Prague


LOGO

 

Message from the Ambassador

Dear readers,

I thought if I wait with the writing of my column until November 8, I will be in a safe position to congratulate the President elect of the United States. Democracy decided otherwise. The people have voted, but we have not been able to read their verdict. Yet the newsletter must goto the printers.

I am glad that I witnessed the election night that will go down in history. It was an exciting lesson in the workings of American democracy. I do not share the glib view that American-style elections are just a meaningless circus for the masses. Important issues are presented to the public and debated. Exposing personal failings of candidates is often gratuitous, but it does reveal something important about their temperament and competence. In short, leaders and ideas are tested in American elections, and even when the better candidate does not win, at least people know what they are getting. I find it preferable to the school of politics that holds that the business of government is too important to be left to the people.

The founder of Czechoslovakia Tomas Garrigue Masaryk took inspiration from American democracy and our society today can only benefit from the give and take of political ideas that goes on here. We have to be present here, to enter into the dialogue of political and cultural ideas.

With this goal in mind we, together with our Slovak colleagues, decided to establish a new tradition of annual Czech and Slovak Lectures that would provide a venue for an eminent American, Czech or Slovak personality to deliver a lecture on a topic of interest to the three societies.

We found a partner in the Wilson Center for International Scholars, and the first lecture takes place on November 9. I am glad that Michael Novak agreed to be the first speaker. As a friend and descendant of Czechs and Slovaks, a man with an excellent record of public service an outstanding public intellectual, Michael Novak is a perfect choice to start the series.

 

 

Czechs Are Ready to Assist the New Yugoslavia

The Czech Republic has long maintained close contact with the Serbian opposition and has actively supported its efforts to oust the regime of Slobodan Milosevic. Directly after the first round of elections, President Havel and the Czech diplomacy expressed their support for the democratic forces and, in particular, Vojislav Kostunica, calling on the defeated regime to refrain from any acts of violence. Following the EU initiative, the Czech government lifted sanctions imposed on the FRY (Federal Republic of Yugoslavia) on October 11.

Czech officials were among the first to visit the FRY during the sweeping changes following the elections. On October 8 - 9, Deputy Foreign Minister Martin Palous arrived in Belgrade and Podgorica for meetings with Presidents Kostunica and Djukanovic. He expressed the Czech Republic's readiness to help restore the country and to integrate it into the European mainstream.

Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan paid a visit to Belgrade on October 23. He assured President Kostunica that the Czech Republic would support the FRY's reintegration into international institutions and would respect its territorial integrity and sovereignty. He also stressed that the Czech Republic was ready to help recover the Yugoslav economy and reconstruct facilities, such as the Kolubara power plant, that were destroyed during the NATO bombing campaign. President Kostunica acknowledged the valuable Czech experience of transforming a state-run economy and resolving relations within the federation.

 

Controversy Surrounding Temelin Settles Down

On October 31, Prime Minister Milos Zeman met with Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel to calm the dispute over the Temelin power plant. The two officials agreed on new security checks sponsored by the EU. The nuclear power plant has become a contentious issue between the two countries in recent months, as the commencement of the operation drew nearer and Austrian protestors blocked border crossings. On October 11, the controlled fission chain reaction, i.e. the actual start-up of the power plant, was initiated. On October 31, the Czech State Nuclear Safety Office, the chief regulatory body, gave final permission to power the reactor.

According to the latest opinion polls, 59 per cent of Czech respondents agree with the activation of the power station, while many Austrians strongly oppose it. Throughout September and the first of October, thousands of Austrians have repeatedly blocked border crossings shared with the Czech Republic. At the request of Prague, EU Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen held consultations on the blockades with Foreign Minister Jan Kavan. According to Verheugen, border blockades "neither boost a dialogue nor benefit the free movement of goods." He expressed confidence that the conflict could be solved by bilateral talks.

Austrian officials attempted to bring their complaints against Temelin onto the EU agenda. During an informal EU summit in Biarritz on October 14, Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel asked the EU to draft united European standards of nuclear safety. Because the EU does not pursue a common nuclear safety policy and there is no supranational guide, the EU has been reluctant to take sides in this dispute. The Temelin plant, which has been fitted with security equipment supplied by Westinghouse and other Western companies, was given a clean bill of health by the International Atomic Agency.

Austria also threatened to block the Czech accession talks with the EU. On October 30, Austrian Vice-Chancellor Susanne Riess-Passer declared that Austria would not sign the energy chapter of the EU accession negotiations as long as Temelin remained active and no comprehensive security check was undertaken.

 

Forum 2000 in Prague

Education, Culture and Spiritual Values in the Globalized World was the main topic of the 4th Forum 2000 International Conference, an annual meeting of prominent personalities of politics, culture and religion held in Prague on October 15-18. The conference was organized under the auspices of President Vaclav Havel at Prague Castle, where approximately 60 well-known personalities from around the world, including former Taiwanese president Lee Teng-hui, the Tibetan Dalai Lama, Islamic philosopher Abbas Mohadjerani, musician Peter Gabriel and French political scientist Jacques Rupnik, participated in discussions on different aspects of globalization.

Participants of the conference concluded that globalization can not be clearly and strictly defined. In his opening remarks, President Havel emphasized that in the current era of information, education provides the ability to understand concepts and data in context, and to see their ambiguity. According to British sociologist Anthony Giddens, the driving force of globalization is not only economy and market forces, but also telecommunications. Former South African President Frederick de Klerk pointed out the danger which globalization poses to cultural diversity. The Forum's debate was affected by the outbreak of violence in the Middle East; participants called on top Israeli and Palestinian officials to end violence, return to dialogue and search for a solution to the conflict through peaceful means.

