Czech the News
Message from the DCM
Social Democrats win the Parliamentary Elections
Masaryk Statue Arrives in New York
Armed Forces Day at the Embassy
President Havel Congratulates George W. Bush on Independence Day
Commemorative Marker Continues Masaryk Legacy in PA
Slovakia is Ready for NATO
Gratias Agit Award - Prof. Architect Jan Hird Pokorny
Miller Merger Opens Prospects for Pilsner Urquell
Maestro Leaves NJ Symphony for the Czech Philharmonic
NY Museum Exhibits Czech Glass Art
Book Review: Karel Capek: Life and Work by Ivan Klima
Czech Capital USA Hosts Czech Festival
Events at the Embassy
Message from the Deputy Chief of Mission
Let me introduce myself. My name is Vratislav Janda and I have recently arrived in Washington, D.C. to fill the position of the Deputy Chief of Mission. I would like to thank my predecessor, Dr. Antonin Hradilek, for all that he has done for the Czech Embassy during his five-year tenure in this hub of world foreign politics. I certainly wish him all the best as he returns to the Foreign Ministry in Prague and assumes his new position.
For me, this new posting is a big challenge. The United States ranks among the Czech Republic’s most important partners not only in the political sphere, but also in the military, economic and cultural spheres.
Three years ago, the Czech Republic joined NATO. I witnessed these times at the Department of Security Policy at the Czech Foreign Ministry where I was part of the team that was instrumental in our accession to the Alliance. I hope I contributed my share to this. These days, we are on the verge of joining the European Union, and most likely, I will see my country join the EU while I am still representing the Czech Republic here in the USA.
My previous postings included stays in Egypt, Yemen, Jordan and Iran, where I served as the Deputy Chief of Mission. Upon my arrival at the Foreign Ministry in Prague in 1999, I headed the NATO unit and later I served as Deputy Director at the Department of Security Policy. I graduated from the Law Faculty of Charles University in Prague and continued my studies at the International School of Journalism in Fredrigstad, Norway and at the Centre de Politique de Securite in Geneva, Switzerland.
Dear Americans, Czech-Americans, Czechs living in the USA and friends,
I resolve to work towards the further strengthening and enhancing of Czech-U.S. relations while I am here, and I would appreciate any feedback that you might want to provide to me, as well as your advice.
Social Democrats Win the Parliamentary Elections
The center-left Social Democrats (CSSD) emerged as the winning party from the June parliamentary elections in the Czech Republic after receiving 30.2 percent of the vote, a figure that equals to 70 seats out of 200 in the Chamber of Deputies.
The rightist Civic Democratic Party (ODS) finished second with 24.47 percent of the votes and a gain of 58 seats. The Communist Party surprisingly got the third position with 18.51 percent of the votes and a gain of 41 seats. The low election turnout – about 58 percent, also affected the election results.
Czech President Vaclav Havel consequently asked the leader of the CSSD, Mr. Vladimir Spidla, to begin coalition negotiations since the Social Democrats did not gain enough votes to establish a majority rule. Vladimir Spidla first addressed the centrist Coalition of the Christian Democrats and the Freedom Union-DEU, which came fourth with 14.28 percent of the vote and 31 seats in the lower chamber of the parliament. If successful, together they would have the thin majority by just one chair in the lower chamber.
Vladimir Spidla, CSSD Chairman, repeatedly claimed that he would not co-operate with the Communists. He also did not exclude the possibility of forming a minority government.
For the first time in history, Czechs abroad were able to cast their ballots at Czech Embassies and Consulates throughout the world. The Czech Embassy in Washington was among the polling locations where Czech voters came to cast their ballots. In total, 101 voters took advantage of this new privilege, out of which 60 voted for the Coalition (which equals approximately 60%), 23 voted for the ODS, 12 for the CSSD, 3 for the National Socialist, 2 for the Hope (Nadeje), and 1 for the KSCM.
In New York, a total of 138 voters came to vote. Almost half of the votes (67) went to the centrist Coalition, while the ODS (Civic Democrats) finished second with 32 votes. The CSSD (Social Democrats) came in third with 20 votes. The ODA - Civic Democratic Alliance came in fourth with a gain of 6 votes. The remaining 13 votes were split among 8 other parties.
In Los Angeles, 46 people came to vote on the election days. The ODS received the most votes with a total of 17. The Coalition came in second with 15 votes, while the CSSD received 10 votes and finished as third. The Green Party received two votes and the Civic Democratic Alliance (ODA) and Nadeje (Hope) got one vote each.
The number of voters who registered at Czech Embassies and Consulates around the globe amounted to 4,135, out of which 3,762 voted. There are about 70,000 Czech citizens living abroad.
