Czech Streetcars in Tacoma, Washington

President Klaus Accepts Distinguished Leader Award

Message from the Ambassador and AFoCR President

News in Brief

One Year After the Floods, AFoCR Fund Helps Patch Up the Nation

Former European Leaders Call for Support of Cuban Opposition

PM Spidla Receives a Warm Welcome in Texas

CR Opens Consul Office in Kansas City

New Head of CzechInvest in Silicon Valley

Alan Becker and George Novak Promoted to Honorary Consul General

Learning Czech in Dobruska

Honorary Consulate General in Philadelphia Announ! ces New Web Site

Czech Streetcars in Tacoma, Washington

The Czech consortium Skoda-Inekon has become quite popular with U.S. streetcar systems in recent years. The city of Portland, Oregon purchased seven of the Skoda streetcar models in 2001. In an interview with "The Columbian," Portland Streetcar maintenance director Gary Cooper called the Skoda streetcars "phenomenally reliable." The streetcars are manufactured in the Czech Republic by Skoda and delivered by the Czech trading company Inekon group. The vehicles are known to the industry as "the Portland car."

The city of Tacoma, Washington is now following suit, with the purchase of three Skoda streetcars, bringing a European touch to Tacoma’s rail system. The quiet, state of the art streetcars, unveiled in a ceremony on August 22, 2003, will operate the 1.6 mile Tacoma Link connecting the Tacoma Dome Intermodal Transportation Center and the Broadway Theater District.

Congre! ssman Norman Dicks spoke at the inaugural ceremony of the new Tacoma Link Light Rail system, where he introduced Mr. Cliff Fornier, the oldest living street car operator from Tacoma’s original Street Car system, decomissioned 65 years ago. The official opening ceremony was also attended by Mr. Jiri Kulis, Commercial Counselor of the Czech Embassy in Washington, DC, and Mr. Josef Husek, Skoda-Inekon’s CEO.

Both Portland and Tacoma are looking to expand their streetcar systems with the purchase of 10 Skoda streetcars over the next two years. In addition, other U.S. cities are watching the Czech cars in Tacoma and Portland in consideration for future rail expansion projects that would reduce heavy bus and automobile traffic.

President Klaus Accepts Distinguished Leader Award

Czech President Vaclav Klaus arrived in the United States on September 18 for a five-day visit to Tennessee and Texas. National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA) recognized! President Klaus with the Distinguished Leader Award, which was presented to him in Dallas, Texas, where he was invited to speak at the NCPA’s Sumner Distinguished Lecture Series. The presentation of the NCPA award was the key event of President Klaus’s visit to the United States.

Vaclav Klaus began his trip in Chattanooga, Tennessee where he attended the annual Mont Pelerin Society conference and spoke at the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga, College of Business. As reported in "The Chattanoogan," the Mont Pelerin Society conference is comprised of the world’s top liberal scholars, who gathered in Tennessee to analyze the prospects for freedom, entrepreneurship, and prosperity in the 21st century. President Klaus discussed the economic and political challenges facing countries in Central and Eastern Europe and reflected on the development of the Czech Republic since the fall of communism in 1989. He expressed concern with the gap between the exp! ectations set on a transitioning country with the reality of what can be accomplished, stating that "it can lead to real problems for a country in flux" (The Chattanoogan). The President praised the Czech Republic for overcoming such problems and ushering in successful political and economic transformation.

Following his visit to Chattanooga, President Klaus flew to Dallas. In an interview with the Dallas Morning News editorial board, he spoke of the Czech Republic’s military support of the American mission in Iraq, saying : "we consider the human suffering as the crucial thing which must be overcome." He also discussed the recent referendum, in which 77% of the Czech population voted for stepping into the European Union. President Klaus expressed his views on European integration and the EU Constitution, and remarked on the strength of the Czech Republic’s liberal, free market economy.

