The International Studio & Curatorial
Program funded by the Trust of Mutual Understanding. Dopitova won the
residency in a competition of 13 Czech artists. At the Czech Center New York,
1109 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10028. Opening February 5, 6:30-8:30
PM. For more information, please call 212.288.0971 or visit
February 8 - February 25 Exhibition of Czech Olympic History at the 2002
Winter Olympics. Czech Olympic House-Chateau Reception Center, Olympic
Campus, 1980 W 3500 South, West Valley City, Utah For more information,
please visit www.czechcenter.com
February 14 - 17 Karel Vacheck films at the Anthology Film Archives - Little
Capitalist Tetralogy. Films to be screened: New Hyperion of Equality, Liberty,
Brotherhood, What is to be done?- A Journey from Prague to Cesky Krumlov,
Bohemia Docta or the Labyrinth of the World and the Lust-house of the Heart
(Divine Comedy). At Anthology Film Archives, 32 Second Avenue, New York,
February 21 The Czech Center hosts A Video Thursdays screening of
Boomerang, a 1996 feature film directed by Hynek Bocan and written by Jiri
Stransky. In this film, Stransky returns to his own experiences in communist
labor camps where he was imprisoned for several years . . . At the Czech
Center New York, 1109 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10028, 7 PM
Czech Voice of Cleveland with Joe Kocab on WERE AM/1300 Saturdays 2 - 3 PM
WERE AM/1300 Sundays 1 - 3 PM
February 23 The American Czech-Slovak Cultural Club and the University of
Miami will sponsor a performance by the Brno Chamber Orchestra. At Gusman
Hall on the University of Miami campus. For more information, please call
305.891.9130 or visit http://home.att.net/~fjpworld.
February 23 The Annual Czech and Slovak Dancing Ball will be held with
special guests Ivana Christova and Karel Blaha, as well as live music, dancing,
dinner and a raffle - first prize, a round trip ticket to the Czech Republic! At the
Polonaise Terrace, 150 Greenpoint Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11222, 8 PM.
Admission is $65 per person, black tie only -- seating is limited. For more
information, please call 718.721.6422 or 718.728.9199 or visit
February 23 The Los Robles Master Chorale presents "Dvorak!" featuring
Antonin Dvorak's choral works (Mass in D and the Te Deum), his symphonic
music ("Slavonic Dances") along with Czech folk songs and dances with Guest
Conductor Miroslav Kosler. At the Fred Kavli Theatre, Thousand Oaks Civic
Arts Plaza, 2100 Thousand Oaks Blvd., Thousand Oaks, CA, 8 PM. For more
information, please call 805.497.0386 or visit www.orgsites.com/ca/lrmc
March 1 - 17 GOH Productions presents the Czechoslovak Marionette
Theater's revival production of "Hamlet," featuring a cast of four actors and
scores of marionettes. At the Jan Hus Playhouse, 351 E 74th Street, between
1st & 2nd Avenues, New York, NY. For information, please visit
www.czechmarionettes.org. For tickets, please call 212.206.1515 or visit
March 1-3, 8-10 Zlata Praha Restaurant presents a Venison Feast and great Czech beer. At the Zlata Praha Restaurant, 28-48 31st Street, Astoria, NY 11102. For more information, please call 718.721.6422 or 718.728.9199 or visit www.zlatapraha.com
March 12, 14 & 19 The National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library offers a
Porcelain Painting Class. Learn how to paint a ceramic Easter egg with
instructor JoAnne Neff. Class size is limited to 15, please enroll by March 11.
WFLA Heritage Hall, Cedar Rapids, IA, 6:30 - 9:30 PM. Enrollment is $20. For
more information please call 319.362.8500
March 17 The American Czech-Slovak Cultural Club welcomes Dr. Joseph
Patrouch, Associate Professor of History and Director of Graduate Studies at
Florida International University to speak about The Hapsburg Dynasty and the
Kingdom of Bohemia. 13325 Arch Creek Road, North Miami, FL 33181, 3 PM.
Admission is free. For information, please call 305.891.9130 or visit
March 20 The Honorary Consulate General of the Czech Republic in
Philadelphia presents the powerful documentary "In the Shadow of Memory"
(Legacies of Lidice), followed by a Question & Answer session. At the N.E.
Branch of the Philadelphia Free Library, Cottman Avenue at Oakland Street,
Philadelphia, PA, 7:30 PM. For further information, please call 215.885.0163
or call Peter A. Rafaeli, Hon. Consulate General of the Czech Republic -
Philadelphia, Bethlehem Pike, Suite at 215.646.7777 or visit
March 21 The National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library hosts Learn at
Lunch, "Symbolism and Motifs in Czech and Slovak Easter Egg Decorating,"
by Marj Kopecek Nejdl, Master Folk Artist. Bring a sack lunch and learn the
meanings of the various symbols and colors commonly used in the egg
decorating art of the Czech and Slovak cultures. WFLA Heritage Hall, Cedar
Rapids, IA, 12 PM. Admission is free. For more information, please call
April 12 - October 6, 2003 The National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library
presents Kroje - Dress for the Dance of Life! -- A colorful display exploring the
significance of folk wear as it relates to politics, geography, nationalism, and
local resources. At the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library. For more
information, please call 319.362.8500
April 14 The National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library presents Life Long
Learning with "Beaded Glory -- Treasures from Bohemia, Moravia, and
Slovakia" by Helene Cincebeaux, owner of the Baine/Cincebeaux Collection
with a presentation about the variations of beadwork in Kroje and lead a gallery
tour. At the WFLA Heritage Hall, 30 16th Avenue, Cedar Rapids, IA, 2 PM.
Admission is free of charge. For more information, please call 319.362.8500