Czech President to Visit the USA
Prague, Czech Republic Hit Severely by Floods
Message from the Ambassador
President Appoints New
Defense Minister Tvrdik to Visit the USA
Dr. Masakowski Receives the Crest of Merit
CTN Interview with Vaclav Havel
Lessons from Prague
Senate Elections in the Fall
Introducing the New Foreign Minister
Floods in the Czech Republic - A Chronology
Presidential Program in the US
In the Water’s WakeHelp for Flood Victims from Within the Czech Republic
Humanitarian Aid to the CR from NGO’s, Individuals and the US Gov’t
Profile: Kenneth H. Zezulka
“Prague-Needs-Help Flood Relief Fund” Established in the USA
Czech President Visits the United States of America
Upon the invitation of President George W. Bush, Czech President Vaclav Havel and his wife Dagmar will visit the United States of America from September 17 to 24, 2002. This will be Mr. Havel’s 13th and final visit to the USA as President, as his term of office will expire early next year.
While in the United States, President Havel will meet the highest representatives of the U.S. administration and Congress. Talks will focus on the strengthening of Czech-U.S. relations, preparations for the November NATO Summit in Prague, the fight against terrorism, protection of human rights worldwide, and other current foreign policy issues.
Additionally, one of the themes of the visit will be a reflection of the development in the Central European region since the fall of communism 13 years ago.
Please see “Presidential Program” on page 9 for a a schedule of the President’s visit.
Prague, Czech Republic Severely Hit by Floods
The Czech Republic is recovering from the biggest flood since 1890. After long-lasting heavy rains, six regions of the Czech Republic, including parts of the historic center of the Czech capital city Prague, were submerged under water. The Vltava River peaked at 24.4 feet on the night of August 14. Severe storms and water have taken a human toll of eleven lives. The flooding has forced two hundred and twenty thousand people across the country out of their homes, causing a disruption and huge loss in personal belongings as well as security.
Hundreds of towns and villages have been swamped by heavy rains and raging rivers, among them such jewels as Prague and Cesky Krumlov. Ten percent of the capital city was inundated with water, including the centuries old residences on Kampa Island, a favorite tourist destination in the shadow of Prague Castle; the medieval part of the picturesque city center of Mala Strana; all of the Vltava Islands; and the National Theater. Books, rare documents, and other historically valuable objects had to be evacuated from different buildings, among them the National Library, the Klementinum, and the Czech Senate in the Waldstejn Palace. The streets of another favorite tourist location, Cesky Krumlov — a Renaissance jewel in south Bohemia and the first of the Czech UNESCO sites, were completely submerged under water. There has also been huge damage to places of unique architectural, historic or cultural significance in heavily hit areas, such as Plzen, Ceske Budejovice, Pisek, Strakonice and many others.
The total amount of damages is now estimated at 64 billion crowns (2 billion USD) at least, according to the London based Economic Intelligence Unit. Production had to be suspended in many factories along the rivers whose supplies, material and appliances had been drowned, among them the two most famous beer producers Pilsner Urquell and Budweiser-Budvar. Several power plants, including the Melnik coal power plant, were flooded.
At present 22,500 rescue workers participate in the operations trying to sort out the after-effects of the floods. The total number of claims toward the country’s leading insurance company alone, Ceska pojistovna, is estimated at 150 thousand.
Assistance and compassion from virtually all over the world was enormous. Following discussions with President George W. Bush, the President’s father, former President George Bush, spoke with President Vaclav Havel by telephone to express American Sympathy for the Czech people and support for the recovery efforts. The United States is providing assistance in the amount of nearly half a million dollars, including a cash contribution of 50,000 USD to the Czech Red Cross for immediate humanitarian assistance, pumps and drying equipment offered by the U.S. Military for Europe to the Ministry of Interior to use in afflicted areas, as well as humanitarian and technical supplies delivered to the City of Pilsen from the European Command. The U.S. Embassy has extended an offer to the Prague municipality to “adopt” the Kampa Islands and the grounds around the Kampa Museum, to assist in the clean-up of the ground, as well as to undertake fund-raising from U.S. companies and private citizens for the restoration of the park and museum.
According to Romano Prodi, Chairman of the European Commission, the European Union will provide 58 million EUROs in aid to the Czech Republic.
Message from the Ambassador
Let me express my heartfelt gratitude for the generous help that you have extended to the people of the Czech Republic during their difficult hours. By making your contribution, you have enabled us to begin repairing the vast damages caused by floods the likes of which the Czech Republic and central Europe have not experienced since the 1890’s.
The flooding damaged the capital city of Prague and other regions of the Czech Republic. Unfortunately, 11 human lives were lost and 220,000 people were evacuated from their homes. Yet assistance and compassion from virtually all over the world was enormous, and I would like to express my most sincere thanks for your timely response to the difficult situation. Your contributions made it possible for us to begin returning life to normal shortly after the water had receded and gave way for the people who were eager to restore and clean the devastated areas.
