Czech the News January 2000

Message from the Ambassador

Dear readers,

Welcome in the new Millennium! But is it really? In December some Czech newspapers rushed in with headlines informing us that the new Millennium will begin on January 1, 2001. It was not a ground-breaking news, at least for those of us who had to learn mathematics in elementary schools. Still, in the name of truth, some Czech villages had decided to postpone the millennium celebrations until the next winter. One can argue this is a typical Czech way of thinking: The truth is victorious, tells us the official presidential flag flying above the Prague Castle. Perhaps those villagers are right. Nevertheless, it does not mean much if others are doing business already now.

Let's admit that even in business-like America we noticed voices in the name of truth, for example the U.S. Naval Observatory. However, America's Millennium official program instead resorted to blaming Dennis the Diminutive, a six-century monk and the author of our current Christian calendar, for the confusing state of affairs. According the program brochure he should rather have started A.D. with year zero instead of year one to spare us this confusion. Let me therefore express my appreciation for more correct statement of the leader of the Christian world: In his New Year's address pope John Paul II simply but carefully welcomed "a millennium year".

On the other hand, due to the business-like, interconnected communication network of our global world, we can enjoy what would be a miracle few years ago. Let's give a credit, for example, to the PBS television which had a live broadcast of celebrations in Prague.

But, on a more serious note, what kind of century we are entering? Some argue that a new, global age will bring us mostly progress and more opportunities. Others take a more skeptical view. For example, Czech President Vaclav Havel in his New Year's Address warned that the globalization of business and information is not sufficiently accompanied by the globalization of responsibility and that our conscience lags far behind our achievements in science, research and development.

Those of us who had survived the so-called Millennium WTO summit in Seattle in December 1999 guess that it will not be an easy century. We saw a lot of confusion and misunderstanding both from those who organized the meeting and from those in the streets who successfully tried to break up the meeting.

Nevertheless there are times it makes sense to celebrate. On the New Year Eve Christians and the adherents of their calendar decided it is time to do just that - in Washington, Chicago, Prague, Brussels and elsewhere, with the exception of Cuba, where the government put the millennium on hold for 2001. Perhaps Fidel Castro thinks he will have more to celebrate next year?

Let us hope that we will not miss the opportunity to make this year a great opening of the new century.

Silver Lining in Seattle

The Seattle talks were postponed as WTO members failed to agree on an agenda for the next round of trade talks, but the Czech Ministry of Industry and Trade would score a coup - along with domestic brewers - if an effort to extend "geographical indications" beyond wine and spirits eventually succeeds.
While disagreements between the U.S. and the EU stifled progress in the meeting's agriculture working group, Czechs made inroads in the Singapore Agenda group, where the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement) were discussed. Such rights include geographic indications, which curb the ability of companies to use place names as trademarks if products are not from the region, such as Champagne or Cognac, for instance.
The Czech Republic, with the cities of Plzen (Pilsen) and Ceske Budejovice (Budweis), had proposed prior to the meeting that geographic indications be expanded to include other products — such as beer. While no final ministerial declaration was adopted at the meeting, the Czech Republic carved out a mention in the working draft document from the meeting. The EU also came out in favor of expanding protection for geographic indications, as did Switzerland with its Emmenthal Valley and the synonymous cheese.
Any potential benefit to the Czech Republic would be years away as the WTO has yet to create a multilateral system for registering protected wines and spirits. But as the Czech Republic moves toward EU membership, expanding the list of protected products according to both EU law and WTO rules could benefit local producers.
South African Breweries, which recently agreed to the indirect purchase of a majority stake in Czech Plzensky Prazdroj, would gain limited benefits as 'pilsen' has become a generic term for a type of beer, and refers to about 90% of beers brewed around the world. Article 24 of the TRIPS Agreement exempts geographic indications from any special status once they have become the generic term for a product. But Budvar - Budweiser, which is still owned by the Czech state, would gain additional protection in its European export markets. Budvar has continuously fought legal battles around the globe with its American rival Anheuser Busch, producer of another Budweiser beer.