 

State Decorations Awarded

President Vaclav Havel on the occasion of the National Day of October 28 awarded state decorations to a number of outstanding individuals for their distinguished service to the Czech Republic. Among the honorees of interest to the American public were:

the Order of the White Lion

General Vilem Stanovsky in memoriam

General Stanovsky was among the founders of the Czechoslovak military air force. He was active in resistance during WW II and was jailed by the Germans. After the communist coup in 1948 he was again imprisoned. He was rehabilitated in 1972. Together with presidents Masaryk and Benes he was the only Czech to be awarded the French Legion of Honor Order. The Order of White Lion was accepted by his daughter, Mrs. Eva Jonasova, who resides in Boston.

colonel Pravomil Raichl

He fought in the Czechoslovak Foreign Army in the USSR during WW II. He was jailed by the communists after the 1948 coup, but managed to escape and emigrate to the USA, where he was active in the efforts to bring freedom to Czechoslovakia.

Tomas Garrigue Masaryk Order

Jiri Horak

Active in the Social Democratic Party, he emigrated from Czechoslovakia after the communist coup. He arrived in the USA in 1951. He became professor of politology and was also active in emigre organizations, especially in the Council of Free Czechoslovakia. After 1989 he served as chairman of the Czechoslovak Social Democratic Party and was active in Czech public life.

Michael Novak

American theologian of Slovak descent, a leading Christian intellectual, senor scholar at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, DC. He served as the US Ambassador to the U.N. Commission for Human Rights, and as a member of the US Board for International Broadcasting. He is chairman of the council of advisors of the Civic Institute in Prague.

Medal of Merit

Jeri Laber

As an officer Amnesty International, Helsinki Committee, International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights, and other human rights organizations, Ms. Laber visited Czechoslovakia regularly since 1979 and became a leading supporter of Czech and Slovak dissidents. She served as an observer at trials of dissidents and was detained several times by the communist authorities.

Arnost Lustig

An outstanding author, playwright, journalist, Mr. Lustig was jailed in concentration camps by the Nazis during WW II. He lives in the USA since 1970, and he currently lectures at the American University in Washington, DC.

Rio Preisner

Mr. Preisner is a translator, literary scholar and philosopher. He is an internationally renowned expert on the German poet R. M. Rilke and author of studies on the nature of totalitarism. He has lived in the US since 1968.

Peter Demetz

Born in Prague, Mr. Demetz is professor emeritus at Yale University, an expert on Czech and German literature and history. Among his best-known books is Prague in Black and Gold, a history of Prague.

 

Havel on National Identity

President Vaclav Havel delivered an address on the occasion of the National

Day on October 28. The speech, which tackled a number of topics joined by the overarching theme of the Czech national identity at the time of the Czech Republic’s nearing entry to the European Union, generated considerable attention. Following are excerpts from the address.

 

Correction

In the previous issue of Czech the News we mistakenly said that President Vaclav Havel and his wife during their September stay in New York visited Zlata Praha restaurant and planted a linden there. In fact, it was the garden at Bohemian Hall and Park in Astoria that was visited by the presidential couple. Our apologies to the Bohemian Citizens’ Benevolent Society of Astoria that runs the Hall.

As it happened, the garden and park was featured in New York Times on November 2. The article titled "Human Nature: A Beer Garden in Astoria Shelters a Lost Era" relates President Havel’s visit:

"I invited him here when he came to the U.N. conference," said Peter Bisek, the president of the society and editor of the Czech-American newspaper Americke Listy. "So they said, `O.K., half an hour that's it.' He liked it so much, he ordered some goulash and beer and stayed for an hour and a half. We have a picture of him shoveling dirt on the tree."

The article marvels at the charming old-world atmosphere of the beer garden and describes its recent revival thanks to the Society’s efforts. Now it has been discovered by trendy young people from Manhattan and it was also nominated for the National Register of Historic Places.

 

A New SVU Web Site Goes Public

Czechoslovak Society of Arts and Sciences (SVU) is proud to present its exciting new website that can be found at the address www.svu2000.org or SVU2000.org. In contrast to its earlier HomePage (http://feefhs.org/czs/svu/frg-svu.html), the new website is more comprehensive, with such categories as SVU Headline News, Who Are We And What We Do, SVU Calendar, or How to Join SVU. It also features an interactive "SVU Forum."

The website comes about thanks to one of the SVU youngest members, Jiri Eichler of Prague, who has done wonders with the avalanche of material we sent him in a matter of a few days.

 

Astronaut James Lovell Visits Ancestral Home

James Lovell, commander of the legendary Apollo 13 spacecraft, visited the Czech Republic at the end of October. Lovell, whose ancestors hail from what is today the Czech Republic, presented President Vaclav Havel with a piece of the module in which its crew returned to Earth after a tumultuous and dramatic journey through space. President Havel received Lovell accompanied by the only Czech astronaut, Mr. Vladimir Remek, who had travelled to space in the Soviet space program as the first national of a country other than the United States or the USSR. Mr. Lovell also visited the native village of his ancestors, Dolni Lukavice, where he was welcomed by eight relatives and several hundred locals. His great-grandparents, Jan and Anna Masek, left Dolni Lukavice for the United States at the end of the 19th century.

Lovell, age 72, flew to space four times. He became a living legend in 1970 after the ship that he commanded, the Apollo 13, suffered an explosion which forced the crew to fight for their survival as they eventually steered the crippled ship back to Earth. This odyssey became the subject of the film "Apollo 13," starring Tom Hanks as James Lovell. "Hanks spent about four days with us," said Mr. Lovell in an interview with the Czech daily Dnes. "We talked all the time. He is a nice man. I got to know him quite well." Mr. Lovell is optimistic about the future of space exploration: "I am certain you will see people flying to Mars. But I will not live to see it," he said.

 

Jewish Studies in Prague - CET Academic Programs

CET Academic Programs, a private study-abroad organization based in Washington, DC, successfully accomplished their first year of Jewish studies in Prague, Czech Republic. The CET innovative programs are specifically designed to integrate each student into the society in which they are living.

