Czech the News

Volume VIII No. 2 February 2000


Message from the Ambassador

In January, snowstorms raged not only through the Eastern United States but through a large swath of Europe, including the Czech Republic. But the Central European political scene did not take any vacations.

In Prague, two Czech political leaders, Prime Minister Milos Zeman and Speaker of the Parliament Vaclav Klaus, signed an agreement deepening the cooperation of their political parties, the Czech Social Democratic Party (CSSD) and the Civic Democratic Party (ODS), which offers a better prospect for the survival of the CSSD minority government, possibly even to the next scheduled parliamentary elections in 2002. Both leaders hope that in two years the Czechs will feel the effects of the already improving economy, and reward their parties accordingly.

If the so-called "Opposition Agreement" of 1998 was merely about procedural arrangements, the new agreement is a large step towards a "grand coalition" type of cooperation. Although ODS would not participate in the Social Democratic government, the leftist CSSD had to agree to various substantive demands of the rightist ODS. In exchange, ODS has agreed to support the budget for 2000 and to let the government govern. The good news of the January agreement are the commitments to foster Czech integration into the EU as well as the increase of military spending commensurate with NATO membership.

Some Czechs warn that power-sharing arrangements of this kind could cause problems in the future. For example in Vienna the far-right Freedom Party is the beneficiary of the lengthy rule of the grand coalition. In Prague, the cooperation of ODS and CSSD saw the unexpected rise of the Communists. Viewed in this context, the reactions to recent developments in Austria make for an interesting comparison:  while the European Union and Israel sounded strongly-worded warnings, the reactions from Prague, and also from Bratislava and Budapest were, with the exception of President Havel, more cautious. For one thing, Austria hinted to the EU aspirants that their reactions will affect the Austrian stance towards EU enlargement. And a discussion is underway about whether the world does not apply double standards when censuring the far-right on one hand and the far-left on the other.

It seems that in Central Europe a cold January does not stand in the way of hot discussions with no ready-made answers.


Social Democrats, ODS Augment Opposition Agreement

Senior officials of the Czech Social Democratic Party (CSSD) and the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) signed on January 26 five amendments to the so-called Opposition Agreement, the basis of the minority Social Democratic government. This step will ensure ODS support for the 2000 budget bill. The senior opposition ODS, however, has made its definitive support for the draft budget in the final reading conditional on personnel changes in the CSSD minority cabinet.

The supplemental agreements concern the state budget, changes in the election system, Czech EU entry, conditions for the ODS's tolerance of the CSSD government and communication between the two parties' groups of deputies. The two parties concurred that they will speed up the debating of the legislation necessary for EU entry. Under demands from ODS, the Social Democrats agreed to several commitments:- they will increase defense spending by 2,2 % a year; privatize additional 120 billion CZK worth of state property; reform the pension system; gradually eliminate the budget deficit; further deregulate prices; and not to increase the share of mandatory spending in the budget.
The proposed changes in the electoral law strengthen the position of bigger parties, although ODS eventually backed off from its demand for a majority voting system.
President Vaclav Havel raised concerns about the procedures which led to a strengthening of the opposition pact. According to him, the issues covered by the latest CSSD-ODS agreements are a matter for parliamentary discussion and should be discussed in public. Petra Buzkova, a prominent member of the CSSD, who has served as deputy chairwoman both of the CSSD and the Lower House of the Parliament, has decided to give up her party post at the next session of the CSSD Central Committee. She explained her decision by saying that in particular she disagrees with the new election law agreed to by the ODS and the CSSD. Some Social Democrats were unhappy with the agreement, warning that it excessively ties the government’s hands, but the constitutional changes were passed by the lower house of the Parliament, where the two parties enjoy a constitutional majority. The passage of the changes seems less certain in the Senate.

First Visit of Israeli Foreign Minister

Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy arrived in Prague for a two-day stay as the first Israeli Foreign Minister to visit the Czech Republic. He praised the Czech government for its efforts to pass laws aimed against anti-Semitism and towards compensation of Jewish victims of the Holocaust. The talks with Prime Minister Milos Zeman highlighted opportunities of Israeli companies to participate in the privatization process in the Czech Republic. Further enhancement of bilateral relations, European integration, and the Middle East peace process were discussed at the meeting with Vaclav Klaus, Chairman of the Chamber of Deputies.

The Israeli Foreign Minister was also received by President Havel, who returned to Prague from Stockholm, where he participated in an international conference on the Holocaust. The two politicians commemorated the 55th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp. President Havel supported the request of former Auschwitz prisoners that January 27, the day of the liberation of Auschwitz, become an important day - the day of Nazi victims and the day of the fight against violence, racism, anti-Semitism and xenophobia.

President Havel Speaks on the Holocaust

On January 26, President Havel visited Stockholm to take part in an international forum on the Holocaust. Following is his address delivered at the forum.

Tomorrow we shall commemorate the day, fifty-five years ago, that witnessed the liberation of the concentration camp at Oswiecim - a site of suffering and tragic death for thousands of human beings.

It is my conviction that the tragedy of the Holocaust victims must be remembered again and again, among other reasons, because its last surviving witnesses are still with us. No one but they can convey to us a first-hand historical experience teaching us that every act of racism, or of intolerance towards minorities, may be the beginning of an onslaught on the very foundations of human civilization. Behind every manifestation of prejudice towards the Roma, and behind every anti-Semitic remark, there is an encoded threat of transports and gas chambers.