Pope Voices Regret for Hus' Death

During a two-day official visit to the Vatican and Italy on December 18 - 19, President Vaclav Havel and Pope John Paul II discussed the fate of Czech preacher Jan Hus (John Huss) who was declared a heretic by the Catholic Church and burned at stake in Constance in 1415. At the closure of the International Symposium on Jan Hus, Pope John Paul expressed regret for Hus' death and recognized him as an important church reformer. During a papal audience the Czech President said that he highly respected the Pope's words about the moral courage of Hus, the important figure of the Czech history whose legacy influenced religious and to a certain extent also political developments in Bohemia for many centuries. President Havel presented the Pope with a gift form the Czech Republic - a decorated Christmas tree from the Beskydy mountains, north Moravia, which was ceremonially lit at St. Peter's Square. During the visit, the Czech Republic and the Holy See started talks which are expected to result in the signing of a bilateral agreement defining relationship between Prague and the Catholic Church.

Kavan Appointed Deputy Prime Minister

To underline overall responsibility for the process of accession talks with the EU, Minister of Foreign Affairs Jan Kavan was appointed Deputy Prime Minister in charge of European Integration. He replaced Egon Lansky who resigned earlier this month, citing his poor health. In his new capacity, Minister Kavan will be able to demand information and analyses from Ministers and the heads of other civil service bodies, assign them tasks connected with EU integration and check on their fulfillment. The Foreign Minister will also be able to mediate the solution of conflicts among individual Ministries concerning the EU entry, coordinate the positions of the Czech Republic within EU accession talks and submit fundamental issues to be solved to the Cabinet. Prime Minister Milos Zeman was appointed Chairman of the Cabinet Committee for European Integration. In another move to stress the importance of the preparations for the EU entry, earlier in November the chief negotiator with the EU Pavel Telicka was appointed State Secretary and First Deputy Foreign Minister.

Progress in Slave Labor Talks

The negotiations to achieve compensation for slave laborers and forced laborers in wartime Nazi Germany reached a breakthrough on November 17, 1999 in Berlin, Germany. The participants announced that they came to an agreement about the size of the fund to be created jointly by the German industry and the German government. The fund should amount to USD 5.2 billion. All the participants - the representatives of the German government and industry, the U.S. government, the lawyers representing the laborers, and the representatives of Belarus, Ukraine, Poland, Russia and the Czech Republic - described the agreement as historic, but at the same time cautioned that crucial negotiations still lie ahead. It is yet to be determined how the funds will be distributed to the various categories of laborers: those who were compelled to perform slave labor in concentration camps and those who were forced to work for the German wartime economy. The settlement will also provide some compensation for those with never-paid German insurance policies and those whose bank accounts were lost by being "Aryanized."

German President Johannes Rau in his remarks asked on behalf of the German people for forgiveness those who have to wait for so long for the recognition of their wartime suffering. The Czech Foreign Ministry issued a statement appreciating his remarks. The Czech representative speaking at the conference also expressed his gratitude to the laborers' lawyers, the American negotiators and the German government for their efforts in the negotiations, and to the German public for being supportive of the settlement.

The emerging settlement marks not just the first occasion when this category of the persecuted is to be compensated, but also a belated compensation to the victims of Nazism in Eastern Europe. There were about 100,000 people deported from the occupied Czech lands to perform labor in Nazi Germany. While Germany has paid around USD 60 billion since the end of the war to the survivors of wartime persecution, none of this went to Eastern Europeans until after the reunification of Germany in 1990. The Czech government extended benefits to the survivors of Nazi prisons from its own funds totaling USD 50 million in 1994. The Czech-German declaration of 1996 opened the way for the creation of the Joint Czech-German Fund for the Future which distributes payments benefiting the survivors of wartime persecution.