At this time, the entire nation is working to repair the damage caused by the floods. You and millions of other people have witnessed the disaster through world-wide broadcast TV reports — you have seen the jewels of the world’s cultural and architectural heritage submerged in water, including the most famous and admired parts of the capital city of Prague. Let me assure you that the Czech nation values its historical heritage and appreciates your help, material or financial. The people will strive to repair the damage and bring their capital city back to life, as well as the many other damaged towns and villages alongside the Vltava and Labe Rivers.
I am sure that we will successfully restore our lives to order, put our economy back in shape, and return our country to its beautiful splendor. Your helping us and standing by us during these difficult times is greatly appreciated.
President Appoints New Government
The new Czech government was sworn in on July 15, 2002 and the new ministers have started to reveal their main policy goals. The new cabinet pledged to lead the country into the European Union, and its policies will be subordinated to this goal. The team will also have to start tackling problems that their predecessors attempted to resolve.
The new Finance Minister, Mr. Bohuslav Sobotka, said his priorities included the reform of public finances and the country’s preparation for the adoption of the single European currency. Minister Sobotka suggested that by the end of 2002, the government should have adopted a four-year budget outlook that would set expenditure limits for all budget chapters so that the public finance deficit decreases to around 5 percent of the GDP by 2006.
Former Finance Minister, Mr. Jiri Rusnok, became Minister of Industry and Trade. He promised to breed a positive environment for investment and support export and entrepreneurial activities. His priorities should be completing the restructuring of the steel industry and the development strategy for the energy sector.
Please see page 5 for a detailed profile of Mr. Cyril Svoboda, the new Minister of Foreign Affairs
Defense Minister Tvrdik to visit the United States
Mr. Jaroslav Tvrdik, Czech Minister of Defense, will visit the USA from September 15 - 18. The Minister intends to discuss the Reform of the Armed Forces, the Prague NATO Summit, and bilateral cooperation between the US and the Czech Republic.
Minister Tvrdik’s program in Washington will include a set of meetings at the State Department (with Richard Armitage, Deputy Secretary of the State, Daniel Fried, Senior Director for Europe and Eurasia of the NSC, and General Tome Walters, director of Defense Security Cooperation Agency). At the Pentagon he will use the opportunity to talk to Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other representatives of the Department.
Mr. Tvrdik will then proceed to Florida, where his destination will be the headquarters of the US Central Command in Tampa. There he will meet with the Deputy Head of CENTCOM, General Michael DeLong, followed by a discussion with members of the contact team of the Czech Army.
Dr. Masakowski Receives the Crest of Merit
On July 24, Czech Ambassador Martin Palous received Dr. Yvonne Masakowski, Associate Director of the Human Factors Office of Naval Research International Field Office. On behalf of the Czech Minister of Defense, the Ambassador awarded her with the Crest of Merit 3rd Class.
The Crest of Merit from the Minister of Defense is the Czech Republic’s highest military decoration. The minister awards this crest to soldiers in active service and to civilian employees of military administration who deserve recognition for such attributes as bravery and courage; successful command in combat; merits in combat activities; exemplary military leadership and excellent fulfillment of service of work duties; exemplary representation of the Army of the Czech Republic; and for other significant achievements related to the defense department and its development.
The Minister can also award the Crest to other citizens of the Czech Republic and foreign nationals for their significant cooperation with the defense department, for their efforts made to ensure the combat capability and readiness of the Army of the Czech Republic, and for meeting the tasks in favor of the Army of the Czech Republic.
Dr. Masakowski participated in providing help to the Army of the Czech Republic in the field of science and research of the human factor. She gave several grants to the Army of the Czech Republic, beginning with grants for symposiums and workshops, educational programs, and benefits for participation in individual workshops. Other grants are also being established under Dr. Masakowski’s patronage, including the grant for Cultural Differences and Synergic Effects with Tactile Vest and 3D Sound Helmet. The whole bilateral effort was completed by the Data Exchange Agreement signed between the Czech Republic and the United States in the field of science and research of the human factor.
For her outstanding achievements and cooperation with the Army of the Czech Republic, Dr. Masakowski was awarded the Crest of Merit 3rd Class by the Ministry of Defense of the Czech Republic on June 24, 2002.
Exclusive Czech the News Interview with President Vaclav Havel
Mr. President, your impending visit to the USA is already your thirteenth. What do you consider to be the most important points on your agenda during your last official visit to the USA in the function as Czech President?
When I came to the United States for the first time as the President of my country twelve years ago, it was a time marked by euphoria from the fall of the Iron Curtain. We were full of hopes and ebullience and our American friends shared these hopes and ebullience with us. This year, I am coming for my last visit shortly after the first anniversary of September 11th. The historical circumstances have changed very much. Today, the United States is not only our friend, but our ally as well -- we are both members of NATO and cooperate in several peace-keeping operations. At the beginning of the 21st century, the Czech Republic is a democratic and free country once again, a country that will host the NATO Summit in Prague in a short time, and that is aware of its commitments and responsibilities. I suppose that with President Bush and other representatives of the American administration and Congress, we will discuss in particular international topics, the upcoming NATO Summit in Prague, our alliance against terrorism, and the possibilities for the further development of our mutual relations.