The awareness of the fact that the Holocaust, through its tragic aftermath, still affects the life of society today was the starting point for the project Holocaust Phenomenon, launched in the Czech Republic under my patronage. The objective of this undertaking is to fill the considerable gaps in our knowledge about the tragic moments in our own past, especially about the Holocaust of Jews and of the Roma; to establish a discussion across society concerning those events; and, to help the younger generation to understand the Holocaust as a part of our history.

But the Holocaust is not only a subject to be taught. Its victims are still alive, and must not be forgotten - because their experience is a
warning to us all. It is obligation to give these survivors our attention and care; to relate to them; to listen attentively to what they tell us. Their voice must be heard by those who will shape the civilization of the third millennium.

Czech Mayor Serves in Kosovo

In the Nineties, Mr. Ivo Sanc served as mayor of Kutna Hora, a historic town to the east of Prague. Now he is doing the same job in a very different setting: the town of Gjilane in Kosovo.  Mr. Sanc was appointed by the U.N administration in Kosovo and charged with getting the basic services in town up and running. Together with one other Czech mayor, Sanc is part of the Czech contribution to the rebuilding of the war-torn province. The governing task feels like returning to ancient history, Sanc said to a reporter. "We must solve the most basic problems: where will people live, if they can turn on the light, if the water runs, if people go to work in the morning and where, and what belongs to who." He learned about the job opening in a newspaper ad, and his experience and knowledge of English proved to be good qualifications.

Negotiations with citizens are not easy in a community where one seventh of the population is Serbian. Sanc says he tries to prevent a winner-takes-all atmosphere: "Albanians know they will be the decisive power here. Serbs are in the corner, they have to try hard to survive and preserve their culture. Our task is to prevent discrimination. The minority should have access to education, jobs, and local government.  A geologist by profession, Sanc has worked in some of the world's trouble spots, and is taking in stride life in a place where shootings occur one or two nights per week. "I feel like a small cog in a machine that is trying to help solve the world's problems," says Sanc. "Who would have imagined that fifteen years ago? Back then, everything seemed destined for the same course until the end of time."

New Director of Czech TV Appointed

On January 26, the Czech Television Council, the nine-member supervisory body of the public-service broadcaster Czech Television (CT), appointed Dusan Chmelicek for a six-year term as the new general director of the station. Chmelicek, 32, who started working at the station two years ago as the head of the legal department, recently took over the department for strategic planning.
The new director takes over after Jakub Puchalsky, the previous director, announced his resignation last December. Puchalsky instituted some welcome changes, but in the end was unable to master the management of the television behemoth with 3000 employees and a 4.5 billion crown (120 million USD) annual budget, and faced calls to step down from both inside and outside the station.

Czech Television is the successor of the originally state-controlled, monopoly Czechoslovak television.  It was established as an independent, public service broadcaster in 1992 with a mandate to offer news programming, educational and artistic programming, programming serving the interests of various minority groups, as well as general entertainment. It has two networks: CT 1 serves broad audiences, while CT 2 focuses on high-brow, specialized and niche programming.

Czech TV is financed by license fees and advertising, the amount of which is restricted. It competes against private broadcasters, dependent solely on advertising revenues. In the last quarter of 1999, the audience share of CT 1 was 27.8% and CT 2 7.3%, while the private TV Nova enjoyed 44.4% of viewers, and another private broadcaster, Prima, had 15.1%. Czech TV is independent of the government and supervised by a 9-member council appointed by Parliament. While the broadcaster’s relationship with politicians has been occasionally rocky, Czech TV retained its independence and credibility and its first director served his full six-year term.

New Conditions for Long-term Travel to the Czech Republic

As of January 1, 2000, a new Residency Law for foreigners entering the territory of the Czech Republic entered into force. The Act on the Residence of Aliens in the territory of the Czech Republic (Act No. 326/1999 Coll.) significantly changes Czech immigration rules and policy and brings Czech immigration law closer to relevant EU standards. The most important task for the Czech Republic in this area is the process of the approximation of immigration laws with the so-called "Schengen System". The Law is available in English on the official web site of the Ministry of Interior of the Czech Republic, at

The new law affects all US citizens arriving in the Czech Republic who intend to stay there longer than 90 days, for example students, teachers, anyone setting up a new business, etc. Americans still do not need a visa for a tourist/business stay of up to 30 days (if necessary, the stay is extendable by the Immigration Police for up to 90 days). However, for a stay longer than 90 days and/or a stay other than for tourist/business purposes, a visa is required. The most significant change set by the new regulations is the requirement to obtain the visa in advance, before arrival in the Czech Republic. In other words, whereas according to the previous regulations, US citizens could obtain the visa from the Immigration Police in the Czech Republic, starting from January 1, 2000 the visa can be issued only through Czech Embassies abroad.