Havel Tackles Globalization in New Year Address

President Vaclav Havel in his New Year's address focused on the problems affecting the world and its rapid globalization. Now at the turn of the century humankind is like never before in its history both united and threatened, he stressed. In the globalized world goods and information travel as fast as He described globalization as a state of the world in which pointed to the reckless destruction of the planet in a civilization which he said under the influence of globalization was being taken over by pseudo values, the swelling of organized crime and terrorism and a short-sighted form of market economy that abused poorer countries. The political influence of supranational corporations is on the rise, and rich countries strive to open the markets of developing countries, while closing their own markets. It is not a good omen when the personal worth of three richest persons surpasses the value of GDP of a group of developing countries with 600 million inhabitants. All the threats to our civilization are well known, but the mankind chooses to behave in a short- sighted manner, President Havel pointed out.
He exhorted Czechs not to take care only of themselves, to take account of a wider horizon and to take note that there are numerous areas of suffering in the world. "Let us try to make the year 2000 effective by taking steps for change. Changes in political culture. Changes in the culture of public life. Changes in the values system. Changes in the individual's orientation, in the importance of civic association, in the concept of the role and purpose of the state...  Let us all see even beyond the borders of our own little worlds and see forward, both in time and space," Havel said. He also endorsed the idea of forgiving debts to poorer nations.
He deplored the fact that many disturbing developments in the Czech politics and economy seem to be less and less shocking. "It will do no harm if we will wonder more about the bad things happening around us, since the wonder is the first step towards the search for their causes and their redress," President Havel said. The Czech public must now decide, he said, whether the Czech republic will become a modern and open civil society, or an uninteresting and irrelevant country overwhelmed by its provincial quarrels.  He concluded by recalling gratefully that ten years ago the people made the decision for the right direction and stuck with it, although many of their expectations have not been met.

First Lady Hillary Clinton signed the guest book of the Czech Center in New York on December 16, 1999. Mrs. Clinton visited the Consulate General and the Czech Center to attend an event organized by the North American Board of Rabbis. She was welcomed by Consul General Petr Gandalovic, who described the cooperation with the Board of Rabbis based on shared values of tolerance and respect. Director of the Czech Center Premysl Pela then surprised Mrs. Clinton by extending to her greetings from her high school teacher in Chicago, in whose house Mr. Pela stayed while studying English.

Presenting theThe Czech Center

I would like to take this opportunity to introduce you to the Czech Center in New York. The Czech Center is part of a network of 18 centers and is the only one stationed outside of Europe.
The main goal of the Czech Center is to actively promote and enhance a positive image of the Czech Republic abroad and represent Czech interests; particularly in the areas of culture, business, tourism and as of this year, in education and science. More specifically:
Culture: Among the programs we will see in the coming year will be exhibits of internationally acclaimed photographers, such as Eva Fuka, Bohdan Holomicek, and Jindrich Streit; two projects with nationwide exposure - Erotikon and the 6+1 Czech artists' exhibits; the Czech Experimental Film Festival; the multi-dimensional project on Romanies in the Czech Republic; the classical music of Bohuslav Martinu; and the annual Czech Independence Day Street Festival.
Business: In order to meet the increasing demand from the private sector, the Czech Center enhanced its support services to its individual business clients - consisting of market entry consulting, data survey, business matchmaking, web site publication, trade fair arrangements, and administrative services. In the upcoming months, the Center also aims to develop a platform that would facilitate dialogue between top government officials and corporate business leaders through a series of events.
Tourism: Tourist services and information at the Center are primarily provided by representatives of the Czech Tourist Authority. "Prague - European City of Culture for the Year 2000" and the IMF/WB Meeting are two dominant themes for our tourist promotional campaign.
Education and Science: Within the course of next months, the Center will also establish information services that will contribute to the exchange of Czech and American students and will assist educational and research institutions in search for mutual partnership.
Although most of Center's activities and programs take place in New York, the task of fostering a positive Czech image shall not be limited territorially. The Czech Center is committed to assist all partners who are prepared to play an active role in promoting the Czech Republic. I believe that the turn of millennium will bring a new impetus to our mutual endeavors.