Masaryk Statue Arrives in New York
Czech president Vaclav Havel is expected to arrive in Washington, D.C. in September for an official visit to the USA. As a part of his program, he will unveil the statue of Tomas Garrigue Masaryk. The statue will stand in TGM Memorial Park at the gateway to Embassy Row, close to Massachusetts Avenue in the center of the city. The bronze statue of Masaryk, the founding father of free Czechoslovakia, is a gift to the United States from the Czech Republic and was scheduled to arrive in New York Harbor on a date symbolic for the United States – July 4th, Independence Day.
The statue, which is more than 12 feet high, was created by Czech sculptor Vincenc Makovsky in 1937, but its display was forbidden during WW II and later under communism, and was only cast in bronze during the Prague Spring in 1968. After 1968, the sculpture was put in storage and displayed again only after the fall of communism in Czechoslovakia in 1989.
Before it arrived in New York, the statue was stored in the National Gallery in Prague, though it was never exhibited. It displays the president holding a hat in one hand and the Declaration of Czechoslovak Independence in the other, and will stand near a memorial to Mahatma Gandhi.
The U.S. Congress and President George W. Bush allowed the statue’s installation by a special law, passed and signed earlier in 2001. The total cost of the memorial and the architectonic adaptation (worked out by Architect Jan Hird Pokorny, please see Page 4) of the park is estimated to be approximately $400,000. The American Friends of the Czech Republic (AFoCR) and especially its chairman Milton Cerny serve as the coordinator for this effort to honor President Masaryk, with the help of the Czech Republic and dozens of Czech and Slovak organizations throughout the United States. “Over 1900 individuals and organizations have contributed a total of $440,000 to the memorial project,” Milton Cerny told Czech the News at the end of June in a telephone interview. “We have seen the picture of the statue, it is in beautiful condition,” he added.
Armed Forces Day at the Embassy
On June 19, 2002, the Czech Republic celebrated the first annual Armed Forces Day, a new holiday designed to honor the prominent efforts of the Czech military. A reception for Armed Forces Day was held at the Czech Embassy in Washington for a distinguished group of guests including senior Czech and U.S. military officials, as well as military attaches from many countries.
The Ambassador of the Czech Republic to the U.S., Dr. Martin Palous, welcomed guests to the Embassy in his opening address. Dr. Palous also welcomed the various guests who had come from the Czech Republic to celebrate the occasion.
In addition, Czech Army Chief of Staff General Jiri Sedivy said a few words about the importance of the military in the Czech Republic. In his speech, General Sedivy pointed out that the public opinion of the military has been improving — 12 years ago, only one-third of Czech citizens trusted the military while today, over two-thirds of Czech citizens put their trust in the military.
Finally, USN Admiral Thomas R. Wilson, Director of the DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency) commended the Czech Republic for creating a holiday to honor the Czech military. Admiral Wilson recently visited the Czech Republic where he was honored with the Order of the White Lion by President Vaclav Havel in Prague. Also present at the reception, among other guests, were Ms. Suzanne Patrick, Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Industrial Policy, the Czech Ambassador to NATO in Brussels Mr. Karel Kovanda and the Surgeon General of the Czech Armed Forces, BG Jan Petras.
After the opening address, guests engaged in friendly conversation and discussed issues such as culture and world politics over a reception of traditional Czech food and the world-famous Pilsner Urquell.
President Havel Congratulates George W. Bush
The following is a message from President Vaclav Havel to the President of the USA, George W. Bush, on the occasion of the 226th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.
“Allow me to congratulate you and the people of the United States on the occasion of your Independence Day. I wish you and your country the very best in the years to come.
Ever since 1776, July 4th has symbolized the independence of the human spirit, the triumph of courage, and the desire of man to freely decide his own destiny. It was the American commitment to these virtues that contributed to the fall of the Iron Curtain and helped my country regain freedom after decades of Communist rule. It pleases me that we can now share and protect these values together as partners in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, whose enlargement would never have been possible without the strong support of the United States.
In the aftermath of the attacks of September 11, 2001, the concepts of security, peace, and solidarity are acquiring a new and distinct meaning. The fight against terrorism has a higher priority than ever before, and nobody can remain neutral in this fight. The Czech Republic is proud that it was able to contribute to the efforts led by the United States with both military and humanitarian support. Because our help was accepted, some of our best soldiers have been able to actively contribute to these joint endeavors.
The Czech Republic also appreciates the American contribution to the decision of the North Atlantic Council in choosing Prague to host the 2002 NATO Summit. The Czech Republic perceives this decision as a unique political and diplomatic responsibility and, at the same time, as an acknowledgment of the enlargement of NATO in 1999. I also consider it an outstanding opportunity to welcome you to the Czech Republic.”