The Embassy is fully aware of the impact of these changes for people traveling to the Czech Republic. Therefore, the Embassy in Washington, D.C. has updated its website with the relevant information for travelers applying for Czech visas. While the first part of the information is meant for short term visitors (tourists from countries with the visa obligatory status), the Information on Visas for Study, Employment and Other Long Term Visas was prepared for U.S. citizens to help them fulfill new requirements for acquiring the long-term visa. All  information can be easily found in the section "Consular Info" of the Embassy's website:

News Digest

  •  January 3 - 16: At the beginning of the new year, the President, accompanied by his wife Dagmar, spent more than two weeks in the climatic spa of Karlova Studanka in the Jeseniky Mountains of Northern Moravia, which mainly serves those suffering from respiratory diseases and the aftermath of oncological operations. After a very demanding and energy- consuming program last year, doctors advised the President to relax, walk in local parks and forests and take mud and carbon baths, massages, inhalation and hydrotherapy. After the couple’s departure Karlova Studanka’s  mayor said that he registered heightened interest in the spa’s services.
  • January 3:  The expedited passing of bills approximating Czech legislation with the European Union's is to characterize the activities of the Chamber of Deputies this year. The Lower House plans to pass several dozens of important bills by mid-year. The accelerated pace should contribute to a better assessment of the Czech Republic's preparedness for EU membership. The Chamber will hold plenary sessions which pass bills every fifth and sixth week, compared with every sixth or seventh week last year. This would make one or two sessions more this year than in 1999.
  • January 5: The Cabinet agreed on a proposal for a law to at least partially guarantee that employees will receive part of their salaries in the event their employer is unable to pay them. The bill, which is in line with European legislation, also affects other laws dealing with, for example, health insurance, retirement benefits, and social security. The new law will enable employees to request compensation for unpaid wages at any state employment office. The employee will then be entitled to receive payment for up to three months, but the amount of compensation must not exceed 1.5 times the average national salary.
  • January 9: The Czech song Skoda lasky (Wasted Love), known in the English-speaking world as Beer Barrel Polka, or Roll Out the Barrels, was voted the biggest Czech hit of the 20th century. Since last spring the Czech public had a chance to vote for the most popular Czech song of the century, and Skoda lasky emerged as an undisputed winner. The song has been translated into 15 languages and is widely believed to be a local song in all the countries involved. However, the music was originally composed by a Czech, Jaromir Vejvoda in 1929. Shortly before WWII the song was bought by the American publisher Shapiro Bernstein. Performed by, among others, Glen Miller's Band, the song became immensely popular with the Allied soldiers.
  • January 12: The Czech Cabinet's Human Rights Commissioner Petr Uhl presented a new plan for the integration of the Roma minority. The plan would set aside 30 million USD for Roma integration - including measures to tackle problems faced by Roma in finding employment, receiving education and securing housing. In addition, a new Office for Ethnic Equality and Roma Integration would be created. The proposal was designed with the input of 42 people, 19 of whom are Roma.
  • January 13: European integration, European security policy and bilateral relations were highlighted during the talks of Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan with his British counterpart Robin Cook in London. The Czech Republic would like to participate in military operations in Europe that may not necessarily involve NATO as a whole. During his three-day stay in the British capital, Minister Kavan also participated in a conference on the Balkans and with his Greek counterpart Papandreou, where they discussed international efforts to rebuild infrastructure and revive the economies of Balkan countries. About 800 Czech companies, most of them operating in energy, engineering and transport industries, have expressed an interest in participating in the reconstruction of Southeast Europe.
  • January 16: A small monument to commemorate the death of students Jan Palach and Jan Zajic, who burnt themselves to death in early 1969 in protest against the Soviet-led occupation of Czechoslovakia, was unveiled today in the upper part of Prague's Wenceslas Square. The monument consists of two protuberances gradually rising from the sidewalk's relief. They are linked with a bronze cross symbolizing lying human bodies. The cross bears the names of both men and the dates of their deeds.  Palach, 21, a student of the Faculty of Arts of Prague's Charles University, died in hospital three days after he set himself on fire on January 16, 1969. Zajic, 18, set himself on fire on February 25, 1969.
  •  January 17: The Czech Statistical Office has drawn up a prognosis predicting that the number of the Czech Republic's inhabitants will drop by 600,000 to 9.7 million by the year 2030. There were 10,290,000 inhabitants in the Czech Republic at the end of 1998. The decreasing number of the Czech Republic's inhabitants is a consequence of a low birth rate. In 1998, deaths exceeded births by almost 19,000. According to the statistical average, every woman gave birth to 1.15 children in 1998, while the figure was 2.07 in 1980 and 1.89 in 1970.
  • January 20: The senior opposition Civic Democratic Party (ODS) would win elections to the Chamber of Deputies with 21 percent of the vote if they were held at the beginning of January, according to a poll conducted by the Institute for Public Opinion Research (IVVM). The Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSCM) would come in second, with 20.5 percent of the vote. The ruling Social Democrats' (CSSD) position has improved and the party is now supported by 17.5 percent of the population. The Freedom Union (15 percent) and the Christian Democrats (13 percent) would also enter the Chamber of Deputies.
  • January 20: The European Information Office, inaugurated in Horni Slavkov today, will organize international workshops for youth with a focus on communication and integration of Central and East European countries into the European Union. "A workshop on the media held at the end of January in Berlin, a workshop on the impact of the evacuation of Czech border regions on the present economic and social structure of the area, and a workshop on possibilities of university studies abroad for Czech and German students will be among the first projects of the office," the project organizer Vladislav Podracky told the Czech news agency, CTK. The majority of programs is to take place in Germany. The local German educational organisation, the European Civic Academy (ESTA), is together with the Association of Children and Youth of Horni Slavkov (SDM) a founder of the office and organizes many events in Germany. The Czech-German Fund for the Future is one of the sponsors of the workshops.
  • January 21: The Czech Police will get some 874,400 euros from the EU Phare program which is destined to assist post-communist countries. The money will be spent on raising Czech police to the European Union's level. Part of the project is improving the quality of selection of people for managerial posts. The "Twinning-Projekt" was launched in Prague today by Interior Minister Vaclav Grulich and Saxon provincial police president Bernhard Groh.
  • January 24: The cabinet approved the principles of a bill according to which the property confiscated from Czech Jews during WWII would be returned. The law would empower the government to return items and property "Aryanised" during the War to the Jewish communities. A presidential degree enabled the return of those properties after the War, but it was not fully enforced, and the post-1989 restitution laws concerned only the property expropriated after the Communist takeover in 1948. The government has a list of 76 paintings now included in the collections of the National Gallery, which are to be transferred to the Jewish Museum in Prague, and is completing the list of existing property to be returned.
  • January 27: The Czech Republic has ratified the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) convention on fighting corruption of foreign public officials in international business transactions. The convention, ratified in mid-December, focuses on "active corruption." It forbids companies from the signatory countries from bribing senior representatives and employees of foreign state and semi-state companies, deputies and justice officials.