According to CET, the spring, summer and fall programs in Prague (8 to 16 weeks) "provide a window into the Jewish past in Eastern Europe." They offer students the opportunity to study the rich history, culture, and literature of Central and Eastern European Jewry through intensive courses, as well as travel and hands-on participation in the community. Besides courses and exciting excursions to places of cultural and historical interest in and around Prague, a specially designed one-week study trip to Poland, a former center of East European Jewry accompanies the program. The program is based at Charles University.

For further information contact CET Academic Programs, 1000 16th Street NW, Suite 350, Washington, DC 20036-5705, tel.: (800) 225-4262, www.cetacademicprograms.com, email: cet@academic-travel.com.

 

Novak Opens Lecture Series

November 2000 marks the eleventh anniversary of Czechoslovakia's Velvet Revolution. In honor of this event and those who struggled against totalitarianism, Ambassadors Alexandr Vondra of the Czech Republic and Martin Butora of the Slovak Republic are introducing "The Czech and Slovak Annual Lecture Series - The Czech and Slovak Legacy in the Struggle for Freedom."

The opening lecture took place on November 9 at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, sponsored by the Wilson Center, the Czech and Slovak Embassies, and The American Friends of the Czech Republic.

The Honorable Lee. H. Hamilton, Director of the Woodrow Wilson Center, welcomed Prof. Michael Novak, Senior Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute as the first Guest Speaker of the series. Prof Novak spoke on the topic "The Struggle for Freedom Ten Years After in the Czech and Slovak Republics." Prof. Novak is the author of approximately 25 books, including the revered The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism, published in 1984 as a "samizdat" in Poland and later in Czechoslovakia, Germany, China and Hungary.

Prof. Novak’s lecture will commence the series’ tradition of presenting outstanding American Scholars of Czech or Slovak origin, as well as Czech and Slovak scholars and political leaders to the American public.

 

 

Political Digest

  • October 9: The Czech Republic has made progress in harmonizing its environment legislation with the EU's, according to comments by Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstroem after a meeting with Environment Ministers of the candidate countries. The Czech Republic was the first candidate country to present its implementation plan, which details steps to be taken by state institutions, as well as private companies to cope with the EU's environment demands.
  • October 10 - 12: During his state visit to Turkey, President Vaclav Havel said that there was still a chance to find a democratic, mutually acceptable resolution to the conflict between Cypriot Turks and Greeks. During a speech in which he received an Honorary Doctorate at Bilkent University in Ankara, President Havel praised Turkey as a place where Islamic and Western cultures could live in cohabitation. The Czech President discussed the situation of human rights in Turkey with a group of intellectuals, among them Kurdish activist Akin Birdal. He also called on Turkish President Ahmet Sezer to release journalist Esber Yagmurderelian, a man who has spent most of the last 20 years in prison while suffering from both heart and lung problems. President Havel also unveiled a memorial plague for Alexander Dubcek, a leading figure of the Prague spring of 1968, who was once the Czechoslovak Ambassador to Turkey.
  • October 11: During a meeting with Prime Minister Milos Zeman, British Prime Minister Tony Blair reiterated his country's firm support of the Czech Republic's early admission to the EU. According to Mr. Blair, it is beneficial not only for candidate countries like the Czech Republic to join the EU, but also for existing members. He stressed that the Czech Republic is a good NATO member and that he had no doubt the country would also be a good EU member.
  • October 13: The Prime Ministers of the Visegrad group, including the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland and Hungary, focused on the admission of their countries into the EU at an informal meeting in Karlovy Vary. The Prime Ministers agreed to support the individual processes of their countries' admission into the EU so that they may become members in 2003.
  • October 16: President Vaclav Havel accepted Otakar Motejl's resignation as Minister of Justice, authorizing Deputy Prime Minister Pavel Rychetsky to manage the Ministry until a replacement is named. Mr. Motejl, the only non-partisan in the minority Social Democrat Cabinet, cited the failure to pass his proposals for judicial reform in the Parliament as the reason for his resignation. Later in the month, the Czech Senate nominated Mr. Motejl as a candidate for the position of Ombudsman, the advocate of public rights.
  • October 16: The Cabinet approved a tender for the purchase of a multi-purpose tactical supersonic aircraft for the Czech Air Force. The tender is to be put up by the end of November and its results can be expected by mid-2001. The Cabinet is to specify by the end of October whether the tender will involve 24 or 36 fighters. According to Defense Minister Vetchy, manufacturers will have roughly five months to submit their bids, while the assessment of the tender will last another three to five months. In the second half of 2001, the government will decide which fighters it will buy.
  • October 20: Due to restructuring at the European Commission (EC) Enlargement General Directorate, Mr. Michael Leigh, EC chief negotiator for the Czech Republic, was replaced by Mr. Rutger Wissels, who was previously in charge of Bulgarian negotiations.
  • October 23 - 25: During his official visit to Italy, Prime Minister Milos Zeman was received by President Carlo Ciampi, held talks with his Italian counterpart Giuliano Amato, and met with representatives of the Italian industry. The Czech and Italian Prime Ministers agreed that the Czech Republic should enter the EU as soon as possible. Both politicians rejected the theory of a "big bang," in which a majority of candidate countries would enter the EU at the same time on a later date. Before commencing his official visit to Italy, Prime Minister Zeman was received by Pope John Paul II and discussed the future treaty between the Czech Republic and the Vatican with Vatican Secretary of State Angelo Sodan.
  • October 23: In a new tactic to fight organized crime, the Czech Cabinet approved a concept which will make the legalization of organized crime profits difficult to obtain. The concept also makes environment-related crimes and the illegal exportation of national heritage items more difficult, and promotes organized crime scientific research. The plan reduces the possibilities to newly register stolen cars and provides for the creation of an inter-ministerial body with the task of preventing the illegal employment of foreigners.
  • October 23: Literary historian and writer Eduard Goldstuecker, a representative of the 1968 Prague Spring movement, died at the age of 87. Mr. Goldstuecker focused on Czech-German literary relations in the 19th century and was an expert on German literature written by Prague's Jewish writers at the beginning of the 20th century. In 1963, he organized the first- ever conference in then communist Czechoslovakia on the works of the famous Prague-born Jewish writer Franz Kafka.
  • October 24: Foreign Minister Jan Kavan and representatives of the United States and four Central and Eastern European countries signed a bilateral agreement with Austria for compensation of World War II forced laborers in Vienna. A sum of 501 million schillings is destined for a maximum of 15,000 victims from the Czech Republic. "The agreements signed today are an attempt to alleviate the wrongs done by Nazism," the Czech Foreign Minister said.
  • October 24 - 27: Belgian King Albert II and his wife, Queen Paola, arrived in Prague for the Belgian monarchs' first-ever official visit to the Czech Republic. The visit provided an opportunity for Czech officials to learn about Belgium's plans for the EU presidency in the second half of 2001, when the accession talks of the Czech Republic should enter a decisive phase. President Havel expressed support for Belgium's efforts to protect the rights of minor EU countries. Czech-Belgian economic relations have been intensively developing in the past few years; though a smaller country, Belgium is the Czech Republic's fifth largest foreign investor.
  • October 25: The Czech Senate passed an amendment to the Penal Code under which the denial of Nazi or communist genocide will be punished by an imprisonment of six months to three years. The bill also toughens the prosecution of people who publicly instigate various types of hatred, and who support movements aimed at the suppression of people's rights and freedoms.