On the evening of September 22, President Klaus was besto! wed with the Distinguished Leader Award at the NCPA Distinguished Lecture Series. In the spirit of welcome, Governor Rick Perry also presented President Klaus as an honorary citizen of Texas. President George W. Bush sent his congratulations to the participants of the conference, applauding Vaclav Klaus "for his leadership and his support of free market principles." In the letter, President Bush referred to the Czech Republic as an important ally in the war on terrorism and in stabilizing the Middle East. Bush added that the Czech Republic stands as a model example of the power freedom has to change lives, and that the U.S. is proud to stand alongside such a nation in "continuing to work for peace and liberty around the world." The U.S. President also commended the NCPA’s commitment to liberty.

President Klaus returned to Prague after his whirlwind trip to the USA on September 24.

Message from the Ambassador and AFoCR President

A few weeks ago, the winds of Hurricane Isabel reminded us of the summer of 2002 when the flooded Vltava River tested the fortitude of Prague and Bohemia.

Since then, one year has passed, and now it is time to examine the results of the "Prague-Needs-Help Flood Relief Fund," our joint flood relief project. The article on flood relief in this issue provides the facts and figures concerning the funds raised and what we accomplished. The Relief Fund developed through a partnership between American Friends of the Czech Republic and the Czech Embassy in Washington. With help from the U.S. Embassy and the American Chamber of Commerce in Prague, projects to directly assist the people and to rebuild facilities were initiated. Churches, museums, hospitals, schools, and housing areas received building materials, medical supplies, computers and other equipment. The effort mounted by the Embassy and AFoCR was unprecedented. We can take pride in the fundraising effort of last ! fall inspired by many Americans, and the dedicated team of Embassy staff and AFoCR volunteers who directed donations to much-needed projects, bringing relief to many Czechs.

AFoCR now undertakes yet another humanitarian mission, this time partnering with Kraft Foods, to support a food bank project operated by the "Nadeje" Foundation in the Czech Republic.

One year ago, AFoCR played a key role, together with the Czech Embassy, in erecting the statue of T. G. Masaryk, the founder and the first President of modern Czechoslovakia, in Washington. Since then, we have taken up different projects that will benefit both the Czech Republic and the United States. Our goal for the future is to enhance what we call the "transatlantic link," to further develop relations between the two countries on governmental level, and to put even more emphasis on people-to-people contacts. We are convinced that our commitment and hard work will bring forth a fruitful future. The go! als which we have set ahead of us will be achieved.

News in Brief

Skoda Auto Chief Talking to Kazakh President About New Plant

Skoda Auto has been negotiating with Kazakhstan's government about building a car production plant in that central Asian country. The talks between Skoda Chairman Vratislav Kulhanek and Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev come as the company faces new customs duties that could lock its cars out of the Russian market. In addition to its three main plants in the Czech Republic, the company operates assembly plants in India, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Ukraine.

Czech Premier in Egypt

Visiting Czech Premier Vladimir Spidla, on a three-day official visit to Egypt, met on September 8 with President Hosni Mubarak and with his Egyptian counterpart, Atef Mohammad Ebeid. Spidla told accompanying Czech journalists that he had discussed with Mubarak the latest developments in th! e Middle East and possibilities for expanding Czech-Egyptian cooperation. He said there is a "considerable identity of views" between himself and Mubarak on the situation created by the resignation of Palestinian Premier Mahmoud Abbas. Ebeid told journalists after meeting with Spidla that they are both convinced the Middle East crisis can be solved by peaceful means and a lasting peace can be attained. Spidla said his country was ready to become more involved in asserting the EU's role in the search for a peaceful solution. Spidla, who is accompanied by a large delegation, also opened a forum of Czech and Egyptian businesspeople.

Jan Kavan Ends Czech Presidency of UN General Assembly

Former foreign minister Jan Kavan is ending his term as president of the United Nations General Assembly. Mr Kavan will hand over the presidency to the island of Saint Lucia. He remains an MP for the ruling Social Democrats, and has expressed interest in ! standing for the European Parliament.

Czech-German Relations Best in History

Czech-German relations are the best in history, President Vaclav Klaus told journalists in Passau where he arrived for an international conference about the future of the EU on September 17.

Klaus stressed that the Czech Republic had no alternative but EU membership.