Every time when I am in the USA and when the program enables me to, I try to visit another state of the Union that I have not yet been to. This year I shall visit Florida, where I would like to share my view on the indivisibility of human rights. I am glad that I will have the opportunity to meet several representatives of the Cuban democratic opposition and human rights protagonists, whose freedom efforts in their troubled country I have been following and supporting for many years.
I consider the mutual relations between the Czech Republic and the United States to be very good and continuously developing in all areas. We witness this every day. In August, our country was struck by an enormous disaster in the form of unprecedented floods. I was really very moved by the wave of solidarity and help which immediately arose in the USA. I would like to thank all Americans, and especially our compatriots, very much for this.
The Prague NATO Summit, which will take place in the second half of November, should become a breaking event in the development of the Alliance. Where do you see its main importance and what conclusions do you expect?
I believe that this summit could answer the question about the future role of this security alliance. At the summit we should close one stage of discussions on the future of the Alliance, discussions which have of course already been held but which have received a completely new urgency and a new dimension after last year's terrorist attacks on the United States, and the results of this self-reflection should be projected into strategic documents.
This year's NATO summit takes place for the first time behind the former Iron curtain and for the first time in a new member state. What is enormously important is that the Alliance is prepared to invite other European democracies into membership at this summit meeting. This seems to me to be tangible proof of how the transatlantic organization understands its historical mission, I would even say, how it draws its breath from it. If it is an alliance designed for the protection of euroatlantic values, it is not only right but far-sighted as well that the Alliance should unite all of the countries in this area that share these values, follow them, and naturally are able to cooperate with others in an effective way.
The Prague Summit should, in my opinion, deal with new kinds of partnership and strategic cooperation with other important entities of today's world more significantly than before. Not long ago, the NATO-Russia Council was established. This certainly is a step toward opening new possibilities of cooperation with this important Euroasian power. The relationship and the form of cooperation between NATO and the Ukraine is newly being formed. I believe that at the same time, it is necessary to deal seriously and with a view of the future with the possibilities of cooperation between the Alliance and the countries of Central Asia and the Caucasus but step by step NATO should find its position for such countries as China, India, Latin America, etc.
In the course of your visit, the statue of the founder of the independent Czechoslovakia and its first President T.G.Masaryk shall be unveiled. It is known that during the creation of the Czechoslovakian Constitution, T.G.M was strongly inspired by the Constitution of the United States. What can the ideological legacy of the President - Liberator offer to today's times in your opinion?
President Masaryk, the founder of our modern state, breathed a soul into the young Czechoslovak democracy in a similar way that the “founding fathers” of the United States did. His statue on Massachusetts Avenue will remind the Americans not only of an important European personality, but also of the democratic and humanistic ideals on which our society is based, of the ideals which were brought over from Europe and which gained momentum in America, to return revived as a source of inspiration for the new European democracies after the First World War. It was not only inspiration that we received, but support and help from the United States and their president at that time, Woodrow Wilson. This statue of T.G.M. will also commemorate our appreciation and our friendship.
Lessons from Prague
The following is an article written by President Vaclav Havel, published in the Financial Times on August 20, 2002
Devastating floods have just struck the Czech Republic for the second time in our country’s short history.
The Czech Republic lies in the very heart of Europe and its natural borders mostly consist of mountains. Water from these mountains flows inland through the center of our country. Two main Czech rivers, the Vltava (Moldau) and the Labe (Elbe), with hundreds of other streams that form their tributaries, originate in these border areas.
In recent days, the power of the water flowing through these watercourses has wiped out, or seriously damaged, homes, historical buildings and industrial plants by the rivers and in surrounding areas. More than 210,000 people have been forced to evacuate their homes. Preliminary estimates of the damage suffered run to between CZK 60 billion (USD 1.2 billion) and CZK 90 billion (USD 1.8 billion). This burden affects individual families and the Czech people as a whole. Apartments, houses and businesses have been flooded, as have theatres, libraries and township archives.
The historic city of Prague, with its old streets and buildings, has not been spared. Water poured over defensive barriers and came up through drains and cellars. The ancient Mala Strana district by the river was flooded. So were several metro stations.
I deeply admire the courage with which our society has faced this catastrophe. I admire the overwhelming solidarity that has emerged. There are numerous collections, both financial and material; groups of volunteers are being organized; and rescuers work day and night.
I cannot help but remember the atmosphere following the invasion by Soviet troops in 1968. At times, when our society faces some kind of threat, there are great moments of unity and bravery. We are living through such times once again.
The second, and for me no less encouraging, element of solidarity is the international response I have witnessed in the past week. In the past few days, I have received telephone calls from many presidents and representatives of the world’s institutions, from heads of state of neighboring countries and from those far away, including George W. Bush, the US president. All have expressed the solidarity of their nations and offered concrete help.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, of which the Czech Republic is a relatively new member and which plans to hold its summit in Prague in the autumn, is preparing significant help.