    Profile: Richard Pivnicka

    Since 1995, Mr. Richard Pivnicka has been Honorary Consul of the Czech Republic in San Francisco, working incessantly for Czech interests in this dynamic region which  includes the high-tech Silicon Valley.

    Pivnicka's grandfather came to the United States from the Czech town of Klatovy and settled in Chicago, where Mr. Pivnicka (the proper Czech pronunciation is "pivnichka") was born. He dates the reawakening of his interest in his Czech heritage to his visit to Washington, DC in 1960, when he, together with his father and brother, witnessed the unveiling of a postage stamp dedicated to Tomas Garrigue Masaryk, the first president of Czechoslovakia. Nebraska Senator John Hruska, himself of Czech origin, spoke at the event. The picture of about 1000 people at a banquet in the Willard Hotel in honor of Masaryk is still with him. After the fall of Communism, Mr. Pivnicka saw the opportunity to encourage the cause of freedom in the Czech Republic, and decided to become an honorary consul. The appointment came in 1995, delayed by the break-up of Czechoslovakia in 1993.

    His tenure has certainly been fruitful. His prize achievement is the City of San Francisco's $168 million purchase of 247 electric trolley buses from the Czech/US joint venture company ETI. Not resting on his laurels, Mr. Pivnicka has nurtured the Czech Tech Network, a group of Czech nationals, Czech/Americans and American entrepreneurs who are prominent players in Silicon Valley.  He also continues to encourage Intel in its consideration to build a several hundred million production facility in the Czech Republic, a country on its “short list” of possible sites.

    Mr. Pivnicka has been Vice President and General Counsel for Gerson Bakar and Associates, a major real estate owner and developer in the Western United States. His other activities fit together well:  he has been a member of the Arthritis Foundation's Executive Committee and Finance Committee, and in 1989 was named to the Real Estate Committee of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco, which was charged with asset and portfolio management of the Church's real estate holdings.  He received the Certificate of Honor from the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce for Leadership.

    Mr. Pivnicka has also been an active member of Strybing Arboretum, the Urban Land Institute, and currently, the Bay Area General Counsel Group, the Real Estate Section of the State Bar, and is a Trustee of the Djerassi Resident Art Program. He is a member of the Board of Governors of the Commonwealth Club, the oldest and largest free speech forum in the United States. President Vaclav Havel addressed the Club in 1995, and the Charles University Choir performed there in 1998.

    Mr. Pivnicka was elected Vice Dean of the San Francisco Consular Corps, which is composed of members representing 70 countries, and is the third largest diplomatic community in the U. S. The Czech Foreign Ministry has recently upgraded his post to Honorary Consul General, an appointment which signals the Czech government's continuing interest in California and Silicon Valley in particular.

    Czech Student Shines on Long-Distance Track

    The number one long-distance runner on the University of New Orleans team is a freshman from the Czech Republic.  Jana Bulirova, twenty-year old Prague native, came to the US after being contacted by a coach, Ron Davis, then at University of Maryland-Eastern Shore. Last year she followed him to the University of New Orleans. Although she has been running distance races for only three years, she has quickly established herself as a competitor to be reckoned with. Jana has already set the school record in the 5,000 meter course. She has helped jack up the long-distance limits at the University of New Orleans with a school-record six top-10 finishes in her seven cross-country races. "She has become a poster child for our program, a disciplined, highly motivated athlete whose best performances are ahead of her," says Davis.
    Jana’s greatest difficulty? Acclimatization. "It felt like sauna," says Jana. "At first we had to train in the early morning hours, and late in the evenings. Now I have gotten acclimated - to a degree."
    Jana is among the growing number of Czech collegiate athletes, including tennis player Anna Monhartova from Plzen (Pilsen), who is on the team of Tulane University, who are making a name for themselves - and for the Czech Republic - in the United States.

    Czech Exports Go West

    For the first time in history, in 1999 Czech exports to the United States exceeded the country's exports to Russia, which has for many decades been regarded as a traditional trading partner and sure destination for Czech products. According to preliminary data by the Ministry of Industry and Trade, exports to the U.S. amounted to 657 million USD, compared with 386 million USD to Russia. This illustrates  profound changes in the territorial structure of Czech trade, where EU countries and North America already account for more than 75 percent.

    The dynamics of Czech trade with developed countries has been tremendous in the last decade and remains very high. For example, December was the second month in a row in which the growth rate exceeded 20 percent year on year. To the United States alone, the total volume of bilateral trade more than doubled since 1994.