CzechInvest Opens Doors in Silicon Valley

In an attempt to lure high-tech investments into the Czech Republic, the country's investment promotion agency, CzechInvest, is preparing to open a representative office in California's Silicon Valley. The new office, managed by Mr. Radomil Novak, will open in November with the intention of tapping into consumer electronics manufacturing. CzechInvest hopes to garner investment as big-name IT hardware manufacturers increasingly leave the low-margin business of production to electronic manufacturing service (EMS) companies. Several such firms, including Flextronics and Celestica, have already launched assembly lines in the Czech Republic, where labor costs remain low in comparison with the West.

The Silicon Valley branch will be CzechInvest' sixth office overseas. The agency already has offices in London, Paris, Dusseldorf, Yokohama and Chicago. CzechInvest has completed $3.245 billion in FDI projects over the past seven years, demonstrating that money invested does pay off. According to a United Nations report, the country's FDI levels grew 88 percent in 1999, largely due to privatization.

 

Woodworking Equipment Exhibited in Atlanta

Co-operation with foreign countries is very important for further developing the production of woodworking machines. Immediately after 1990, the majority of Czech woodworking machinery and equipment manufacturers focused on satisfying the demand of their domestic market. At that time, the market demanded machines of a lower category for emerging workshops of tradesmen and small businessmen.

Later, the market for lower category machines became saturated and Czech converters of wood substances began to specialize in certain products. The demand for medium and high category machines, as well as for special technologies began to increase both at home and abroad. Czech manufacturers first communicated with partners from neighboring countries, later extending their activities to far-away markets in Africa, Southeast Asia and the Americas.

For the first time this year, Czech firms participated in the International Woodworking Machinery and Furniture Supply Fair (IWF) in Atlanta, GA this past August. Focused exclusively on a professional audience, this trade fair belongs among the largest exhibition events in this sector of the United States. Czech exporters offered machinery for small and medium size joiner's workshops, as well as equipment for large technology units, e.g. saw mills, drying rooms, construction and joinery workshops, and furniture production. The Czech products were placed in the top level for their technical parameters and quality while maintaining favorable price relations as compared to foreign competitors.

The organization of the trade fair was secured in part on the Czech side by joint stock company Rapid and by the Czech-American Chamber of Commerce in Atlanta on the American side. Fourteen Czech firms presented their products at the fair; many found potential business partners, while others concluded multi-million dollar contracts or launched new businesses. The indisputably successful debut of the Czech woodworking equipment manufacturers was made possible with the help of the pro-export subsidy of the Ministry of Industry and Commerce of the Czech Republic.

 

INVEX Tradeshow, October 9 - 11, 2000

On October 9 - 11, the city of Brno hosted the annual Invex tradeshow, often regarded by industry leaders as the most important high-tech information technology event in Central and Eastern Europe. The exhibition provides an excellent opportunity for both corporations to address the consumers and the companies concentrating on the "B2B - business to business" sector. This year's Invex recorded the highest attendance ever, with the number of local and foreign visitors reaching over 40,000 daily.

Per tradition, the tradeshow organizers and industry representatives select and give awards to various products exhibited at the event. Among the products selected this year, various companies received awards, such as: AMD, Sodat Software, Canon, Eurotel, Hewlett Packard, Compaq, Lingea, Toshiba, Zoner Software, Atlas.cz, Microsoft and MultiMedia Computer. Professional audiences were also extremely interested in the international conference "Information for the 21st century." The BUSINESS TO BUSINESS Pavilion was one of the new projects at the INVEX 2000 trade fair. In this Pavilion, the organizers made the fair more accessible to exhibitors by focusing, first and foremost, on professional partners from the public administration and private sector. Once again, the Brno fairgrounds, with its ideal conditions for marketing information technology, served as an excellent venue. Many affiliates of US companies based in Europe also took advantage of this event.

 

Cabinet Presents Utility Privatization Plan

The Czech government successfully cleared the hurdle on the privatization of its major industrial blue chips at its meeting on October 4. The country's top energy producer, CEZ, will be sold along with six energy distributors. The government will hire advisers for both the sales of the energy package and the petrochemical giant Unipetrol.