Cermak Appointed Justice Minister

President Vaclav Klaus appointed lawyer Karel Cermak to the post of justice minister. On taking office minister Cermak said his goal was to increase the level of understanding and cooperation between parliament, the government and the judiciary because without it there could be no progress. The minister said he was committed to carrying out the reforms initiated by his predecessor Pavel Rychetsky, who left the post in the summer to become a judge of the Constitutional Court. Karel Cermak is not party affiliated! and his appointment has received broad political support.

Dalai Lama to Visit Prague at Havel's Invitation

The Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama will meet ex-president Vaclav Havel, attend a meeting of world religions' representatives and an international conference of groups supporting Tibet during his visit to Prague in the second half of October to be held at Havel's invitation.

The conference, scheduled for October 19, will be attended by representatives of more than 250 groups from all over the world.

One Year After Floods, AFoCR Fund Helps Patch Up the Nation

Following the destructive floods of 2002, which caused severe damage in Prague, as well as in numerous other cities and towns across the Czech Republic, the American Friends of the Czech Republic launched an initiative to provide aid for disease prevention and reconstruction throughout the country. The AFoCR’s "Prague-Needs-Help" Fun! d enabled hundreds of American corporations and individuals to donate much-needed funds for recovery projects. The Fund was established with the support and advice of the Czech Embassy in Washington. Using AFoCR’s website, a high-tech electronic pledge system, and the organization’s network of contacts in the U.S., AFoCR succeeded in reaching out to Americans from coast to coast. Contributions from concerned Americans and corporations ranged from $5 to $50,000. A total of 330 000 dollars was raised. The larger contributions came from U.S. companies with business ties in the Czech Republic, notable individuals in the U.S. industry, and prominent Czech-American organizations.

The initial relief funds from AFoCR were used to curb the spread of disease as a result of contaminated water supplies. Medical supplies were provided with the help of AmeriCares, a non profit relief organization. Upon the recommendation of U.S. Embassy officials in Prague, direct emer! gency grants were made to facilitate cleanup and reconstruction in cities most devastated by the floods, including Ceske Budejovice, Decin, Melnik, Pilsen, Pisek, Pribram, and Usti nad Labem.

Once immediate dangers were dealt with, the Fund moved to support specific projects chosen by the AFoCR with significant counsel from the U.S. and Czech Embassies, the American Chamber of Commerce in Prague and Czech NGOs. The projects included the rebuilding of public facilities, the restoration of cultural and historic sites and artifacts, and the provision of housing. Medical facilities, educational facilities, replacement housing units, and historic facilities were all encompassed in projects funded by AFoCR. At the same time, the American Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM) in Prague played a key role in the fundraising and supported the recovery of the Kralupy hospital.

Grants were provided for the reconstruction of the clinic at Stechovice, the math and physics lib! rary at Charles University, the national memorial and museum at Terezin, elementary schools in Pisek and Ceske Budejovice, vocational schools, the Jewish Museum in Prague, the Bohemian Museum at Roztoky, and Salvator Church and several synagogues in Prague.

Asked whether he would do it all again, former AfoCR President Milt Cerny answered simply, "Absolutely - this was the best way to bond with the Czech people in a very special way and AfoCR was in the best position to make it happen."

Former European Leaders Call for Support of Cuban Opposition

In a letter published in newspapers across Europe and the United States, three former leaders of post-communist Central Europe spoke vehemently of the need for democratic nations to aid Cuban citizens now and in the future. Former Czech president Vaclav Havel, along with Lech Walesa of Poland and Arpad Goncz of Hungary, challenged the scope and effectiveness of current European and U.S. policy toward C! uba. The leaders fear that intensified political persecution by Castro’s regime may hamper the democratic movement in Cuba. Political dissidents need to be supported in order that the vision of a democratic future can be more than just a dream. Havel, Walesa and Goncz called for the establishment of a democracy fund that would put Cuban opposition at a financial advantage if and when a political transformation occurs. The letter was published exactly six months after the imprisonment of 75 representatives of several pro-democracy movements by Fidel Castro’s repressive government.