    Transport items, mainly passenger cars from Skoda Auto (the Czech unit of  the Volkswagen Group), along with electrical equipment and machinery, led export growth to the EU in 1999.  Export results were also boosted by a surge in raw materials, semi-finished goods, and chemicals. Imports were led by manufactured consumer goods, machinery, and transport items. In the case of  the United States, Czech exports are dominated by machinery products, electrical machines and appliances, glass products, and transport items, while imports are represented by aircraft, electrical machinery, nuclear reactors, computers, and medical and optical devices.

    Third GSM Launch

    The newest Czech GSM mobile phone operator, Cesky Mobil, met its license requirement to cover 37 percent of the population with its network by January 8, the Transport and Communications Ministry said last week. Cesky Mobil, a joint venture of the Canadian company TIW and the Czech IPB bank, was required to build the core of its 900MHz and 1800MHz network by January 8, three months after winning the license in a state tender.

    Cesky Mobil said that as of January 6 it had covered 42 percent of the population with its signal. The license further obliges the company to provide a signal which could serve 80 percent of Czech residents by the end of June. The new operator began selling handsets in order to comply with the conditions of the license, but has delayed a full commercial roll-out until March, when its signal should cover a larger part of the population. The company will compete against the two current operators, EuroTel and RadioMobil, who together had 1.9 million customers at the end of 1999.

    Transgas Intensifies Telecom Push

    Monopoly gas importer Transgas is seeking a strategic investor for a planned subsidiary to help capitalize on the state-owned company's existing fiber-optic telecommunications network. The company has submitted a study to the Ministry of Industry and Trade detailing its plans. Transgas already has the fiber optics in place, which currently brings tens of millions CZK in revenues a year.

    Transgas controls one of the existing fiber-optic backbones in the country, an asset that grows in significance as full voice-service liberalization looms at the end of this year. The company is presently working with GlobalOne, a joint venture between Deutsche Telekom, France Telecom and U.S. Sprint, to offer Czech companies internet service, virtual private networks, and other high-speed data services. After the acknowledgement that it is going to select a strategic partner, Transgas hinted that GlobalOne may not be high on the list.

    Business Digest

  • January 5: Kabel Plus, a cable TV company, said that a number of operators will begin offering package services this year that include cable TV, pay per-view, home security, long-distance and local calling, as well as internet access. Kabel Plus said it will invest hundreds of millions of Czech crowns into these services. Data services currently account for only about 10 percent of Czech Telecom's revenues. Experts estimate that data services will account for 80 percent of telecom revenue by 2010.
  • January 7: Czech electricity producer CEZ will try to further boost exports this year in order to compensate for falling domestic electricity consumption. CEO Stanislav Svoboda told reporters that the company was targeting Poland, Slovakia and Hungary as potential markets, and would like to keep exports to Germany at levels reached in the second half of 1999.
  • January 11: The Czech Finance Ministry forecast moderate growth in 2000, but said economic development still faced risks in unemployment, a firm crown and higher food and raw material prices. The ministry said in a report that it expects real GDP to grow by 1.5 percent in 2000. Household consumption was seen 1.2 percent higher year-on-year, while government consumption was seen stagnating or even declining.
  • January 13: The largest Czech brewer, Plzensky Prazdroj (Pilsner Urquell) said it expects to post a roughly CZK 500 million ($14 million) net profit for 1999, up sharply from 181 million in 1998, although the brewery's output slipped to 4.75 million hectoliters last year from 5.06 million in 1998. The decline of the production is caused by the termination of sales of inexpensive beer Primus due to a change of business strategy, the company explained. Last October, South African Breweries (SAB) took a 51 percent stake in a joint venture which controls Prazdroj as well as the second largest Czech brewer, Radegast. Japanese Nomura holds the other 49 percent.
  • January 12: Italian telecom and internet company Tiscali said it was continuing its expansion in Europe by acquiring 80 percent of CD-Telekomunikace. Tiscali, which in early 1999 introduced free internet access to Italy, added that on Monday it had notched up over one million subscribers to its FreeNet service. CD-Telekomunikace has exclusive rights from Czech Railways to lay and run a fiber optic network along the entire length of the country's railway network, one of the most dense in Europe.
  • January 14: Czech state-owned brewery Budejovicky Budvar - Budweiser reported its full year 1999 pre-tax profit grew to CZK 478 million ($13.3 million) from 409 million in 1998 as sales and output rose. Output grew to 1.258 million hectoliters last year from 1.169 million in 1998, and beer sales rose to CZK 1.827 billion from 1.676 billion. Total revenues grew to CZK 2.392 billion from 2.221 billion. The privatization of Budvar, which is the third largest Czech brewery by output, has been repeatedly postponed due to ongoing trademark disputes with U.S.-based Anheuser Busch, the world's largest brewer.
  • January 17: Official proceedings have begun in a longstanding dispute between the country's second GSM operator and the Czech Telecommunications Office (CTU) over frequency allocation, according to the head of the sector's regulatory body. RadioMobil, which charges that frequency allocation by the CTU prompted interference in the 900MHz spectrum in which it operates, is reportedly seeking technical and financial concessions in the two-year standoff.
  • January 18: Czech foreign trade accelerated across the board in December, slightly widening the deficit, but pointing to an economic recovery which had firmly taken hold. The Czech Statistical Office said the trade deficit widened to CZK 18.6 billion in December from CZK 13.7 billion in November, but the full year 1999 gap narrowed to CZK 70 billion from CZK 79 billion in 1998.
  • January 20: Trade unions at the Skoda car manufacturer reached an agreement today with management on a new wage pact, ending the threat of a strike and calling off a boycott of voluntary overtime.  Skoda, majority-owned by Volkswagen, is one of the most prosperous companies in the Czech Republic, with salaries well above the national average. Under the agreement, salaries will rise by an average 3.8 percent in the year 2000.
  • January 20: Czech Parliament's Lower Chamber approved an anti-money laundering bill in the first reading, but some members say it would give the financial police too much authority to monitor transactions and get tax and social-security information without giving reason. The bill would also ban anonymous accounts and prevent financial houses from doing business with someone who refuses to identify himself.
  • January 22: A draft law on electronic signatures passed the first reading in Parliament. Deputy Vladimir Mlynar, one of the sponsors of the bill, said quick passage of the measure could bring the Czech Republic a major advantage in terms of e-business in Central Europe.
  • January 24: According to the Ministry of Finance, an increase in excise tax in the year 2000 will be necessary to comply with the EU, which has higher rates and plans to increase some further. As a result, natural gas prices in the Czech Republic would grow by 80 percent.
  • January 26: The National Property Fund said the basic contract with Erste Bank regarding the sale of the largest Czech saving bank, Ceska Sporitelna, is finished and will be presented to the government within two weeks. Although no figures were released, Erste revealed that the offered purchase price had increased.
  • January 28: The Ministry of Industry and Trade wants to fold the country's seven electricity distributors into the power grid Ceska Energeticka Prenosova Spolecnost (CEPS), according to the ministry's tentative proposal on the privatization of the country's energy sector.