Simultaneously, the government reached an agreement with Deutsche Telekom over an earlier payment of a $550 million option on mobile operator RadioMobil, which was blocking the privatization of its mother company, Ceske Radiokomunikace. However, some of the decisions were met with criticism from analysts who questioned whether such privatization models would work and if they were worth waiting for. Although analysts welcomed the government's efforts to bring foreign strategic investors in, they remain skeptical of the merits of a state-organized consolidation versus one driven by market forces.

The sale could bring between Kc 300 billion-400 billion into the state budget, with an estimated Kc 100 billion for energy companies. Nearly half of that amount is expected for the gas sector, whose privatization is scheduled for later this fall. Unipetrol, which is in the process of acquiring smaller related companies such as the Paramo refinery, the pipeline operator CEPRO, the chemical manufacturers Spolana Neratovice and AliaChem, could bring in at least Kc 7 billion-16 billion, according to analysts' estimates.

Czech Telecom could bring in roughly Kc 120 billion-160 billion, while Radiokomunikace is expected to fetch approximately Kc 40 billion. Additionally, the state is expecting roughly Kc 40 billion for the sale of its 60 percent stake in the No. 2 financial group Komercni Banka, the sale of which should be completed some time next year.

 

Czech Software Breaktrough in US Market

The US branch of the Czech company Tiny Software was selected to supply security software, developed in the Czech Republic, to US Air Force computers. At a press conference in Prague, the representatives of the Pilsen based Tiny Software Co. did not disclose the value of the contract. However, they did conform that the cooperation was the result of their decesion to move to Silicon Valley at the right time.

 

Business Digest

  • October 4: The US regional airline Pan Pacific Airways may be interested in investing in the ailing aircraft manufacturer LET Kunovice. LET, currently owned by the Atlanta-based Ayres Corporation, is the largest producer of passenger aircrafts in the Czech Republic. In recent years the fortunes of the company have plummeted however, plagued by threats of bankruptcy and possible closure. Pan Pacific representatives gave the media a few details of the probable LET revitalization plan, which would include replacing the existing management with one committed to a capitalization plan. They also stated that they would discontinue LET's Loadmaster project, the company's flagship with the present owners.
  • October 5: The Czech Republic and Poland attracted record levels of Foreign Direct Investment by transnational corporations in 1999, according to a report published this week by the UN Information Centre. The Czech Republic recorded a figure of $16 billion by the end of 1999, only 1 billion lower than the whole of the Russian Federation. These figures are quite surprising according to some analysts, considering that traditionally, political crises in Central and Eastern Europe such as that in Kosovo have a damaging ripple effect on the entire region’s foreign investment.
  • October 6: French auto parts manufacturer Florence et Peillon will invest over CZK 1 billion (USD 30 million) to build a factory in the Czech Republic, its Czech subsidiary said on Thursday. The new plant based in the South Bohemian town of Strakonice plans to employ more than 400 people.
  • October 7: The Czech Statistical Office (CSU) has upwardly revised its forecast of the GDP growth for this year from 2.0 percent to 2.7 percent, based on 1995 constant prices in its forecast of economic indicators. CSU has left its forecast of 2000 inflation unchanged at 4 percent, downwardly revised its forecast of unemployment from 9.7 percent to 9.2 percent, and upwardly revised its forecast of the trade deficit to Kc 120 billion.
  • October 9: German heat and power distributor MVV is stepping up their investment in the Czech Republic's heating companies, according to company officials. MVV, Germany's ninth-largest municipal utility and number four among district heating suppliers, went public in 1999. It has since grown horizontally by buying other distributors at home and abroad. This past spring, MVV's Czech subsidiary MVV EPS, an energy contractor for industrial and municipal partners, bought majority stakes in the district heating utilities of the three towns of Vsetin, Decin and Uherske Hradiste.
  • October 10: The Czech government has commenced talks with four European telecom groups about selling its majority stake in the fixed-line monopoly Cesky Telecom, according to the Finance Ministry. Talks have been initiated with Tele Denmark, Telekom Austria, Telekom Italia, and Deutsche Telekom. The government is scheduled to vote on postponing the deadline for a decision until the end of November.
  • October 10: September industrial prices have risen 0.6 percent monthly as high world oil prices bit hard, the Czech Statistical Office (CSU) reported. The CSU said in a statement that prices of crude oil products jumped 7.9 percent in September to help put the annual overall producer price index (PPI) up 5.4 percent. August PPI edged up a monthly 0.3 percent and 4.8 percent yearly.
  • Mr. Jaromir Schling, Minister of Transport and Communications of the Czech Republic, attended the International Transport Symposium "Entering the 21st Century - the Best Processes of Today and Lessons for Tomorrow" held in Washington, D.C. from October 10 - 12, 2000.
  • October 12: Industrial output grew 11 percent yearly in August, according to the Czech Statistical Office - the most since 1996. It was up 5.8 percent in the first eight months. Analysts attribute the rise to an economic revival, mainly in metallurgy, machinery and the auto industry, as well as higher demand in the EU. They predict an ongoing steady growth.
  • October 13: At least 3.2 million of the Czech Republic's 10.3 million people owned mobile phones at the end of September, according to data from the three local operators on Friday. The second largest operator, RadioMobil has 1.5 million users registered, while Cesky Mobil's client base includes 165,000 customers since the company launched their services in March of this year. EuroTel remains the No. 1 operator.
  • October 16: Consumers’ confidence in economic development rose to its highest level in three years as peoples’ worries about the future diminished. The STEM agency poll showed that 69 percent of its respondents said they "feel uncertain about the future of economic development"-- a drop from 75 percent in May and 82 percent in March of last year, when the curve reached its high. The result was the most optimistic since the beginning of an economic recession in 1997. The economy began turning around in the second quarter of last year, growing by 3.1 percent in the first half of 2000.
  • October 17: The government approved a program to allow owners of block apartment buildings to apply for 15-year loans at interest rates 3-5 percent below normal to refurbish the aging structures. The project will cost the state budget Kc 350 million.
  • October 18: In August, Czech trade in agricultural commodities reached Kc 8.62 billion, a yearly growth of Kc 1.46 billion, with exports amounting to Kc 3.5 billion and imports at Kc 5.1 billion, according to the Ministry of Agriculture. Exports rose 31 percent yearly, and imports rose by 14 percent.
  • October 20: The American rating agency, Moody's Investors Service has signed an association agreement with its biggest Czech partner, the Czech Rating Agency (CRA). CRA's representatives did not rule out the possibility of Moody's actually investing in their Czech partner in the near future. The agreement commits Moody's to providing technical assistance to CRA. Joint activities would include research and analysis of credit conditions in the Czech Republic.
  • October 23: The national carrier Czech Airlines (CSA) has been formally invited to join the global air transport alliance Sky Team. CSA would join at the end of March of next year, as they begin their summer flight schedule. Sky Team was established last June by Air France, Delta Airlines, Aero Mexico and Korean Air. Both Delta and Air France have indicated a readiness to invest in Czech Airlines, but their share, to be purchased from the state, should not exceed 15 percent. Czech Airlines currently operates nine ATR regional turboprops, seventeen Boeings 737, and two Airbuses A 310. Over 90 percent of its shares are held by the state.
  • October 25: The Czech central bank said that the country's economic revival was gaining pace, but left interest rates unchanged and took no action to knock the currency lower against the euro. Many analysts had expected rates to hold, but also said the CNB could try to talk down the currency after its recent sharp rise against the euro.
  • October 26: Since the international embargo on Yugoslavia has been lifted, Czech companies are eager to restore their once-fruitful business contacts with Belgrade. Czech engineering group Skoda Plzen is one of the forerunners for the 100,000 million-dollar project of the Kolubara B power plant. Skoda Plzen has already won a 100 million-dollar contract for equipment deliveries to the first part of the project, Kolubara A.
  • October 27: Czech Volkswagen unit Skoda Auto had a CZK 1.547 billion (USD 37 million) net profit in the first half of this year, according to representatives. The company, which normally releases full-year results, published the figure in a prospectus to accompany a bond issue launched earlier this month. As the country's largest business and exporter, Skoda plans to raise sales to 130 billion this year. They reported sales of 314,266 cars in the first nine months of the year, up 7.4 percent from a year ago, and hope to accelerate the growth in the fourth quarter to achieve an over 14 percent full-year sales growth to 440,000 cars.
  • October 30: Japanese electronics giant Matsushita Electric Industrial Co Ltd. and its mobile phone subsidiary reported they would set up a mobile phone manufacturing unit in the Czech Republic. The move is in line with a strategy mapped out by the world's largest consumer electronics group aiming to boost its share in the global cell-phone market to 15 percent by 2004, from 5.5 percent at the end of June. Under the plan, Matsushita will spend JPY 8.5 billion (USD 78.55 million) to build the plant located in the city of Pardubice, some 100 km (60 miles) east of Prague.