The European Union, too, has made an important offer. Romano Prodi, President of the European Commission, traveled to the Czech Republic at a day’s notice. Together we flew in a helicopter over flooded northern Bohemia in the west of our country and planned how we could bring help as fast and as effectively as possible. As our country is hoping to join the EU in the near future, this expression of support from Mr Prodi was particularly welcome.
I deeply appreciate all expressions of sympathy and offers of assistance. They show us how important it is for people living in an open world to be involved in things happening beyond their own horizon. They also show us that we can, in times of need, enjoy the help of neighbors and friends who live beyond our horizon.
When extensive floods hit Moravia and the eastern part of our country in 1997, I thought hard about the responsibility of humans for their actions. Those thoughts come back to mind today.
We need to think whether we do not provoke the destructive force of water ourselves, by the often over-extravagant development of our civilization and by our long-term attacks on the natural fabric of the landscape. We must consider the damage we may have caused through the excessive use and exploitation of our waterways, especially in the communist era, when gigantic fields were sown and rivers were diverted into concrete channels to irrigate them. That era has passed in Europe but its legacy is still with us today.
Not long ago, at my initiative, we formed a group of leading Czech professionals - environmentalists, architects, scientists and other specialists. The group organized a series of expert meetings and conferences entitled “The Face of Our Country.” Unfortunately, we have just been given another lesson in how important it is to take great care about planning the long-term management of our landscape, which is the face of our country and of our planet.
We must all do more to learn about the impact of our activities on the environment and to draw the right lessons from what we learn. If we fail to do so, we will suffer more disasters, as will our children and grandchildren. Of course, not even the most sensitive and enlightened handling of the landscape can prevent such catastrophes altogether. But I believe it can soften their blow.
Senate Elections in the Fall
The first round of elections to the Senate of the Parliament of the Czech Republic is scheduled for Friday, October 25 and Saturday, October 26, 2002. If any one of the candidates does not exceed 50% of the votes, the second round will be held 2 weeks later. New senators will be elected in the following 27 electoral districts where the mandate of the senators is about to expire: Cheb, Louny, Plzen-city, Strakonice, Pelhrimov, Pribram, Praha 5, Praha 9, Praha 1, Kladno, Decin, Ceska Lipa, Trutnov, Kolin, Hradec Kralove, Rychnov nad Kneznou, Zdar nad Sazavou, Znojmo, Vyskov, Brno-city, Prerov, Olomouc, Frydek-Mistek, Ostrava-city, Karvina, Zlin, Uherske Hradiste.
The elections will take place only in the Czech Republic and the voter must appear in person. The Embassies and Consulates will not serve as polling stations.
Czech citizens living abroad who are eligible and wish to vote in the Czech Republic will have the opportunity to obtain their elector’s license at the Czech Embassy or Consulate General in their area, where special registers of voters are kept. Those who wish to vote and did not register for the previous parliamentary elections in the summer of 2002 must do so by September 15, 2002. By this time they should submit, either in person or in writing, the following documents: proof of identity and Czech citizenship (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.
Czech citizens living abroad who hold no permanent residence in the Czech Republic will have the possibility to vote in any of the above mentioned districts. At the time of voting, they will be required to present their elector’s license and prove their identity and Czech citizenship. The elector’s license can be handed over to the elector no sooner than 15 days and no later than 2 days before the beginning of the elections.
For more information on the elections, please see the Embassy web page at www.mzv.cz/washington.
On September 19 in Washington, DC, the President Tomas G. Masaryk statue and park will be dedicated by President Havel, President Bush, and former President Kovac of Slovakia. The unveiling will begin at 2:30 p.m. and will feature a concert by a 35 piece Navy band, comments by world leaders, and the establishment of a landmark for Czech American relations in the United States. The unveiling will be followed by a reception at the World Bank for 1,000 people, featuring entertainment, refreshments and Czech American groups coming from throughout the United States including: Chicago, Cleveland, Boston, Baltimore, New York, Houston and other areas. Condoleeza Rice and President Vaclav Havel will deliver the major addresses and President Havel will make several awards on behalf of the Czech Republic. The reception will be followed by a gala dinner recognizing Fred Malek, the World Bank, and Mr. Hank Greenberg of the American International Group. Sissy Spacek will be an honored guest and Sam Donaldson will be the featured Master of Ceremonies. Part of the proceeds from this event will be used for flood relief in the Czech Republic. Please make sure you make your reservations as soon as possible for this historic occasion.
Introducing New Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda
Chairman of the Christian Democratic Union (KDU-CSL) Cyril Svoboda (45), who recently replaced the new president of the UN General Assembly and Social Democrat Jan Kavan as the foreign minister, has rich experience with work in the executive sector. After 1990 he served as an adviser to the deputy premier of the Czechoslovak government and later as an adviser to Marian Calfa, the Prime Minister of the Czechoslovak government. He also worked as the director of the Office of the Government legislative section.