    Booknote: Journeys into Czech-Moravian Texas

    Texas today has more Czech Americans than any other state in the nation. Though the total number who can claim Czech ancestry is unclear and disputable, possibly as many as four hundred thousand Texans are of Czech descent. But in the next few decades the ethnic heritage will change dramatically as the number of Czech-language speakers continues to dwindle.

    In Journeys into Czech-Moravian Texas, Sean N. Gallup, photojournalist with Reuters news agency, honors the multicultural richness of rural America by revealing a rich and still-flourishing culture that is relatively unknown. Through a combination of more than one hundred poignant photographs and detailed captions, he gives visual evidence of the traditional connections and variety of contemporary Texas-Czech life and culture. He also shows the power of ethnic belonging as well as the forces of Texas-Czech cultural decline and rejuvenation.

    For two years, Gallup criss-crossed communities; during this time he spent six months in the Fayetteville area, the so-called "cradle of Czech settlement" in Texas, immersing himself in local culture and everyday life. There, he documented language, religion, music, folk traditions, and other aspects of a culture that has evolved from its Czech-Moravian roots to become uniquely Texas Czech.
    With a detailed text based on research and personal interviews and with sensitive, comprehensive photography, Gallup provides a fine portrait of today’s Texans descended from Czech immigrants. He also describes Texas-Czech ethnic identity, organizations, relations with other ethnic groups, and, in the last section of the book, the ties to the modern Czech Republic.

    The book is published by Texas A & M University Press, College Station, Texas 77843-4354.

    Czech Films Succeed in Palm Springs

    This January 11 through 24 in the marvelous town of Palm Springs, California, the Palm Springs International Film Festival rung in its eleventh year.  Founded by entertainer Sonny Bono, the festival traditionally offers a selection of vintage films from all over the world, this year including three from the Czech Republic.

    All three Czech films -- "Return of the Idiot" by Sasa Gedeon, "The Bed" by Oskar Reif, and "All My Loved Ones" by Matej Minac -- enjoyed a very warm reception.  The film "All my Loved Ones" proved a particularly exceptional success, winning second place in audience voting.  It describes the true story of the British entrepreneur Nicholas Winston, who lived in Prague before the outbreak of World War Two and saved 669 children, mostly Jewish, from being deported to concentration camps by sending them to families in Great Britain. Many of these children grew up to become famous artists and scientists, including the British film director Karel Reisz, the writer Vera Gissing, the British parliament undersecretary for Northern Ireland Lord Dubs, and the director John Schlesinger.  Not to be forgotten, while the lives of these children were saved, their families often became victims of the Holocaust.

    The hero of the film, Nicholas Winston, still lives in Britain, but his story had nearly been forgotten until his wife discovered some of his documents a decade ago.  Mr. Winston wrote in a greeting sent to the festival: "It is right that these events should be remembered, but this remembrance must be used constructively.  Mankind must learn to be kind and tolerant and believe and live by the eternal values common to all religions.  The fundamental ethics of all religions must be taught and lead the way in to the future."

    The Czech film was made in coproduction with Slovakia, Germany and Poland, and is the Slovak submission for the 1999 Academy Awards.

    Cultural Digest

  • January was Prague's opening month as one of the year 2000 European Cities of Culture. This designation, which was bestowed upon Prague by the Council of the Cultural Ministers of the European Union, brings to Prague some major cultural events, including - but not limited to - the annual festivals: Prague Spring, Tanec Praha, the Agharta Jazz Festival, the St. Wenceslas Festivities, the World Festival of Puppetry, the European Cinema Showcase, the Prague German Language Theater Festival, and the Writer's Festival, whose production and dramaturgy contribute a strong European dimension to the events. There will also be some one-of-a-kind events, such as a concert by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, a Gustav Mahler recital by Thomas Hampson, the first Czech retrospective of the painter Toyen, bringing together contributions from all of Europe, and an international collaboration of the Czech Archa Theatre with ensembles from the cities of Helsinki and Krakow, which have also been awarded with the title European City of Culture this year. In addition, the Museum of the City of Prague will also reinstall its most attractive piece, the Langweil’s model of the city of Prague, and the Prague Symphonic Orchestra will lead the reconstruction of the original baroque organ in one of Prague's most famous  churches, the Church of Saints Simon and Judas, which will open its doors to concert productions in the coming years.