Commemorative Marker Continues Masaryk Legacy
A marker to commemorate the legacy of Tomas Garrigue Masaryk, the founding President of the First Czechoslovak State, will be dedicated in a ceremony on July 23, 2002. The marker was recently approved by the Historical and Museum Commission of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and will now be located at Independence Mall West (South 6th Street, Philadelphia). The site was chosen for its historical significance because in 1918, President Masaryk read the Declaration of Common Aims to a large audience as chairman of the Mid-European Union.
Following the ceremony in July, a reception will be (continued on page 4) (continued from page 2) held to honor the friendship between Mr. Masaryk and Ignace Jan Paderewski, a Polish independence leader, statesman and renowned musician. For the ceremony, several guests have been invited and the honored guest speaker will be Dr. Martin Palous, the Czech Ambassador to the U.S.A. In addition, key representatives from the Slovak Embassy in Washington, Consuls General of the Czech Republic in New York, the Consul General of Poland in New York, members of the Consular Corps in Philadelphia and representatives of the Polish-American Congress have also been invited. Honored guests representing Pennsylvania will include Governor Mark Schweiker, City of Philadelphia Mayor Hon. John F. Street, and Congressional members.
Slovakia is Ready for NATO
As in the previous issue of CTN, we are devoting Page 3 of this newsletter to topics related to NATO. In the June issue, we published an essay by Vaclav Havel envisioning the future of the Alliance. This month, we are presenting excerpts from recent remarks made by Ambassador Martin Butora of Slovakia at the Congressional Hearing on NATO Enlargement.
Contributions regarding NATO and security issues will be published on this page until the November NATO Summit in Prague.
Slovakia wants to join NATO because of her past, and perhaps even more, because of her future. We are convinced that Slovakia will be a better country as a member-state of NATO, that NATO will be a better alliance with Slovakia, and that the United States’ interests will be better served with a stronger and bigger NATO that includes Slovakia.
We want to join NATO because we never want to repeat our past. Believe me, each family in Slovakia remembers the horrors of the 20th century, when Slovaks underwent two world wars and lived under two dictatorships. We have in our bones an experience of what it means to be attacked, to be occupied, and to be bombed. That is why we were so strongly with you after September 11, why thousands of rank and file Slovaks stood in their deep sorrow and prayers. And that is why our intelligence, our law enforcement institutions, and our military offered total and immediate cooperation in the fight against terrorism.
In the years that have passed from the historic 1999 Washington NATO Summit, we in Slovakia have moved ahead. We now have firmly anchored democratic institutions. We amended our constitution in accordance with our integration needs. We have strengthened the independence of our judiciary. Our media are vibrant and free. We moved ahead in decentralization. The vast majority of our GDP is generated by the private sector. We are successfully privatizing our banks and natural monopolies. With Slovak soldiers operating in East Timor and Eritrea/Ethiopia, in the Golan Heights and Cyprus, with Slovak participation in the KFOR joint Czecho-Slovak battalion in Kosovo, with a common Slovak-Czech-Polish brigade in preparation, Slovakia presents herself as a serious contributor. Thanks to the intensive modernization of our armed forces aimed at building relatively small, but highly qualified and well trained units, Slovakia is becoming a trustworthy partner in the struggle against both the traditional enemies of freedom as well as against all yet unknown threats.
We are living in unique times: the map of Europe will be redrawn. As this rendezvous with history is approaching, I am thinking of many participants and witnesses on this road.
I am thinking of people of integrity who, despite very difficult circumstances, did not betray their souls and resisted evil. I am thinking of my father-in-law and other brave men and women, who stood up with arms in their hands in the Slovak National Uprising. And I am thinking of the Jewish fighters from the Novaky concentration camp who joined them in this fight.
I am thinking of people who opposed the communist regime -- dissidents, members of the secret church, environmentalists, independent social scientists, actors, and writers. I am thinking of other “positive deviants,” as we called people trying to live decent lives among the prevailing communist oppression and schizophrenia.
I am thinking of the first days of the Velvet Revolution in November 1989. I remember how our movement, Public Against Violence, brought Alexander Dubcek to the podium at the main square in Bratislava to address the public after 20 years of silence. For many Slovaks, this was the glorious moment of catharsis and reborn hope. I remember the unforgettable speech of the then Czecho-Slovak President Vaclav Havel, for whom I worked as a human rights advisor, before the Joint Session of Congress in February 1990. Twelve years later, I am asking for your continued support for Slovakia, one part of the former common state of Czechs and Slovaks, and hopefully a future part of a bigger community of NATO’s nations, a community that will forever keep both sides of the Atlantic together.