Premysl Pela, Director

Endowment to Fund Study in Prague

The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. has announced the formation of the Smadar Ohlbaum Traveling Fellowships.  The program will provide an opportunity for the University's undergraduates to study at Charles University in Prague.
"Prague is a beautiful city and an incredible place for an undergraduate to spend a summer," said GW President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg.  "With this new fellowship, we now have the capacity to reward students who are studying Czech along with an opening for GW to forge a closer relationship with Charles University."
The fellowships will run for three summer semesters and will be open to at least three students.  Gary Ohlbaum, CEO of the Czech-based European Food and Entertainment Concepts Ltd., is underwriting the fellowships named after his wife.
The George Washington University was created by an Act of Congress in 1821.  Today, GW is the largest institution of higher education in the nation's capital.  Each year, GW enrolls a diverse population of 19,000 students from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and 120 countries.

Political Digest

November 23: A total of 75 percent of Czechs would take part in a referendum on European Union (EU) entry if it was held now and 83 percent of them would support the entry, according to a poll by the STEM polling agency. About 17 percent of respondents would be against the entry. Ten percent of Czechs would not take part in the referendum and 28 percent were not able to decide.

November 24: Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman and his Slovak counterpart Mikulas Dzurinda succeeded in resolving a highly sensitive issue - dispute over the remainder of the unidivided federal property, that is the property which formaly remains the state property of Czechoslovakia, which split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1992. Bratislava agreed to exchange its stake in the Czech Republic's Komercni banka for Prague's share in Slovakia's VUB Bank. The two representatives said that the Komercni banka stake was currently worth more, but no extra financial settlement would be involved. Both banks will be privatized next year. In exchange, the Czech Central Bank agreed to drop a disputed 700 million USD claim against Slovakia and return 4.5 tons of gold, valued at just under 20 million USD. The agreement is yet to be ratified by both countries' Parliaments.

November 26: The city of Brno for many centuries benefited from peaceful coexistence of various nationalities, mayor Petr Duchon said at the opening of annual conference of the Coordination Council of the Czech-German Discussion Forum. Home to Czechs, Germans, Jews and other nationalities for a long time, "the city drew great benefit from their peaceful competition," the mayor said. The conference is devoted to Czech-German bilateral relations as well as the overall developments in Europe. The Discussion Forum, together with the Fund for the Future was established on the basis of the Czech-German declaration which was signed after complex negotiations on matters related to World War Two in 1997.

November 26: The petition "Thanks, Now Leave!", recently made public by former student leaders of the 1989 Velvet Revolution which initiated the fall of communism in Czechoslovakia, is supported by more than 50 percent of Czechs, a STEM poll reported. President Vaclav Havel reiterated his approval of the "Thanks, Now Leave!" appeal in his regular radio program Talks from Lany. President Havel said that he understood the student appeal, asking leading politicians to depart from politics, as a sign of current political situation. The appeal, signed by almost 100,000 people, was rejected by Vaclav Klaus and Milos Zeman, Chairmen of the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) and the Social Democrats, respectively.

November 29: The high moral values by which Josef Lux consistently abided both in his personal and political life were underlined by Cardinal Miloslav Vlk as well as President Vaclav Havel at a farewell service at St. Vitus' Cathedral today. Lux, former Christian Democrat (KDU-CSL) Chairman, died in Seattle, USA, on November 22 of lung failure after a bone marrow transplant. The ceremony was attended, besides the family members and closest friends, also by government members, representatives of both houses of the Parliament, Slovak Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda, church dignitaries and ambassadors of almost 20 European and overseas countries.

December 2: A group of Romany volunteers left for a refugee camp in Konik set on the outskirts of Montenegro's capital Podgorica to help its inhabitants as part of the "Balkan Sunflower" program. Czech Romany Patrick Banga has already been working as a volunteer in the camp, which houses, in difficult conditions, about 12,000 Romanies, mostly from Kosovo.