 

Charlotte Garrigue Masaryk

Sixty-seven years ago, Tomas Garrigue Masaryk stated in his last will and testament that it was his wife, Charlotte, whose influence drove him to become the man that he was. The original First Lady of the newly independent Czechoslovakia, Charlotte Garrigue Masaryk was the intellectual equal, friend, and wife to the nation’s first president.

Born to a wealthy New York family 150 years ago, on November 20, 1850, Charlotte was raised in the Post-Civil War era of America where independence, talent and intelligence were nurtured and encouraged in young women. At the age of eighteen, Charlotte left America to study at the Music Conservatory in Leipzig, Germany. Though partial paralysis in her hand forced an early end to her career as a musician, she nurtured her love for music and Central Europe throughout the rest of her life. It was on a return visit to Leipzig that the young Charlotte met her future husband, Tomas Masaryk. With her sharp blue-gray eyes and stately presence, as well as her keen sense of identity, equality and religion, Masaryk was immediately taken with Charlotte.

They married in Brooklyn in 1878. True to their shared belief in the equality of the sexes, Masaryk took his wife's name. They eventually settled in Prague to raise their family. There, the two reared their five children in the modern atmosphere that they created of a democratic marriage and loving companionship, meanwhile immersing themselves in the Czech culture and heritage. She learned Czech and even translated John Stuart Mill.

As Tomas Masaryk composed his political articles, Charlotte was invariably present to proofread, edit, or add her own thoughts. Though she led a political life of her own, she always remained a strong pillar for her husband and family to lean on, from the tribulations of World War I to her husband’s subsequent presidency. For the forty-five years of their marriage, Charlotte was a unique thinker and activist of her own accord, yet until her death in 1923, she always remained precisely as her husband described her -- his ”closest collaborator.”

 

booknote: 101 Artists in the Post-Revolution Czech Republic

Chad Evans Wyatt’s photographic work is well known to the readers of Czech the News, who have encountered his "Artist of the Month" portraits in every issue, as well as to the visitors of the Czech Embassy in Washington, DC. Now a collection of his photographs of contemporary Czech artists is finally available as a book titled "101 Artists in the Post-Revolution Czech Republic."

Wyatt is an American photographer whose first models were jazz musicians. Through his wife he became interested in the Czech lands and witnessed the aftermath of the Velvet revolution. "The question on everyone’s mind was in the early 90's when I arrived was not whether the Prague of Masaryk, Kafka, Capek, Voskovec & Werich, Janacek, the magnificent Prague Spring, was to be reborn from the ashes of communism, but when," he writes in his preface.

According to Miroslav Vojtechovsky of the Prague Academy of Film and Photography, who wrote an introductory essay for the publication, "these are pictures that strive for a broad validity within the fraction of an instant. Wyatt’s approach to his models is modest, even reverent, and in any case it is proportional to the inexperience of the Czech lands’ leading figures in posing before a camera and to their discomfort with respect to their own success." Vojtechovsky goes on to say that "Wyatt reminds us of the better part of the tradition of Czech photography, while politely pointing out that we should carefully perceive those personalities who enhance the quality of our lives and while teaching us, by way of these personalities, to have respect for our own history."