I have before my eyes an incredible public mobilization before our last 1998 parliamentary elections, when 84% of our citizens turned out. And I remember why there was so much hope in the air: people in Slovakia believed that the country would move closer to the community of freedom-loving, democratic nations and would get another chance to join the Alliance. Since then, we have come a long way. One part of our mission is almost accomplished. We are looking with confidence to the historic Prague Summit. Mr. Chairman, distinguished members of the U.S. Congress, dear friends, I ask you for your support for Slovakia.
We are ready.
Slovak Ambassador to the USA.
Gratias Agit Award - Prof. Architect Jan Hird Pokorny
Every year, the Czech Minister of Foreign Affairs awards a dozen outstanding personalities or groups from the Czech Republic and abroad with the Jan Masaryk Gratias Agit Award. The Award is intended to express the Czech Government’s appreciation for the individuals and organizations who spread a positive image of the Czech Republic abroad, and enhance mutual relationships between the Czech Republic and other countries. Primarily, the Award honors activities that the recipients have developed in the spheres of science, education, and arts or public life — in addition to their professional careers.
This year, ten exceptional individuals and three organizations were nominated for the award. During the ceremony held on June 4, Foreign Minister Kavan personally honored eleven of them, while two will receive their awards at Czech Foreign Missions. Among those awarded was New York architect Jan Hird Pokorny. Mr. Pokorny completed his architectural studies at Prague Polytechnical University. After he emigrated to the United States, he became a professor at Columbia University in New York. Among his notable projects are the Master Plan for Lehman College in the Bronx, which included designs for four buildings; the Central Campus plan for SUNY at Stony Brook; the renovation of Lewisohn Hall at Columbia University; and the renovation of Milbank Hall at Barnard College. Since 1964, Mr. Pokorny has been a member of the American Fund for Czechoslovak Relief, for which he now serves as its chairman. He is also head of the Bohemian Benevolent and Literary Association, the organization which purchased the Bohemian National Hall in New York last year.
Senate Approves Funding of Afghan Mission
May 31: According to a decision made by the Senate, the mission of the 6th field hospital in Afghanistan will be paid for from bonds totaling 600 million crowns issued by the government. The upper house of the parliament thus supported a government-sponsored bill allowing the issuing of the bonds, which have yet to be signed by President Vaclav Havel. The two hundred doctors and relevant health personnel in Kabul are operating as part of the ISAF international peace-keeping forces.
Half of Czechs for EU Entry
June 3: About half of the Czech population would vote for the Czech Republic’s EU entry and one third would vote against it if a referendum on the issue was held now, according to a poll recently carried out by the TNS Factum polling agency. About one fifth of the population has not decided yet. Compared to March, the number of EU entry proponents did not change, whereas the number of its opponents increased by 12 percent. The number of undecided, which had decreased by 15 percent, rises with the age of those polled — 30 percent of those over 60 are undecided. University graduates were nearly unanimous in their support for EU entry.
Czechs do not Expect Many Changes After Elections
June 6: A poll conducted by the CVVM agency shortly before the June 14-15 general elections showed that more than half of Czechs did not expect the situation in the Czech Republic to markedly change after the elections. Around 18 percent of Czechs believe that the situation will improve, while 17 percent expect it to deteriorate. Among the most optimistic were the supporters of the Civic Democratic Party (ODS), one of the two election favorites. Around 36 percent of the ODS followers expected a change for the better. The same was expected by one quarter of the supporters of the ruling Social Democrats (CSSD), the other election favorite.
Dalai Lama to Visit Prague in July
June 6: The Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, is scheduled to visit the Czech Republic at the beginning of July to take part in a meeting of world religion representatives. The Buddhist thinker and Nobel Peace Prize winner is to stay in the Czech Republic from July 2 to July 4 at the invitation of President Vaclav Havel. The Dalai Lama, who has often stayed as a private guest of President Havel, was to arrive in the CR last year for the Forum 2000 conference at the Prague Castle, but had to cancel his trip at the last minute due to the planned start of a military action in Afghanistan.
People Trust Havel Most
June 10: The populace still trusts President Vaclav Havel the most, while the trust of the public in the Senate has maintained its traditional spot at the lowest, according to a poll conducted by the CVVM agency. Some 51 percent of those polled said they trusted Havel, 43 percent trusted the government, 31 percent trusted the Chamber of Deputies, and 23 percent trusted the Senate. While the trust in Havel and both the Chamber and the Senate remained unchanged month-on-month, trust in the government grew by 2 percent. The number of people who did not trust the government fell by 4 percent to 52 percent.