After 1992, Minister Svoboda served as a Deputy Minister of Justice for four years and later as a Deputy Foreign Minister responsible for European integration; he headed the Czech delegation in the Czech Republic accession talks with the EU for a short time during this period. A grandson of one of the founding members of KDU-CSL, Mr. Svoboda joined the party in November of 1995. He was elected to the Chamber of Deputies in the 1998 elections and became the chairman of the Chamber’s petition committee, a member of the Chamber of Deputies’ permanent commission monitoring BIS security information service activities, and a member of the Czech permanent delegation at the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly.
From January of 1998, Mr. Svoboda was Minister of the Interior in the interim government of Josef Tosovsky for six months. From May of 1999 until January of 2001, he served as first deputy chairman of the party and last May, he became its chairman.
The new Foreign Minister is an advocate of a quick entry into the European Union and of building friendly relations with neighboring countries. However, he demands an equal membership in the EU and is a supporter of the inviolability of the Presidential, so-called Benes, decrees of 1945. Minister Svoboda also rejects Austrian fears of the operation of the Temelin nuclear power station and supports the renewal of cooperation of the Visegrad Four group (comprising the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Poland). He has always supported Slovakia’s planned entry into NATO.
Cyril Svoboda was born on November 24, 1956 in Prague. After graduating from the Charles University Law Faculty he worked as a notary. He and his wife Venceslava, a doctor, have four sons. Minister Svoboda’s twin brother Josef was Deputy Minister of Culture from 1994 -1996.
Floods in the Czech Republic – Chronology
Czech Leader Declares State of Emergency
August 12 Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla declared a state of emergency in four of the country’s regions and in Prague. Some 50,000 Prague residents were urged to evacuate low-lying areas on August 13, hours before the worst flooding in over a century was expected to hit the city. Authorities warned that the Vltava River could swell to 3,700 cubic meters per second in Prague, where the average flow during the year is just 143 cubic meters per second. By the morning of August 13, about 2,000 people had been evacuated. Civil-defense sirens alerted residents to the approaching floods throughout the early hours of August 13, and the mayor asked people to avoid traveling and to stay away from the downtown area. City officials also closed the famous 14th-century Charles Bridge to the public to allow cranes to remove tree trunks and other debris that the river might sweep into bridges or other structures. Thousands of people were also evacuated on August 12-13 in Ceske Budejovice, Cesky Krumlov, and many smaller communities throughout Bohemia.
More Water Flows Through the Vltava River Than in 1890
August 13 As much as 4160 cubic meters of water flowed through the Vltava River per second at 3:00 p.m., even more than during the last "100-year high water" in Prague in 1890, in which seven columns of the 14th century Charles Bridge were damaged. During the night and the following morning, the low-lying neighborhoods of Karlin, Liben, Smichov, Mala Strana and Holesovice were already evacuated. Czech President Vaclav Havel decided to cut short his vacation in Portugal and return home because of the severe flooding.
Cities in south Bohemia under water
August 13 Prague is not the only city having to cope with the floods. Torrential rains have caused a state of emergency that has spread even to the far north of the country along the River Elbe. But much of the most serious flooding has been in the south, near the Czech Republic's borders with Austria and Germany. The center of the historic town of Cesky Krumlov was entirely under water, as was the region's largest city of Ceske Budejovice, which faced a series of flood waves. The center of the town was full of water, flooding the main streets and also the main square. Helicopters flew over the town and checkpoints around the center of the town. Some parts of the town were cut-off, making it impossible to drive through. Most shops were closed and only some food stores were open.
Prague’s Flood of the Century is Said to be the Worst in the City’s History
August 14 Water levels continued to rise in Prague as Mayor Igor Nemec reported that the flow of the Vltava River through the capital could no longer be gauged, having exceeded the measurable limit of 5,000 cubic meters per second. During a flood in 1890, the rate reached 3,700 cubic meters per second and was considered to be the highest in the city's history. Experts also revised their forecast of when levels in the city will peak, predicting that the river will continue a gradual rise into the evening of August 14. In the early hours, the city began to evacuate additional downtown areas, such as the historic Jewish Quarter and the streets around the Old Town Square. So far, more than 50,000 people have been evacuated from their homes.
Largest Czech Evacuation Since WWII Continues
August 14 Interior Minister Stanislav Gross informed the public that more than 200,000 people have been evacuated throughout the country, making the evacuation the largest since World War II. Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla commended the country's emergency response, saying: "Few people realize just how little loss of life [there has been] and how few injured people there have been . . . What it means is that decisions were made in time on evacuations." Some 4,000 policemen, 9,000 firemen, and 2,000 soldiers are battling the effects of the flooding in the Czech Republic, particularly in the western part of the country. The hardest-hit major cities include Ceske Budejovice and Plzen, while scores of smaller towns and villages have been devastated. Some 30 bridges have been swept away. Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda added that offers of technical and financial assistance have come in from Sweden, Poland, France, the United States, Norway, Japan, Switzerland, Greece, Italy, and other countries as well as NATO and the EU. The United States is in contact with NATO allies and Czech authorities to examine the best way to help, and the Czech-born former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has personally contacted her successor, Colin Powell, asking for his help. The U.S. Embassy in Prague donated $50,000 for immediate humanitarian assistance. A spokesman for UNESCO said that the World Heritage sites of Prague and Cesky Krumlov may be eligible for international funding to repair the damage to the historical structures.