December 5: Vaclav Klaus was re-elected Chairman of the senior opposition ODS party at the party's 10th conference. Mr. Klaus was supported by 80 percent of the vote and had no opponent in the election. The other two proposed candidates, ODS Deputy Chairman Ivan Langer and Senator Dagmar Lastovecka gave up candidacy. Vaclav Klaus said already in his pre-election speech that he would continue negotiating on the creation of a "super-grand coalition" of all democratic parties in the Parliament. But he said that in the medium-term perspective he bet on cooperation with centrist and right-wing parties.

December 7: The Czech Republic was the first of all the EU membership applicants to have closed the negotiations on the chapter on free movement of goods, which is considered one of the most difficult chapters and a crucial pillar of the single European market. In the annual progress report prepared by the European Commission in the fall, the Czech Republic had been criticized for lagging behind in its preparations for EU membership. The country now seems to accelerate its accession endeavor. It has closed 10 out of 30 chapters of EU legislation, more than other candidates with the exception of Cyprus, which has eleven. Discussions on several other chapters were opened, so the number of chapters being discussed increased to 23.

December 10: After a long debate, the Chamber of Deputies finally passed a law on referendum. One of the first issues the public is likely to vote on will be the Czech Republic's entry into the EU. The new law, however, will not be allowed on questions which would infringe the Czech Republic's international obligations or its legal code. The Senate has still to approve the law.

December 13: The Cabinet endorsed principles for amending the legislation concerning freedom of religion and redefining the position and status of churches and religious organizations. The new draft outlined by the Ministry of Culture promises dramatic changes in the field of registration of churches and religious societies. It envisages, among other things, lowering the number of signatures needed for a religious organization to be registered from the present 10,000 to only 300. The law is to give legal status to the organizations which may have considered themselves as discriminated against - Muslims, Buddhists, new religious trends and small communities of traditional denominations such as the Church of England.

December 14: President Vaclav Havel today signed an amendment to the penal code which will prevent the statute of limitations from being applied on serious crimes of the Communist regime after December 29, Havel's spokesman Ladislav Spacek said. The amendment concerns serious crimes committed between the 1948 Communist takeover and December 1989 which were not prosecuted on political grounds and which can be punished with sentences of at least ten years in prison. The legislation refers to crimes committed by public officials or in connection with the persecution of an individual or a group of population because of their religion, race, or political conviction.

December 15: A total of 132 Czech Romanies have so far received a 33,000-crown humanitarian aid from a Swiss fund as symbolic satisfaction for racial persecution they experienced during World War II, Jana Horvathova from the Museum of Romany Culture informed. Additional 99 applications would be cleared up in the near future. "The museum has managed to also clear up requests from Romanies who did not have sufficient documents confirming their persecution," she said, adding that many of the applicants for humanitarian aid were illiterate and museum employees thus had to help them obtain documents from various institutions.

December 15 - 17: On his visit to two Asian countries - Vietnam and China, Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman discussed democratization of Vietnamese society and the fate of political prisoners in this country with Vietnamese President Tran Duc Luong and Parliament Chairman Nong Duc Manh. At the press conference Prime Minister Zeman said that strengthening Czech-Vietnamese trade was the main topic for discussion during all his talks. Trade exchange and further strengthening of economic cooperation between the Czech Republic and China were the main subject of talks between the Czech Prime Minister and his Chinese counterpart Zhu Ron-Jim in Beijing. Mr. Zeman discussed Czech-Chinese relations and international situation with Chinese President Jiang Zemin and Parliament Chairman Li Peng.

December 16: U.S. First Lady Hillary Clinton visited the Czech Consulate General in New York where the North American Rabbis Council presented awards for inter-religion cooperation, saying that it considers the Czech Republic a model of religious tolerance.