Tvrdik Discusses Czech-German Military Cooperation with Scharping
June 10: Cooperation between the Czech and German military forces in areas such as foreign missions and NATO organization should intensify, Czech Defense Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik and his German counterpart Rudolf Scharping agreed. While signing a document on military and political cooperation after the year 2003, the two ministers informed journalists about a meeting of NATO planners to take place before the November NATO summit in Prague, at which models of further military cooperation within the alliance are to be proposed.
Candidates to Launch Euro in 2010 at the Latest
June 10: Czech National Bank governor Zdenek Tuma said that EURO will be used for payments in the Czech Republic in 2010 at the latest. Addressing a Vienna conference on EU accession, Tuma said the candidates for EU membership will start using the euro officially between the years 2006-2010. The date of the entry will depend on the countries’ viewing of the risks of the euro launch, which will in the end be more of a political than an economic decision. The accession of the Czech Republic to the EU should have no major impact on setting the country’s interest rates. “Czech rates are already very close to the EU’s now,” Tuma explained.
Chamber for Transfer of Property to Towns
June 13: Property of towns currently being managed by district authorities, worth several billion crowns, will be transferred to municipalities and regions at the beginning of next year. The bill, approved by the Lower House and the Senate, has yet to be signed into law by the President. The bill transfers (among other properties): hospitals, senior citizens’ homes, cultural facilities, theaters and libraries to regions and municipalities. The bill is part of the set of laws which allow for the reform of the civil service system.
Japanese Emperor Akihito to Arrive in the Czech Republic on July 6
June 20: Japanese Emperor Akihito said that he would like to get more acquainted with central and eastern European nations and their fight for freedom and democracy after 1989, and therefore he and his wife have decided to spend two weeks in the Czech Republic, Poland, Austria and Hungary in July. The couple is scheduled to stay in the Czech Republic from July 6 until July 9.
Havel Hosted Zeman’s Outgoing Cabinet for Dinner
June 20: President Vaclav Havel thanked members of Premier Milos Zeman’s outgoing Social Democratic (CSSD) cabinet for their efforts at a joint farewell dinner at the presidential chateau in Lany. Havel also thanked the ministers’ wives for their patience and congratulated the CSSD on its victory in the June 14-15 general election. “You were basically a stable government,” Havel said to the cabinet. Among the cabinet’s achievements, Havel mentioned the launch of the public administration reform.
Czech Social Democrats Drafted Government Program
June 22: Leaders of the Social Democratic Party (CSSD) finalized the draft program of a new government and forwarded it to their prospective partners from the Twin-Coalition, the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL), and the Freedom Union-Democratic Union (US-DEU). The chapter in the program on public finances was drafted personally by Premier-designate Vladimir Spidla. Spidla earlier rejected the chapter as “too legalistic” a program drafted by current Deputy Premier Pavel Rychetsky.
European Intellectuals Warn of “Nationalist Rhetoric”
June 21: A group of 26 prominent European intellectuals signed an appeal in Prague calling on politicians to tone down the “nationalist rhetoric” that has emerged in recent electoral campaigns. The appeal was drafted by former Hungarian President Arpad Goncz and Czech Senate Chairman Petr Pithart, and was also signed by German writer Guenter Grass, Slovak Deputy Premier Bela Bugar, Polish former dissident Adam Michnik, French European Parliament deputy Daniel Cohn-Bendit, and Prague Archbishop Vaclav Maly. The signatories said that “cheap populism” based on old historical grievances threatens the unification of Europe and cited the recent disputes concerning the after-World War II Czechoslovak Presidential Decrees.
Visegrad Group Ready to Renew Cooperation
June 22: The four leading EU candidates that comprise the Visegrad group (Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia) agreed to revive faltering cooperation in accession talks. The prime ministers of the four countries met briefly on the side of the EU summit in Seville, Spain and agreed to meet again in Hungary on June 29. Milos Zeman, Peter Medgyessy, Leszek Miller, and Mikulas Dzurinda were scheduled to meet in Esztergom, Hungary, but in a gesture symbolically marking the passing of the group’s rotating chairmanship to Slovakia, they also wanted to cross the Danube River and meet on the Slovak side.
ODS Picks up Prague Mayoral Candidate
June 24:The ODS Prague city councilors group nominated Igor Nemec for the post of Prague mayor. A former parliamentary deputy and member of the Klaus cabinet (1991-1996), Nemec is to seek the office following the resignation of Jan Kasl as Prague mayor earlier this month. Nemec, who has been a consistent opponent of Kasl since the latter became mayor in 1998, was born in 1959 and studied mathematics at Charles University in Prague.