The following is the letter written by three former presidents:

Building a Free Cuba

By Vaclav Havel, Arpad Goncz and Lech Walesa as published in the Washington Post on September 18, 2003

Exactly half a year ago, Fidel Castro's regime imprisoned 75 representatives of the Cuban opposition. More than 40 coordinators of the Varela Project and more than! 20 journalists and other representatives of various pro-democracy movements landed in jail. All of them were sentenced in mock trials to prison terms ranging from six to 28 years — merely for daring to express an opinion than the official one.

Yet the voices of free-thinking Cubans are growing louder, and that is precisely what Castro and his government must be worried about. Despite the omnipresent secret police and government propaganda, thousands of Cubans have demonstrated their courage by signing petitions backing Project Varela, which is based on provisions of the current Cuban constitution and calls for holding a referendum on freedom of speech and assembly, the release of political prisoners, freedom of enterprise and free elections. The Castro regime's response to Project Varela and to other initiatives has been at best disregard and at worst persecution.

The latest wave of confrontations, accompanied by anti-European diatribes from the Cuban p! olitical leadership, can be regarded as nothing other than an expression of weakness and desperation. The regime is running short of breath — just as the party rulers in the Iron Curtain countries did at the end of the 1980s. The internal opposition is growing in strength — even the police raids in March failed to bring it to its knees. Times are changing, the revolution is aging together with its leaders, and the regime is nervous. Castro knows only too well that there will come a day when the revolution will perish with him.

Nobody knows what will happen then. But when that time comes, the clearer it is across the world that freedom, democracy and prosperity in that country depend on support for its dissidents, the better the chances for a future peaceful transition to democracy.

It is the responsibility of the democratic world to support representatives of the Cuban opposition, regardless of how long the Cuban Stalinists cling to power. The C! uban opposition must have the same international support as did the representatives of political dissent in Europe when it stood divided. Statements of condemnation for the government's repression, combined with specific diplomatic steps coming from Europe, Latin America and the United States, would be suitable means of exerting pressure on the regime in Cuba.

It cannot be claimed that the U.S. embargo on Cuba has brought about the results desired. Neither can this be said of the European policy, which has been considerably more forthcoming toward the Cuban regime. It is time to put aside transatlantic disputes about the embargo on Cuba and to concentrate on direct support for Cuban dissidents, prisoners of conscience and their families. Europe ought to make it unambiguously clear that Castro is a dictator, and that for democratic countries a dictatorship cannot become a partner until it begins a process of political liberalization.

At the same time, Euro! pean countries should establish a "Cuban Democracy Fund" to support the emergence of a civil society in Cuba. Such a fund would be ready for instant use in case of political changes on the island.

The recent European experience with peaceful transitions from dictatorship to democracy, be it earlier in Spain or later in the countries of Central Europe, has been an inspiration for the Cuban opposition. Europe in particular should not hesitate. It is obliged to act by its own history.

PM Spidla Receives a Warm Welcome in Texas

During his summer trip to the US, Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla visited the state of Texas, where he had a busy schedule. During his presence in Houston, he attended a gala reception held in his honor. Prior to making the trip down south, the Prime Minister met with President George W. Bush in Washington, DC earlier in the week. In coming to Houston, the Czech government hoped to improve economic relations by enhancing tra! de between the United States and the Czech Republic. Prime Minister Spidla hoped to encourage trade and investment in biotech, high-tech, and petrochemical power industries between Houston and Czech companies, seeking to form business relationships with Houston-based firms.

Aside from the business aspect of the trip, Prime Minister Spidla and the Czech delegation were excited to meet with Texans of Czech descent at the reception. Raymond J. Snokhous, the Honorary Consul of the Czech Republic, and his wife Clarice Marik Snokhous, hosted the festivities at the Athletic/Alumni Center on the University of Houston campus. Prime Minister Spidla was touched by the turnout and impressed by the Texan Czechs’ dedication to their heritage. He especially enjoyed the Czech Folk dancers and lightened the mood of the event when he joined them to do the "Chicken dance," along with his wife and Ambassador Palous. In speaking to everyone attending the reception, the Prime minis! ter remarked, "I am happy to see you active in preserving Czech and Moravian is something very touching for all of us. I wish to express my deep emotion and gratitude" (The West News). Both the U.S. and Czech Republic national anthems were sung at the reception. In addition to the dancing, singing and accordion music were provided by Chris Rybak of Halletsville. The Czech delegation wore authentic cowboy hats that were given to them the night before. All who attended the festivities were grateful to Raymond and Clarice Snokhous for their excellent work in organizing the reception.