Flood Damages Considerable in Czech Capital
August 15 & 16 Flooding ebbed in many parts of Prague as attention turned to cleanup efforts while damage estimates began to pour in. The Prague subway system has revised its damage estimate to 2 billion crowns ($63 million), while 17 stations remained closed due to the flooding. Some may remain shut for months. Prague Mayor Igor Nemec told journalists that damages in the capital are likely to be "in the tens of billions of crowns." The floods have caused extensive damage to the archives of the Military Historical Archive, the Academy of Science, the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Czech Statistics Office. National Central Archive official Miroslav Kun said that "thousands of shelves with unique and irreplaceable documents" are likely to have been destroyed. Many cultural historical sights in Prague, among them the 13th-century Old-New Synagogue and the Pinkas Synagogue in the Jewish quarter, along with the National Theater, have been affected.
Other Areas are Far Worse Off
August 15 & 16 Officials said some towns and villages north of Prague were near complete destruction, and there is extensive damage throughout Bohemia. The town of Zalezice, 30 kilometers north of Prague, saw 90 of its 120 buildings damaged, 75 of which must be demolished. Fifteen houses collapsed in the town of Melnik, also north of Prague. Terezin, northern Bohemia, was completely cut off by floodwaters, and the adjacent memorial at the former Theresienstadt Nazi concentration camp is completely under water. In the south, where waters are receding, roughly half of the historic Cesky Krumlov's houses have been flooded. Pisek Mayor, Mr. Lubos Prusa, is estimating damage in his town at 4-8 billion crowns, including the loss of a statue from the oldest stone bridge in the country, a 13th-century structure spanning the Otava River. Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda called the situation "a catastrophe" and said this applies to both southern and northern Bohemia. Former Finance Minister Pavel Mertlik said the negative effect on the 2002 GDP will be about 0.3 percentage points, while investment bank JP Morgan reportedly reduced its growth forecast by 0.5 percentage points, to 2.3 percent.
European Commission President Tours Flood-Affected Areas
August 15 & 16 EC President Romano Prodi, accompanied by Czech President Vaclav Havel, inspected areas devastated by flooding in Usti nad Labem and its surroundings. The EU has already announced that it is earmarking 58 million EURO (nearly $57 million) for immediate aid to the Czech Republic. Meanwhile, aid offers and help continued to arrive from all over the world. Six Belgian experts equipped with pumps and ventilators arrived in Prague on August 14, and France announced it is also sending pumping specialists, who will be joined by similar specialists from Slovakia, Finland, Denmark, and Sweden. In Poland, 120 firefighters are awaiting orders to leave for the Czech Republic. The Hungarian Foreign Ministry announced it has set aside 5 million forints (nearly $20,000) from its budget to aid the Czech flood victims, and the Budapest mayoralty offered accommodation to 200 children from Prague. Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi wrote to his Czech counterpart Vladimir Spidla that Italy is ready to offer "our resources and our knowledge and experience" in saving the Czech Republic’s cultural heritage. The French Red Cross has launched a fund-raising campaign. Aid offers also came from Taiwan and other Asian countries.
Czech Premier Says NATO Summit, Elections will take Place as Scheduled
August 15 & 16 Prime Minister Spidla told journalists that the floods will affect neither the Senate and local elections nor the NATO summit scheduled to take place in Prague in November. Spidla was speaking after a cabinet meeting which, he said, did not even discuss the possibility of postponing those events. He also announced that 5,000 soldiers are being deployed to help remove flood damage. The cabinet decided to set up a special commission in charge of reconstruction work whose task will be to coordinate reconstruction between the central government and local authorities.
Dominator and Former Teammates Raise Millions for Flood Victims
August 18 Dominik Hasek, together with three other Czech players from the Stanley Cup winning Detroit Red Wings, took part in a celebration-turned-fundraiser in his hometown of Pardubice. Over 10,000 people turned out for the event, at which the Stanley Cup itself was presented to fans. Hasek said afterwards that millions of crowns had been raised for flood victims during the Stanley Cup's tour.
Devastating floods lead to great losses for Prague Zoo
August 20 Gaston, a twelve-year-old seal, made international headlines when he escaped from the Prague Zoo during last week's floods, swimming 80 miles in five days before being recaptured north of Dresden in Germany. Unfortunately, the seal died from shock and exhaustion a few days later while being transported back to Prague; his death was sadly typical of the misfortune that has befallen the Prague Zoo over the last week.
Kadir, a 35-year-old Indian elephant and Lentilka, a hippopotamus, had to be put down due to the flooding for fear of the possible havoc they could have wreaked if they had escaped into the river Vltava. Fortunately, another hippo - which was believed to have died - was found after the floodwater began to recede.