Two-thirds of Czechs Believe KSCM is not Democratic
June 24: According to a TNS Factum poll published in the Czech daily “Hospodarske noviny,” two-thirds of Czechs believe the KSCM is not a democratic party. Nonetheless, about half of the respondents said they can imagine a government with KSCM participation. Forty percent of those polled said they can envisage the KSCM being given leading positions in the Chamber of Deputies.
Miller Merger Opens Prospects for Pilsner Urquell
South African Breweries (SAB) recently merged with the second largest U.S. brewer Miller Brewing Company. The merger will give SAB’s premium export beer Pilsner Urquell from the Czech Republic a major leg-up in the world's most lucrative beer market, the United States. The $5.6 billion agreement to buy the U.S.-based Miller from U.S. tobacco producer Philip Morris thrusts SAB into the No. 2 spot among worldwide brewers by volume behind Anheuser-Busch. The Czech Republic's largest export beer, Pilsner Urquell, will access Miller's distribution system, which is considered key to turning it into a Top 5 global brand and increasing U.S. sales. When SAB bought Czech brewing companies Plzensky Prazdroj and Pivovar Radegast in 2000, it placed building the Pilsner Urquell brand at the top of its priority list. SAB has launched a $10 million advertising campaign to pump up the marketing of its flagship export and it increased investments in the brand's production facilities by 119 percent to CZK 849 million in 2001.
Since October 2001, the extension of the GSP program is still pendant due to the U.S. legislative procedures. The Czech Republic has been listed among the countries to enjoy the benefits of a reduced level of tariffs for certain imports.
The delay, the longest in the program’s history, is rather technical and caused by the fact that the Generalized System of Preferences Act was attached to a package of trade agenda, which also includes the controversial TPA (Trade Promotion Authority Act). The Senate approved the trade agenda package (which includes 4 laws) on May 23, 2002, though it is still subject to conference procedure with the House.
The final implementation of the GSP program by US Customs, following President Bush’s signing, is not expected before August 2002. According to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, the program will be renewed retroactively, i.e. U.S. importers should be able to claim their refunds of the tariff differential paid to U.S. Customs for imports of Czech products in the interim period since October 2001, when applicable. The GSP program is supposed to be extended for a five-year period until 2006.
However, after the Czech Republic joins the EU and becomes a fully-fledged EU member (the expected date is January 1, 2004), the country will no longer qualify for the GSP program and will be excluded on the basis of “automatic graduation.”
June 3: Cesky Telecom said 15,000 pay phones would be equipped with SMS messages and email function within a few weeks. The introductory price for SMS will apparently be less than CZK 1. Later, the price will rise to CZK 2-3. Use of pay phones has dropped about 40 percent due to cellular phones.
June 6: The cabinet approved a contract for selling Nova Hut steelmaker to LNM Holdings. The cabinet also agreed to give LNM a six-month exclusivity for negotiating to buy 99 percent of Vitkovice Steel and 46 percent of OKD coalmines.
June 10: A group of the 5 largest banks (CS, CSOB, KB, GE, HVB) launched a credit bureau to monitor credit history of retail banking customers. Central Credit Bureau, which is administering the project, said that other banks should join by the end of the year and that buildings & loans are expected to join later. Borrowers with good credit histories will get better borrowing terms. Newspapers reported that the number of individual borrowers has jumped 220% in the past two years.
June 12: The UOHS antitrust office issued fines of CZK 48 million against Eurotel and CZK 15 million against RadioMobil for charging their customers more for access to Cesky Mobil’s network than to each other’s. UOHS said this prevented Cesky Mobil from gaining as many clients as it otherwise would have. The total damage could reach hundreds of millions of crowns. UOHS also indicated that Eurotel and RadioMobil customers could use the decision to seek reimbursement in civil court proceedings.
June 13: The U.S. financial group Appian Group, one possible partner for the engineering giant Skoda Holding, will not trim Skoda staff if it buys into it. Appian CEO for Central and Eastern Europe Antonin Kolacek said the group wants to retain all production segments.
June 14: According to statistics released by the European Eurostat agency, the Czech Republic and Slovakia have the highest computer literacy and Internet proliferation among all of the EU-membership candidates from Central and Eastern Europe. In the Czech Republic, there are 14 computers and the same number of Internet users per 100 people, whereas the EU average is more than 30 computers and 32 Internet users per 100 inhabitants. As far as the corporate sphere is concerned, according to a recent survey among 500 Czech companies, nearly 95 percent of Czech firms with 20 or more employees have their own Internet connection, and Internet use is in direct proportion to the size of a company.
June 19: With CZK 146.041 billion in sales last year, car-maker Skoda Auto defended its first position in the chart of the 100 most important companies in the Czech Republic, drawn up annually by the Czech TOP 100 association. The next were Unipetrol (CZK 80.864 billion) and CEZ (CZK 52.284 billion), followed by Ceska rafinerska, Cesky Telecom, Transgas, Siemens Group CR, Moravia Steel, Agrofert and Eurotel.