December 18: Decathlete Tomas Dvorak was presented the award as Czech Athlete of the Year. Dvorak broke the seven-year-old world record in the decathlon this year and won the gold at the World Championships. Second place went to Lida Formanova, who won golds at the indoor and outdoor World Championships in the 800m. Hockey player Jaromir Jagr, playing for Pittsburgh, finished third. Dvorak also won in fan voting for the athlete of the year. Formanova was again second, while third place belonged to the national hockey team. The national soccer team's undefeated run through the qualification round of the Euro 2000 won them the award as the Team of the Year, ahead of traditional award-winner the national hockey team, which also brought home gold from this year's World Championships. Skier Zuzana  Kocumova was voted Young Athlete of the Year, while skier Radim Lancu was voted handicapped athlete of the year.

December 29: Almost one third of the Czech population believe that President Vaclav Havel has the greatest merits in the progress achieved by the Czech Republic in the last ten years, according to a December poll by the Centre for Empirical Research (STEM). Chamber of Deputies and Civic Democratic Party (ODS) chairman Vaclav Klaus came the second. At the same time, Klaus is also considered a person bearing the greatest responsibility for the current difficulties of the Czech state by almost half of the population. While Havel is considered the most distinct personality to positively influence developments in the country by 30.2 percent of respondents, Klaus is supported by 20 percent, followed by the recently deceased former Christian Democrat (KDU-CSL) chairman Josef Lux.

Czech Recovery Gains Speed

The Czech economy extended its mild recovery in the third quarter, boosted by exports and a pick-up in household consumption, and causing analysts to surmise that interest rates would stay put until the year's end. Real gross domestic product (GDP) rose by 0.8 percent year-on-year in the third quarter, according to the Czech Statistical Bureau (CSU), marking the second straight quarter of marginal growth after five quarters of contraction. The CSU also revised its second quarter data to show 0.4 percent growth, from an original report of a 0.3 percent.
Analysts pointed to the 9.4 percent growth in third quarter exports, helped by better demand from western Europe, primarily for Czech cars and auto components. Aggregate domestic demand rose 1.2 percent for the quarter, led by 1.5 percent year-on-year growth in household demand, but showing that consumption, while reviving, was not fueling inflation.

Czech Exports Per Capita Higher than in U.S.

Czech exports per capita doubled in 1998 against the 1993 levels. The value of per capita exports reached $2,567 last year. The Czech Republic topped many developed nations such as the United States ($2,500) and Portugal ($2,450). Export figures were released by CzechTrade, government agency for export promotion.
According to its director Judita Stouracova, there is still a lot to be accomplished, should the country once be compared to countries such as Finland ($8,340 per capita), Austria ($7,544), and Switzerland ($10,625). She emphasized that CzechTrade's ultimate goal is Ireland where the value of export per capita reached $17,387.
Up to 39 thousand companies have exported last year, while only the 119 largest exporters accounted for 42 percent of total sales overseas, each with value exceeding Kc 1 billion. About 30 percent was exported by 1761 mid-size businesses whose sales volume ranged between Kc 50 and 500 million. CzechTrade distributed support amounting to Kc 35 million among its 550 member firms. The support typically helps Czech firms in entering foreign markets, pays for marketing research and for printing publicity materials.

Sokolov Chemicals Sold to U.S. Eastman

The Czech government and U.S.-based Eastman Chemical Co. signed a contract to sell the Czech state's 74 percent state in the chemical company Chemicke Zavody Sokolov a.s. Eastman agreed to pay 150 million Czech crowns ($4.2 million) for the stake and to assume Sokolov's debts to the Czech state factoring institution Konsolidacni Banka, amounting to 1.12 billion crowns.
The addition of Sokolov to Eastman's businesses gives it a worthwhile extension to its product portfolio and offers a broader range of products to their European customers. The company would focus on increasing Sokolov's production of acrylic acid in the first three months after the takeover. Finance Ministry spokesman Libor Vacek said the deal should be completed by the end of March, 2000.