Presidential Program in the US
On Wednesday, September 18, 2002, Presidents Havel and Bush will hold a meeting in the Oval Office, followed by a joint press conference. Later that day, President Bush will host a dinner at the White House in honor of President Havel.
On Thursday, September 19, President Havel will commemorate the first Czechoslovak President, Tomas Garrigue Masaryk, by delivering a speech at an international conference on T. G. Masaryk and by unveiling a statue of the Czechoslovak statesman in the newly established T. G. Masaryk Memorial Park on Massachusetts Avenue in Washington, D.C.
On September 20 and 21, the President will visit New York City, where he will pay his respects to the victims of last year’s terrorist attacks against the United States. The President will also attend a gala evening entitled, “A Tribute to Vaclav Havel,” which will be attended by a number of distinguished personalities.
On 22 and 23 September, President Havel will visit Miami, Florida, where he will meet local political, business and cultural leaders.
In the Water’s Wake
Although damage estimates were hard to come by, officials say that the floods were much worse than those the nation had experienced in 1997, and that the recovery will be both lengthy and costly.
As the waters that rapidly struck the Czech Republic receded from the worst flooding in 200 years, the nationwide death toll stood at 11 and preliminary damage estimates were put at CZK 100 billion ($3.2 billion), although the full cost will not become available until several weeks after the flooding.
Floodwaters washed away the homes and livelihoods of thousands. While the attention of the international media focused on the historic capital of Prague, scores of towns and villages throughout Bohemia and Southern Moravia were hard hit. Many of the 220,000 people evacuated ahead of the floods had to spend more than five days away from their homes.
In almost all sectors of the economy - from agriculture to tourism - preliminary indications show that the damage is far worse than in the floods of 1997, which devastated much of East Bohemia and Northern Moravia and cost some CZK 63 billion in repairs. Many officials were forced to admit towards the end of the week that the damage was so extensive that they merely had an incomplete picture of what was going on.
The Czech government freed CZK 1.15 billion to deal with the emergency costs arising from the floods and the European Commission offered 48 million of unallocated ISPA funds on Thursday to deal with the environmental and infrastructural damage caused by the floods. The European Commission also promised 9.75 million in PHARE funds and increased flexibility for providing any further assistance.
Several banks in the Czech Republic, including Zivnostenska Banka, Ceskoslovenska Obchodni Banka, Ceska Sporitelna, Vseobecna Stavebni Sporitelna Komercni Banky and Ceskomoravska Stavebni Sporitelna all announced improved loan conditions on Friday for companies, communities, and individuals affected by the floods.
Help for Flood Victims Collected in the Czech Republic
For those willing to help the flood victims through accounts established in the Czech Republic, the Czech National Bank has opened a flood relief account: No. 9025-001/0710, Swift code: for transfers from the USA: CHASUS33. Internet: www.cnb.cz
The Czech National Bank is waiving the usual transfer fee. Please note that you will be charged the international transfer fee by the U.S. bank. Many other accounts have been established throughout the Czech Republic to help repair the damage:
The People in Need Foundation (Clovek v tisni): CSOB, Ceskoslovenska obchodni banka, Account No. 334334334/0300. Internet: www.pinf.cz
The Czech Red Cross (Cesky cerveny kriz) Humanity Fund - account No. 10030-7334-011/0100, Komercni banka. Internet: www.cck-cr.cz
ADRA (Adventist Development and Relief Agency, humanitarian organization). Account No. 24442444/0300,Ceskoslovenska obchodni banka. Internet: www.adra.cz
The Czech Catholic Charity (Sdruzeni Ceska katolicka charita). Account No. 3690369369369/0800. Ceska sporitelna. Internet: www.charita.cz
The Committee of Good Will - Olga Havlova Foundation (Vybor dobre vule - Nadace Olgy Havlove). Account No. 100530578/0300. CSOB - Ceskoslovenska obchodni banka. Internet: www.vdv.cz
The Dagmar & Václav Havel VIZE 97 Foundation (Nadace Dagmar a Václava Havlov?ch VIZE 97) Account No.: 1000353089/3500, Bank: ING Praha
For information on how to help the flood victims from within the United States, please see notice on page 12. or visit the Embassy webpage at www.mzv.cz/washington.
Humanitarian Flood Aid from U.S. Gov, NGO’s
NGOs, corporations, individuals
A donation of $200,000 has been provided by the Johnson and Johnson Company. The C.S. Mott Company has granted $100,000. The American Fund for Czechoslovak Relief and The Polish-American Congress both donated $50,000. The law firm of Warburg Pincus contributed $30,000 to help the town of Kralupy nad Vlatvou. Humanitarian aid worth $25,000 has been provided by both the Philip Morris company and Citibank USA, and Skaddem Arps, a legal services company, contributed $1,500.
The "American Friends of the Czech Republic" has opened a special bank account to raise money for the victims of the floods. AFoCR members managed to raise almost $100, 000 in donations by September 5 and have paid $10,000 for hepatitis vaccines provided by AmeriCare.