June 19: Prague City Hall has imposed fines totaling CZK 2.4 million on 10 taxi drivers. In a crackdown on cab drivers that overcharge customers, city inspectors took 94 rides during April - May and found 48 instances of surcharging and 51 other offenses.
June 20: A change of 3.8 million telephone numbers in the Czech Republic will go ahead as planned on September 21 - 22, 2002. The reform will cut the rates of about 1/3 of long-distance calls made through Czech Telecom. The current 159 calling areas will be reduced to 14, which will harmonize them with official government regions. Czech Telecom said the change would bring in a 20 percent drop in total costs of long-distance-calls.
June 21: Central Bank Governor Zdenek Tuma said the Czech Republic will introduce the euro by 2010, while Hungary plans to adopt it in 2006 and Poland in 2007. Tuma said the transition to the euro shouldn’t be rushed, especially since unlike the Hungarian Forint, the crown exchange rate is not pegged to the euro.
June 24: Sales of new passenger cars in the Czech Republic dropped by almost 2 percent in the period from January to May this year. The most popular Czech brand Skoda recorded a more than 8 percent fall, although it still dominates the market, holding a 52 percent market share with over 32,000 cars sold. Skoda is far ahead of the other most popular brands - the French Renault and Peugeot and the German Volkswagen and Opel, each of which occupies around 5 percent of the market.
June 25: LZ Kunovice, the Czech aircraft manufacturer, will supply 21 gliders to the United States Air Force. The gliders Blanik, Super Blanik and Solo will be used for pilot training at Edwards Air Base in California. Gliders were tested in April at the airport in Kunovice, Czech Republic. A glider costs about 30,000 USD. LZ Kunovice exports mostly to Argentina, Brazil and Japan.
Maestro Leaves NJ Symphony for the Czech Philharmonic
After spending nearly ten years as the New Jersey Symphony’s Music Director, Zdenek Macal will leave his position to become the Chief Conductor of the Czech Philharmonic.
Macal, 66, is renowned for strengthening the New Jersey Symphony by establishing a distinctive style of musical performance. Willa Conrad, a classical music critic for the Star-Ledger, said Macal’s “Most important contribution was helping the orchestra create a distinctive presence,” according to an article written by Sheila Hotchkin in The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Over the years, Macal’s musical career has taken him around the world, giving performances at orchestras including the Berlin Philharmonic, the Royal Philharmonic, the London Symphony, the London Philharmonic, L’Orchestre de Paris, the National Orchestra of France, L’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, the Czech Philharmonic, Orchestra della Scala, the Munich Philharmonic, and NHK Tokyo.
Prior to Macal’s arrival at the New Jersey Symphony a decade ago, the symphony reportedly faced a debt of several million dollars. However, Macal is credited with improving the financial situation of the symphony by increasing the number of visitors who subscribe to the venue each year.
Macal was born in 1936 in Brno, Czechoslovakia and began his violin studies at the age of four, continuing his study of music at the Brno Conservatory and the Janacek Academy of Music.
After graduating with honors, he pursued music directorships with several orchestras, including the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, the Cologne Radio Symphony, and the Radio Symphony of Hanover. He has also served as chief conductor of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and as principal conductor of Chicago’s Grant Park Summer Festival.
Macal caught the attention of the international music scene in the mid-1960’s after winning the 1965 International Conducting Competition in France and the 1966 Dmitri Mitropoulos Competition in New York. He made his first debut in the USA in 1972 with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. In 1992, Macal accepted the position of Artistic Advisor of the New Jersey Symphony and became the Music Director a year later that year.
NY Museum Exhibits Czech Glass Art
In May, the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, NY opened a special exhibit entitled, “Glass Behind the Iron Curtain: Czech Design, 1948-1978,” which displays the works of several famous Czech artists. The exhibition portrays the nature of glass design in Czechoslovakia during a time when artistic freedom was limited by the political situation, according to the Museum.
The art of Czech glass-making holds an interesting and unique history. When Czechoslovakia was controlled by the Communist Party in 1948, artists were watched to ensure they were creating works compliant with the Communist Party’s specifications. However, glass making was an exception, as the art of glass design had very limited regulations. Artists were able to freely create their works since glass was not deemed to be a conflicting form of artistic expression in the eyes of the Communist Party.
“This period in Czech glass is characterized by innovative designs that document an important underground stage in Czech abstract art that would otherwise be unknown,” the Corning Museum of Glass notes. “The exhibition not only adds to our knowledge of Czech glass and art, but provides an opportunity for research into another aspect of the many-faceted roles of abstract art in the 20th century.”