During his stay in Texas, the prime minister also toured the Port of Houston, visited the Czech Cultural Center in Houston and he met with Mayor Lee Brown and with members of the Greater Houston Partnership of the Chamber of Commerce and NASA.

CR Opens Consul Office in Kansas City

The Czech Ambassador to the United States, Dr. Martin Palous, announced ! the appointment of Ms. Sharon Valasek as honorary consul for the Midwest on September 26, 2003. Ms. Valasek is a business professional and consultant for Black & Veatch Solutions Group, Inc. The official installation events took place from September 24-26 and included a visit by Ambassador Palous and other dignitaries from the consular corps, local governments, and business leaders. Ambassador Palous’ itinerary included an address at the World Trade Center of Kansas City, a radio interview with KCUR Public Radio, and an official welcoming by the Mayor of Kansas City. Ambassador Palous spoke at a Rotary International luncheon with Missouri governor Bob Holden. During his stay in Missouri, he also visited the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum.

As honorary consul for the U.S. Midwest region, Sharon Valasek’s primary role will be to facilitate and support local relationship-building initiatives between the Czech Republic and the United States! in order to further cultural, educational, political, and business exchange. As one of 15 regional honorary consuls reporting to the Czech Ambassador, Ms. Valasek also provides advocacy and assistance for Czech nationals in the United States.

Sharon Valasek has shown great commitment to her Czech heritage through her involvement in a myriad of Czech cultural programs. She is a member of the Czechoslovak Society of Arts and Sciences and the Czechoslovak Genealogical Society International. She also holds positions in the Kansas City Czech and Slovak Club and in the Kansas City chapter of People-to-People International. Valasek is active in the Project Management Association and the International Trade Club of Kansas City. In her work with Black and Veatch Solution Groups, Inc., Valasek displays excellent management and problem-solving skills in advising client organizations that are seeking to improve productivity and results. As a partner with Robert D. Gillis Comp! any, LLC, Ms. Valasek was involved in general and project management for companies doing business with the Czech Republic. Her past experience includes management consulting, telecommunications, and retailing. Valasek holds a master of business administration degree from the University of Avila and a bachelor of science degree from the University of Nebraska at Kearny.

Upon her appointment to the post of honorary consul, Valasek stated, "As a second-generation American of Czech descent, I am very proud and pleased to represent the Czech Republic’s interests and serve the people in the states of Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska."

New Head of CzechInvest in Silicon Valley

Karolina Bockova comes to California after her tenure as a head of the Global Services and New Technologies Section at CzechInvest. She started at CzechInvest in 2000 as a marketing executive. Since mid-2002 she has worked in the Investment Projects Department where sh! e specialized in non-manufacturing investments. She has taken an active part in developing a new incentive scheme for business process outsourcing projects.

Karolina’s background is in economics, she gained a master’s degree in International Trade at Prague University of Economics. During her studies she was also enrolled in European Studies with a special focus on European Integration.

Ms. Bockova believes that "Investors are now highly interested in development and design of microprocessors and integrated circuits. This confirms the Czech Republic’s chances to assert herself in these fields in the near future."

Her task now will be to continue increasing awareness of the Czech Republic as an ideal region for locating investment projects with high added value, to maintain previously established contacts with major companies and to actively seek out companies with a high likelihood of investing in Europe.

On her priorities! , Karolina says she will "take a closer look at non-manufacturing projects. There is a great potential in this field given the fact that so many US companies are offshoring their activities such as IT, finance and accounting."