Over $16,000 has been collected by the Czech-American community in New York. More than $10,000 has been raised by former Czechoslovak figure skater Aja Vrzanova.
The U.S. Embassy in Prague has donated a cash contribution of $50,000 to the Czech Red Cross for immediate humanitarian assistance.
The Embassy has offered itself to Prague authorities to "adopt" Kampa Island and the grounds around the Kampa Museum, to assist in the clean-up of the grounds, as well as to undertake fund-raising from U.S. companies and private citizens for repair and restoration of the park and museum. The U.S. Embassy in Prague has also established a special account to receive contributions from Embassy employees for assistance to flood victims. U.S. Ambassador to Prague Mr. Craig R. Stapleton has visited Plzen, Ceske Budejovice, Cesky Krumlov and Pisek, all towns that were also hit by the devastating floods, to discuss further possibilities for assistance with the local authorities.
On August 17, EUCOM (European Command) provided 16 soldiers with 7 pumps for a twenty-four hour duty.
The EUCOM humanitarian department provided a container with aid worth almost $60,000. The shipment included 3 pumps along with dehumidifiers, blankets, water and diesel supplies, sandbags, and more.
Three soldiers, a flat-load truck, and a fire truck with a three-man crew and three pumps were transferred to help at Kralupy nad Vltavou by USAREUR (U.S. Army Europe) on August 19. They are expected to assist local rescue and cleaning teams for 15 days.
The estimated value of technical and humanitarian aid offered by the U.S. government amounts to $500,000. The U.S. Department of State together with USAID expects further aid shipments in the form of vaccines and disinfectants.
Profile: Kenneth H. Zezulka
In 1998, the Czech Republic appointed Kenneth H. Zezulka as the Honorary Consul of the Czech Republic for Louisiana. Mr. Zezulka, who resides in the New Orleans area, is a successful business leader and a first generation Czech-American who brings many attributes to the position. His parents are from the Plzen-Mirosov area in Bohemia.
Mr. Zezulka is a native of Detroit, Michigan. He received a Bachelor of Business degree from the University of Michigan and a Masters in Business Administration degree from Michigan State University. Upon completion of active Navy service as a Submarine Officer, he earned a Juris Doctor degree from Wake Forest University. Mr. Zezulka also served the United States as a reserve officer in the U.S. Navy, retiring as a Captain.
Mr. Zezulka is an active member of the New Orleans social and business community and a partner in a law firm. He is also the owner of a large asset recovery and collection agency.
Kenneth Zezulka has long displayed an unselfish commitment to the Czech Republic and its people. He promoted NATO expansion to include the Czech Republic and has been actively involved in developing business relationships between Czech streetcar and light rail manufacturers and the city of New Orleans. In addition, he has sponsored a number of Czech exchange students to study at the University of New Orleans.
Mr. Zezulka’s office is well-known for providing Czech nationals with consular assistance on a highly professional level and he has helped many Czechs in emergency situations. At present, Mr. Zezulka also coordinates the relief efforts aimed at helping the flooded Czech towns and villages. His commitment to both the Czech Republic and the United States serves as an exemplary model of a true Czech-American.
“Prague-Needs-Help Flood Relief Fund” Established in Washington
The Biggest Flood Since 1890
After a long-lasting heavy rain, six regions of the Czech Republic, including parts of the historic center of the Czech capital city Prague were submerged under water. Severe storms and water have taken a human toll of eleven lives. The flooding has forced more than two hundred thousand people across the country out of their homes, causing a disruption and huge loss in personal belongings as well as security.
For those willing to help, an account has been opened by the American Friends of the Czech Republic in co-operation with the Czech Embassy. Tax deductible contributions can be made by writing a check to "AFoCR - Prague-Needs-Help Flood Relief Fund" and sending it to "AFoCR - Prague-Needs-Help Flood Relief Fund," Citibank FSB, 1901 Wisconsin Ave. N.W., Washington, DC 20007.
The following account number can be used for transfers: 1507-4196, routing No. 254070116.
American Friends of the Czech Republic is a 501 (c) (3) organization. More information available at www.afocr.org
Other tax-deductible accounts set up in the USA:
The Foundation for a Civil Society/VIA - send your check to Carol Hochman, Friends of VIA,1541Pinehurst Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15241.
Please indicate “Flood Relief” or “Cultural
Heritage” on your check.
Friends of Czech Greenways – send your check to FCG/Suzanna Halsey, 515 Avenue I, #1B, Brooklyn, NY 11230.
Please indicate “Friends of Czech Greenways – Flood Fund” on your check.
Project Judaica Foundation – send your check to Project Judaica Foundation, 1017 New Jersey Avenue, SE, Washington, D.C. 20003.
Please indicate “Prague” on your check.
Czech Cultural Center Houston – send your check to Czech Cultural Center Houston, 2315 Del Norte, Houston, TX 77018.
Please indicate “Disaster Relief.”