One particularly famous Czech artist, Stanislav Libensky, has over 100 of his works highlighted in the exhibition. Libensky contributed to the world of Czech art by creating novel works of glass, often times with artist and wife Jaroslava Brychtova. Sadly, Libensky died this year at the age of 80.
Along with this exhibition, another display featuring Libensky’s works was unveiled at the International Exposition of Sculpture Objects and Functional Art in Manhattan earlier this year. Libensky’s creations are also to be showcased in Tacoma, Washington at the Museum of Glass beginning July 6, 2002.
Both in the U.S. and around the world, Czech glass, which was hidden from the rest of the world until the fall of Communism, is renowned for its abstract nature. Today, glass artists receive inspiration from Czech glass. As a modern form of art, Czech glass is recognized internationally for its unique and innovative designs.
Book Rewiew: Karel Capek: Life and Work by Ivan Klima
Karel Capek - Life and Work is a look at a major Czech author and his works through the eyes of one of the most important writers of the Prague Spring generation who grew up in - and for the most part rejected, or tried to ignore - Capek’s enormous shadow. It is a personal essay from a writer’s point of view, rather than from that of a critic. Karel Capek - Life and Work was commissioned by Catbird Press with foreign readers in mind, and thus, readers are not expected to have prior knowledge of Capek’s writing.
Ivan Klima has focused on the way Capek’s relations with women - with his mother as well as his romantic relationships - affected his writing and on the tension between his art and his philosophical and political ideas. Klima quotes extensively from Capek’s letters and commentaries on his works as well as from his family’s letters and memoirs, providing a great deal of information that has never before appeared in English translation.
Although a humble, private man, Capek’s career is much larger than life — besides excelling in a number of genres, his journalism and close relationship to President Masaryk were important to preserving his country’s democracy at a time when neighboring countries were giving way to nationalist and fascist regimes.
Mr. Klima has long been interested in Capek’s work — in the early 1960’s he wrote his dissertation on Capek and in the late 1980’s, he wrote a play about Capek’s last days entitled Kora Nanda.
To obtain this and/or other books by various Czech authors, please contact Catbird Press, www.catbirdpress.com or call 1.800.360.2391.
Czech Capital USA Hosts Czech Festival
The 41st Annual Czech Festival will take place in Wilber, Nebraska on August 2, 3 and 4, 2002. During the three-day festival, the city of Wilber, which is known as the Czech Capital of the USA, will celebrate different aspects of Czech culture with events such as a Czech Heritage Demonstration, a Dance Contest, and the Miss Czech-Slovak USA Pageant.
The Miss Czech-Slovak USA Pageant brings Czech and Slovak queens from many states to the festival to compete for the title of Miss Czech-Slovak USA.
In another event, Charlie Keller, President of the Nebraska Czechs of Wilber and Mayor Russ Karpisek will welcome visitors to the festival during an event in the Outdoor Theater on August 3.
In addition, a parade with the theme of “American Freedom” is scheduled to march through the historic streets of Wilber. Parade participants will include, among others, the Wilber-Clatonia High School Czech Alumni Band. Typically, students who have graduated come from across the country to join the band and showcase their talent in the annual parade.
Over the years, the number of visitors to the annual festival has grown to about 30,000. During the festival time, usually scheduled during the first week of August, the streets of Wilber are transformed by displays featuring Czech arts and crafts, as well as food and performances by traditional musicians and dancers.
The Czech Festival became an annual event in 1962, when Walter and Helene Novak Baer established the tradition. Today, the festival is Nebraska’s largest ethnic festival and most likely the fifth oldest Czech festival in the USA. Year-round, visitors to Wilber can visit the Wilber Czech Museum, which displays various aspects of Czech history through exhibits featuring early immigrant homes and different artifact collections.
Events at the Embassy
Monday, August 12
Concert•The famous boys choir Boni Pueri will perform at the embassy. Reservations are recommended. Please call 202/274-9100, x. 3413. Tickets are $10 at the door.
Friday, September 7
Film•The Music and Film cycle continues with the 1921 silent Czech film Coming from Darkness accompanied by live improvised music. Coming from Darkness was one of the first successful Czech films to be distributed worldwide under the name Redivivus. The mysteries plot guides the audience through the secrets of alchemy, suspense and the latest in special effects (as of 1921). At 7:30 p.m. at the Czech Embassy. Reservations are not required, admission is free.
Friday, September 13
Benefit•Now in its forth 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 the fabulous Tros Sketos ensemble. This event will be conducted in English at 7:30 p.m at the Czech Embassy. Tickets are $30; Reservations only. Please call 202/274-9105 for reservation information.