Alan Becker and George Novak Promoted to Honorary Consul General

During their visit to the USA in the summer, Czech Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla and Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda announced in Miami the appointment of Alan Becker (Fort Lauderdale) and George Novak (Atlanta) as Honorary Consul General of the Czech Republic in Florida and Georgia, respectively.

Alan Becker is the founding shareholder of the law firm Becker & Poliakoff, P.A., based in Ft. Lauderdale. He was appointed to the position of Consul in 1993, making him one of the first Czech Consuls in the United States. Ambassador Palous has praised him for his first-rate representation of the Czech Republic and „his keen understanding of Czech economi! c, cultural and political interests." Although Mr. Becker had no contact with the Czech Republic prior to his appointment as consul, he has committed himself to improving Czech-American ties and has enjoyed hosting Czech dignitaries such as former President Vaclav Havel.

Prior to being appointed Honorary General Consul, George Novak helped to strengthen ties between Georgia and the Czech Republic as Consul. George Novak moved to Georgia from the Czech Republic in 1968; he is originally from the city of Brno. In 1983, he founded George Novak Co., a construction management company in Atlanta. He played a critical role in the reparation of the Radisson SAS Alcron Hotel in Prague, and his most momentous achievement during his consular career was obtaining support for Czech entrance into NATO from then U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Senators Max Cleland and Paul Coverdell.

Learning Czech in Dobruska

The traditional Czech language course in Dobruska was held on July 31–August 28 this year. We are proud to publish a few excerpts from letters sent to us by two US participants.

Joan H. Timmerman from Anaheim, CA writes: "The more I think about it and explain to friends what I did in Dobruska the more I know it was an extraordinary experience – something I could never have done on my own. The fact of living there for a month with men and women from so many countries still surprises me. The Czechs are everywhere. I developed wonderful relationships with a Russian, a Serb, a Syrian, two Argentinians, one man from Uruguay and a woman from Columbia, as well as Canadians and other Americans. We also learned quite a lot of Czech considering it was a relatively short time and at least 5 of us came with NO Czech vocabulary or understanding. The teacher who taught us the traditional Czech songs – Pan Jamaha! – was excellent as was the young woman (Vladenka) who translated for th! ose of us who did not understand the tour guides and museum directors.

The program was so strenuous, however […] instead of going on the bus from 9 am on Sunday until 11:30 that night, many of us would have been happier with fewer castles and factories to see, and a chance to study or to listen to Czech music or experience other of our cultural riches. The kinds of outings were overwhelmingly those that tourists would expect. Many of us hope that in future the program will include more cultural events – concerts, art exhibits, quality time studying the great churches (not just running through)."

Colleen Cahill from St. Paul, MN writes: "I enjoyed my experience at Dobruska very much. I have never had an experience quite like it. I think that the concept of the Czech government sponsoring and making a program like this available to those of all ages and backgrounds is highly commemorated. The Czech Republic as a whole should feel very proud at the! effort they put into showing those from around the world what an amazing country they live in. I believe that everyone who attended Dobruska left with a wonderful impression and understanding of the Czech culture and people.

Each aspect of the program had its benefits and disappointments. Living in a room with fellow students from Tunisia, Canada, and Croatia was perhaps one of the most exciting aspects of the program. The cultural evenings when others had the chance to educate us on their countries was very informative, though somewhat long.

I enjoyed the classes and felt that we covered quite a bit in the short period of time; however, I would have preferred to learn more basic survival skills […] learning to order food, asking where the bathroom is, etc., would have been much more useful for everyday language use, than trying to learn future and past tense in one month!

If I could do it again, I would. I am excited to go home and share! with my family and friends stories and pictures about the amazing experience that I had in Dobruska. Not to mention the life long friends that I made as a result."

To learn more about this year’s course, feel free to visit

Honorary Consulate General in Philadelphia Announces New Web Site

September 22, 2003 marks the introduction of the new site with domain or It operates through the Czech Foreign Ministry’s web server, utilizes the Ministry’s standard format and it enables the Consulate General to post information of general interest in a timely manner. The site is bilingual (English and Czech) with content in each language