Chad Evans Wyatt: 101 Artists in the Post-Revolution Czech Republic. Published by Argo, Prague.

 

Artist of the Month

Presented by Chad Evans Wyatt's Projekt Praha 2000

The writer, screenwriter, journalist and Politician Eva Kanturkova (1930) grew up in a Communist family, and was much influenced by its ideals in her early years. In the 1960s her first books were published and she rapidly "cured herself" of her former illusions about the regime. When, in the 1970s, she was banned from publishing and her writings could only come out in samizdat or emigré ditions, she also became involved in politics and protest. She signed Charter 77 and was its spokesperson in 1985. After her collection of interviews with women dissidents We Met in this House was published abroad and a French vehicle carrying banned literature was stopped on the Czechoslovak border, she was charged with subversion of the Republic and arrested in May 1981. She was held in prison without trial until March 1982 (although the charges were not dropped until December 1989, when the Communist regime collapsed in Czechoslovakia). After the end of totalitarian rule, she logically entered Parliament. She drew on her prison experiences when writing her best-known book, the documentary novel Friends from the House of Sadness, which was also published abroad; a television film based on the novel received a prize at the International Television Festival in Cannes in 1992. In almost all her writings, Eva Kanturkova emphasizes the relationship between individuals and history, and between people and political structures.

 

Events at the Embassy

Concert

Tuesday, November 14

Pianist Carl Banner (formerly of the Cezanne Trio) continues his popular exploration of Czech chamber music with his new ensemble, Washington Musica Viva. The program includes the bubbling Martinu Trio in F in celebration of the 110th anniversary of his birth, Dvorak's famous Dumky Trio, and new works by Miroslav Pudlak and Hanus Barton. At 7:30 pm at the Czech Embassy. Reservations recommended. Please call: 202/274-9100, x. 3413. Tickets $10 at the door.

Film

Sunday, November 19

The restored version of Gustav Machaty´s 1929 classic film Erotikon screens at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. The avant-garde classic by this genius of Czech silent cinema is accompanied by Jan Klusak's newly composed score, which will be performed live by a quintet conducted by Stepan Konicek. The film includes segments previously cut by distributors and censors. At 5:00 pm in the auditorium of the National Gallery's East building, at 4th Street and Constitution Avenue, NW. Admission free of charge.

Presentation

Tuesday, November 28

On the heels of outstanding shows in Washington and Prague, the photographs in Chad Evans Wyatt's 101 Artists in the Czech Republic are finally available in print. The images comprise a unique project celebrating the last decade in Czech arts through portraits of scores of the country's remarkable creative personalities. Washington-based Wyatt has thus developed both an artistic statement as well as an indelible historical document. Presentation and booksigning, at 7:00 pm at Politics and Prose Bookstore, 5015 Connecticut Ave, NW. This event is open to the public.

Benefit

Friday, December 8

After the success of last year's Dinner with Arts and Absinth, the Embassy presents a similar event to celebrate the past season, support the organization of future cultural events, and present a remarkable artist. Musician and performer Petr Vasa is the featured guest of the evening. His latest program, which he calls physical poetry, features an art form standing somewhere between music, recitation and throat singing. In his latest program, titled Circus, Chaos, Minaret, the performer uses every inch of his body for original recitation in an artificial language. At 7:30 pm at the Czech Embassy. Tickets $30; For reservationsm, call 202/274-9100, x. 3413. Petr Vasa will also perform in Jammin Java in Vienna, VA, on December 6.

Theater

December 10

Peter Vasa will appear at the Legion Arts club (tel.: 319-364-1580) in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Theater

Tuesday, December 12

One of the most popular Czech actresses, Eliska Balzerova, stars in a Czech version of the Terence McNally play Master Class. At 7:30 p.m. at the Czech Embassy. Reservations recommended. Please call: 202/274-9100, x. 3413. Tickets $10 at the door. The performance will be in Czech only.

Christmas

Sunday, December 17

The Czech pastor, writer and musician Svatopluk Karasek will preach the Christmas sermon in Czech at the Emmanuel Lutheran Church, located at 7730 Bradley Blvd., Bethesda, MD. Prohibited from working as a pastor in the 1970´s, Svata Karasek began to perform his sermons as songs. He subsequently spent twenty years in exile in Switzerland, where he continued in the ministry, while also pursuing his artistic calling. Returning to Prague in the 90´s, Karasek continued his pastoral work; his domain since 1997 has been at the Church U Salvatora. At 3:00pm, in Czech.

Czech Center New York, 1109 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 100 28

October 11 through November 30 - The Human Factor: Works on Paper. Exhibition of the group of artists "12/15 - Better LateThan Never."

November 2 - Man Against Destruction. Video screening of the film directed by Stepan Skalsky (1989) about Karel Capek’s life.

November 3- Rudolf Jelinek Company presentation. Business presentation - in cooperation with Czech Center to introduce its new product at U.S. market.

November 10 - November 19 - Erotikon Film Tour. American tour of Gustav Machaty’s silent film ”Erotikon” (1929), with a live score by Jan Klusak, performed by the FISYO Quintet and conducted by Stepan Konicek: Los Angeles, CA (Nov 10 - Nov 11), Santa Fe, NM (Nov 13), Ithaca NY (Nov 15), New York City (Nov 17), Washington, DC (Nov 19)

November 17 - December 17 - Everyday Courage - Czech (and Slovak) Films from Gustav Machaty and Beyond to the ‘60s. Brooklyn Academy of Music, New York. Czech and two Slovak film series from ‘60s celebrates a maverick group of filmmakers who tried to use film to comment on the cultural and political ideologies of their time. This special series opens with Machaty’s silent masterpiece ”Erotikon”.