  • The film festival Febiofest is a major cultural event in the Czech Republic that takes place every January. Founded and organized in by the filmmaker and producer Fero Fenic in an attempt to offer the public a selection of interesting films not available in mass distribution, the international festival began in 1993 in Prague as a relatively small event. However, the positive response of the audience inspired Fenic, filmmaker and founder of the Febio production company, to transform it into a major event over the course of the past seven years. The festival now screens at several venues across the city over a one-week period, presenting a representative sampling of world and Czech cinema. After Prague, the festival will travel to several other Czech and Slovak cities. For more information on the festival, please visit:

  • Actor Jim Carrey received a Golden Globe Award (Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture -- Musical or Comedy) for his portrayal of Andy Kaufman in "Man on the Moon," the latest film by Czech director Milos Forman. The exceptional movie describes the life of Kaufman, the unique American comedian who died in 1984 and who was famous for his courageous and somewhat caustic sense of humor.


    Czech Artist of the Month

    Introduced by Chad Evans Wyatt's Projekt Praha 2000

    FRANTISEK SKALA, Jr. (1956) is one of the most remarkable personalities on the Czech art scene. A member of the renowned art group "The Stubborn Ones" (Tvrdohlavi), his direct and self-mocking style endears him to those who see in his work evidence of proverbial Czech craftsmanship. It would be a mistake, however, to regard Skala’s creations as no more than high jinks with found objects. With his magic pieces, he borrows from the mystique of the symbolists and decadents of the turn of the 20th century. He quotes post-modern contemporary language, along with intellectual affectations and comic or skeptical Czech narrow-mindedness. Skala’s inexhaustible inventiveness and his wide-ranging interests -- in music, architecture, performance art, cartoons & graphics, sculpture -- exhibit a healthy degree of humor, high and low. In 1991, Frantisek Skala was among the first to be awarded the prestigious Jindrich Chalupecky Prize for artists under 35. That same year, his performances with the mock-secret society "The End of the World is Coming" (Bude konec sveta) and his musical creations as drummer in the "Small Dance Orchestra" (Maly tanecni orchestr) were a sensation in the arts community of Prague. In 1993, he was selected to represent the Czech Republic at the Venice Biennale, to which he walked on foot, sketching all the way. He has designed a number of interesting Prague interiors, such as the Akropolis Club & Cafe. Skala’s work is an irresistible narrative of adventure in a side-real organic world, where imagination is experience.

    Projekt Praha 2000 by Chad Wyatt

    Through the centuries, innumerable groups, formations, and generations of artists have appeared, some leaving their marks in history, some vanishing into oblivion. Though their unforgettable works may remain with us, we are often left with only fragmentary information about the artists who created them. Countering this trend, the exhibit Projekt Praha 2000, by Washington-based photographer Chad Evans Wyatt, presents portraits of scores of the remarkable personalities who have shaped the arts in the Czech Republic during the last decade. Wyatt's photographs map an entire generation active on the contemporary Czech art scene, creating an indelible historical document. The exhibition opening takes place on Tuesday, February 22 at 7:30 pm at the Czech Embassy, and will be on display through August 30, weekdays 9-5 and evenings during Embassy events.

    Tickets Already Selling Fast for Opera La Serra

    Organized by the Embassy of the Czech Republic in the United States, the Czech Theater Festival commences in Washington, DC on May 17, 2000, with an opening evening featuring the U.S. premiere of Opera la Serra, an original Czech opera composed by Michal Vich and with a libretto by Jaroslav Dusek. This unusual performance presents beautiful and romantic music written in Operanto, a ground-breaking language created by the librettist specifically for use in operas. Ticket sales for this piece have already commenced and spaces are selling fast -- no surprise, when one considers that this imaginative opera, commissioned by Prague's Archa Theatre in 1994 with an opening there the same year, became an instant success in its native city as well.

    Opera la Serra is presented by the In Series at Mount Vernon College, with choreography by Sharon Wyrrick, directed by Joel Lazar. The performances will take place at the Hand Chapel of George Washington University’s Mount Vernon Campus, 2100 Foxhall Rd., NW, Washington, DC, 20017. Performances are scheduled for May 17 at 8pm, May 19 and 20 at 8:30pm. Tickets are $25, with student discounts available. The Composer and librettist will be present for the opening performance, which will follow with a reception. For more information and ticket reservations, please call (202) 625-4655.

    Events around the USA

    The National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library
    30 16th Ave. SW
    Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52404
    (319) 362-8500

    Feb. 5: Cedar Rapids Symphony Chamber Series, Riveting Ravel. @ 8 p.m. For information call 1-800-369-TUNE.

    Feb. 14: Kava a Knihy (Coffee and Books) Reading Discussion Series, 7-9 p.m. Free. Call (319) 362-8500 for book titles.

    Feb. 16: Learn at Lunch. Tomas G. Masaryk, Statesman, Scholar, President and Philosopher. Speaker: Bob Stone. Bring a sack lunch and learn about the live and accomplishments of the first president of Czechoslovakia. Noon. Heritage Hall. Free. Call (319) 362-8500 for information.

    Feb. 27: Sunday Lifelong Learning Series. 2 p.m. Free. Heritage Hall.