November 30 - Hanele, Videoscreening of the film directed by Karel Kachyna (1999) according to the story of Ivan Olbracht’s ”The Sad Eyes of Hana Karadzicova”

 

Czech and Slovak National Museum and Library

Cedar Rapids, Iowa

(319) 362-8500

November 2 – January 14, 2001: Formal Settings: Decorated Porcelain of Bohemia. The second exhibition in the museum’s new gallery will feature the porcelain collection of Dr. James D. Henderson.

November 15: Learn at Lunch. "St. Wenceslaus Church" by Rose Kopecky. Noon. Heritage Hall. Free. Bring a sack lunch and learn about the history of this 150-year-old church and the saint it was named for.

November 16: Thursday Night Presentation. Diana Davies, University of Iowa, will present a program about Czechoslovakia’s first president, T. G. Masaryk. 7:00 pm. Free. Heritage Hall.

November 20: Káva a Knihy (Coffee and Books). Reading Discussion Series, Madeleine Albright, a Twentieth-Century Odyssey by Michael Dobbs. 7:00-9:00 pm. Free.

November 24 & 25: Folk artist Marj Nejdl personalizes ornaments 10:00 a.m.-3:00 pm.

November 26: Life Long Learning Series. "Verboten: Music and Art Banned by the Nazis" by Scott Cole of Drake University will give a lecture/recital about Czech-Jewish composers/pianists and other composers (Schulhoff) banned by Nazis. 2:00 pm. Free. Heritage Hall.

November 28 & 30: Porcelain Painting Class. $10.00. For ages 15 and up. Class size limited to 15. Reservations required. JoAnne Neff, instructor. 6:30-8:30 pm.

December 2: Svaty Mikulas Day. Celebrate a Czech and Slovak Christmas with St. Nicholas, the angel and the devil.

December 3: Muzika Muzika (Music Music). Roosevelt Middle School 7th & 8th grade orchestra. 2:00 pm. Free. Heritage Hall.

December 3: Folk artist Marj Nejdl personalizes ornaments 10:00 am - 3:00 pm.

December 6: Learn at Lunch. "Kapr" ("The Christmas Carp"). Noon. Heritage Hall. Free. Bring a sack lunch and learn about the role the carp plays in Czech and Slovak Christmas traditions.

December 9: 2nd Annual Museum Guild Cookie Walk. A very popular holiday event allows visitors the opportunity to ‘stock up’ on yummy Christmas goodies. 10:00-3:00 pm.

December 10: Petr Vasa, a performing artist from the Czech Republic, will be at the CSPS at 7:00 pm. This program is co-sponsored by Legion Arts and the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library.

December 16: 10:00 am – 1:00 pm. Egg decorator Frank Novotny demonstrating in the gallery. 1:00 – 4:00 pm. Wood carver Lumear Netolicky demonstrating in the museum.

September 30 - January 7 - University of Buffalo's University Archives presents Engineering the Organic: A Partnership between J.J. Polivka & Frank Lloyd Wright, an architectural exhibition telling the story of the collaboration between Czech structural engineer Jaroslav J. Polivka and architect Frank Lloyd Wright. 420 Capen Hall, Buffalo, NY. For more information, please call 716.645.2916.

November 11 - Western Fraternal Life Association's Lodge No. 121 will host its Interlodge Thanksgiving Supper. In the Lodge Hall, Caldwell, Kansas. 6 PM

November 12 - Czech and Slovak Sokol Minnesota announces its Pancake Breakfast Bake Sale and White Elephant Table Boutique. 383 Michigan Street, St. Paul, MN. 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM. Adults $3.50, children 3-12 years $1.50.

November 17 - The Czechoslovak Society of Arts & Sciences will host a meeting entitled Turmoil in Eastern Europe with speaker Dr. Winston C. Chrislock of the St. Thomas History Department, followed by Images & Personal Experiences of the Velvet Revolution, a discussion panel led by Czech students. CSPS Hall, 385 Michigan Street, St. Paul, MN. 7:00 PM. For more information, please call 612.473.1871.

November 18 - The Czechoslovak Society of Arts & Science's Washington, DC Chapter announce The Annual Czechoslovak Christmas Bazaar, with traditional Czechoslovak dishes and pastries, crafts, Christmas decorations, collectibles and more. Bradley Hills Presbyterian Church, 6601 Bradley Blvd., Bethesda, MD, 12 PM - 4 PM. Admission is free

November 19 - Western Fraternal Life Association's Lodge No. 1952 will host its Thanksgiving dinner. Bring potluck and foodshelf items. In the Lodge Hall, Alexandria, MN, 12 Noon.

December 31 - "Silvester" at Ceska Sin Karlin, Cleveland, OH. Donation $ 35, $ without food. Hats & all drinks included. Music by Bob Sabatka. From 8 pm. Call (216) 883 4760 for details.

 

New Czech Radio schedule for Cleveland area: Sundays 11 am - noon WRMR 850 AM, host: Joe Kocab, Sundays 1.05 - 2 pm WERE 1300 AM. Host: Joe Kocab.


Home    |  General Information    |    Economy & Trade   |  Consular & Visa Information   |   Culture & Events   |  Czech Press

Newsletter  |   Staff Directory   |   Czech Presence in the USA   |  Articles and Links Archive


3900 Spring of Freedom St. NW, Washington D.C., 20008, U.S.A. tel. (202) 274-9100 fax. (202) 966-8540
e-mail us

This page is maintained by the Embassy of the Czech Republic
2000, designed by BLACKFLEK
gton/cons/cons.htm">Consular & Visa Information   |   Culture & Events   |  Czech Press

Newsletter  |   Staff Directory   |   Czech Presence in the USA   |  Articles and Links Archive


3900 Spring of Freedom St. NW, Washington D.C., 20008, U.S.A. tel. (202) 274-9100 fax. (202) 966-8540
e-mail us

This page is maintained by the Embassy of the Czech Republic
2000, designed by BLACKFLEK