    March 13: Kava a Knihy (Coffee and Books) Reading Discussion Series, 7-9 p.m. Free. Call (319) 362-8500 for book titles.

    March 15: Learn at Lunch. Bring a sack lunch and learn about Czech & Slovak culture. Noon. Heritage Hall. Free. Call (319) 362-8500 for information.

    March 23: Pardubice Orchestra. 7 p.m. Call (319) 362-8500 for ticket information.

    March 26: Sunday Lifelong Learning Series. 2 p.m. Free. Heritage Hall.

    Czech Center New York
    1109 Madison Avenue, NYC, phone: 212-288 0830

    Thursday, February 3
    Discussion with Jirina Siklova, sociologist and Professor of the Charles University. The topic is “The Czech Republic: 10 Years after the Velvet Revolution”. Venue: Czech Center 7:00 pm

    Tuesday, February 8
    Martin Kasik - American debut of Czech pianist made possible by the Young Concert Artists organization.
    Venue: 92nd Street Y, 1395 Lexington Avenue, NYC; 8:00 pm; phone: 212-307 6655

    Thursday, February 10
    The Ear - Video screening of the film directed by Karel Kachyna (1970).
    A deputy minister and his wife have been invited to a government reception. Realizing that his post is in jeopardy, the husband begins to panic, and his arguments with the wife expose both a serious crisis in their marriage and the inescapable nature of their situation. The ubiquitous “ear” listens and records. Venue: Czech Center; 6:00 and 8:00 pm

    Wednesday, February 16
    The Sweet Century - Screening of a documentary film by Helena Trestikova (1998) followed by a discussion with special guests. “The Sweet Century” is a film about several women who were enjailed from political reasons in the 1950s in communist Czechoslovakia.
    Venue: Czech Center; 7:00 pm

    Thursday, February 24
    Josef Sudek - The Brumlik Collection - 30 years of writing on photographs: 1946 - 1976. Exhibition of a rare collection of photographs.
    Venue: Alan Klotz Photocollect, 22 East 72nd Street, NYC; phone: 212-327 2211
    Opening: 6:00 - 8:30 pm. The exhibition will be on view through April 8th; Wed - Sat: 11 am - 6 pm, Tue by appointment only.

    Eva Fuka: The Faces of Time
    Exhibition of Photographs from Fuka’s “Prague period”, the 1950’s and 1960’s.
    Venue: Czech Center; on view through March 31st; Tue, Wed, Fri: 9:00 am - 5:00 pm, Thur: 9:00 - 7:00 pm

    Bohdan Holomicek - Photography
    Exhibition of Photographs. Venue: Leica Gallery, 670 Broadway (NoHo), NYC; phone: 212-777 3051; on view through February 26th; Tue - Fri: 11:00 am - 6:00 pm, Sat: noon - 6:00 pm

    February 9-June 11
    The Holocaust Project: From Darkness into Light , at Zoellner Arts Center of Lehigh University, Allentown, PA. For additional information please call Czech Consulate-Philadelphia at (215) 646-7777

    February 10-11
    Art, Music and Education as Strategies for Survival symposium and exhibit, at Moravian College, South Campus, Bethlehem, PA. The opening reception on February 10, at 5:00 pm will include a talk by the Ambassador Alexandr Vondra. For additional information please call Czech Consulate-Philadelphia at (215) 646-7777.
    8:00 pm -  Concert of Terezin Music by the Hawthorne Quartet/Terezin Chamber
    Music Foundation. For information/registration call at Moravian College: Jan Ciganick
    610.861.1680; Sarah Dunn 610.861.5111; Anne Dutlinger 610.861.1678, or Hon.Consulate General-Philadelphia at 215.646.7777 e-mail:

    February 27
    The University Circle Wind Ensemble, conducted by Gary M. Cieplush, performs Karel Husa' s Music for Prague, at the Cleveland Institute of Music, 11021 East Blvd. For information, call (216) 791-5000.

    Kocian String Quartet U.S. tour
    February 18 Tampa, Fl; 20 Mobile, AL; 21 Birmingham, AL; 22 Americus, GA; 25 Asheville, NC; 26 Greenville, SC; 27 Columbia, SC; 28 Augusta, GA;29 Macon, GA; March 2 Washington, DC; 4 New York, NY; 5 Brookville, NY.
    For time and venue, call (212) 581-8478.

    Bohemian Chamber Philmarmonic U.S. tour
    February 20 Naples, FL; 21 Titusville, FL; 22 Vero Beach, FL; Fort Myers, FL; 25 Daytona Beach, FL; 26 Brunswick, GA; 27 Niceville, FL; 28 Panama City, FL; 29Americus, GA; March 1 Columbia, SC; 2 Atlanta, GA; 5 Danville, VA; 6 Elon College, NC; 10 Wabash, IND; 16 Rock Island, IL; 18 Houghton, IL; 19 Green Bay, WI; 20 Rockford, IL; 26 Indianapolis, IN; 27 Tiffin, OH; 28 Detroit, MI; 29 Pittsburgh, PA; 30 Washington, PA; 31 Lancaster, PA; April 1 Carlisle, PA; 2 Winchester, VA; 4 Williamsport, PA; 5 South Orange, NJ; 8 Merrick, NY.
    For time and venue, call (212) 581-8478.

    Alphonse Mucha Exhibition Itinerary
    October 16 - January 2, 2000, Worcester Art Museum, Worcester, MA; January 29 - March 26 2000, Dixon Gallery and Gardens, Memphis, TN.