Business Digest

December 3: The Czech cabinet agreed to start the privatization of its 51 percent stake in SPT Telecom, the country's fixed-line monopoly, which could raise as much as $3 billion for the government. The sale of SPT - recently renamed Czech Telecom - will be the most lucrative of the government's privatization programs. SPT is the most capitalized and heavily traded share on the Prague Stock Exchange and the government's stake is worth about Kc 85 billion ($2.4 billion) at current market prices.
December 6: Standard & Poor's last week affirmed its "AA-" long-term local currency issuer credit and senior unsecured debt ratings, "A-" long-term foreign currency issuer credit rating, its "A+" short-term local currency issuer credit and commercial paper ratings, and "A-2" short-term foreign currency issuer credit rating on the Czech Republic. The ratings reflect the Czech Republic's early success in implementing far-reaching structural reforms and prudent macroeconomic management, which have enhanced the country's ability to address recent financial and economic stresses.

December 8: The Parliament's lower house rejected the government's second attempt at a 2000 budget proposal by 101 against 97, demanding an unspecified reduction in the latest draft's Kc 42 billion deficit. A new draft is due within 30 days. Prime Minister Milos Zeman told the house the Cabinet would not resign due to the failure of the latest version. Its first draft with a Kc 39.8 billion deficit was rejected in October.

December 13: Following 20 rounds of Czech National Bank (CNB) interest rate cuts that have brought the key repo rate to 5.25 percent, the positive GDP data supported the widespread opinion that the CNB will keep rates steady at its monetary policy meeting. Analysts said that with numerous privatizations and other greenfield foreign direct investment in the pipeline for 2000, the result for capital creation should turn positive next year.

December 17: The Cabinet's rejection of a draft law on electronic signatures last week ensures further delay for a legislation that is key to the rapid development of electronic commerce and Web-based communications in the country. The proposal, prepared by a group of members of Parliament, sought to grant electronic signatures the same legal status as handwritten signatures, and passage of such a law could place the Czech Republic on the cutting edge as much of Western Europe grapples with the issue.

Czech Events around the USA

Czech Center New York

Eva Fuka: The Faces of Time
Exhibition of Photographs from Fuka’s “Prague period”, the 1950’s and 1960’s.Venue: Czech Center New York, 1109 Madison Avenue, NYC, phone: 212-288 0830. Opening: Tuesday, January 18th; 6:30 - 8:30 pm. 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, 570 Broadway (NoHo), NYC; phone: 212-777 3051. Opening: Thursday, January 20th; 5:00 - 8:00 pm. On view through February 26th; Tue - Fri: 11:00 am - 6:00 pm,   Sat: noon - 6:00 pm

Return of the Idiot
Video screening of the film directed by Sasa Gedeon (1999), nominated as the Czech selection for the Oscars in the category of Best Foreign Film for 1999.Venue: Czech Center New York. Thursday, January 27th, 6:00 and 8:00 pm

Jiri Menzel Film Retrospective
Santa Fe, NM
Venue: College of Santa Fe, 1600 St. Michaels Drive, Santa Fe, NM; phone: 505-473 6084. Dates: January 7 - 7 pm: Capricious Summer
January 8 - 7 pm: Closely Watched Trains
January 9 - 7 pm: Capricious Summer
January 10 - 7 pm: Larks on a String
January 11 - 7 pm: Cutting It Short
January 12 - 7 pm: Cutting It Short
January 13 - 7 pm: Festival of the Snowdrops
January 14 - 7 pm: Festival of the Snowdrops
January 15 - 7 pm: My Sweet Little Village
January 16 - 7 pm: My Sweet Little Village
January 17 - 7 pm: The Life and Extraordinary Adventures of Private Ivan Chonkin
January 18 - 7 pm: The Life and Extraordinary Adventures of Private Ivan Chonkin
January 19 - 7 pm: Larks on a String
January 20 - 7 pm: Closely Watched Trains

Portland, OR
Venue: Northwest Film Center, The Guild Theater, SW Park & Taylor, Portland, OR; phone: 503-221 1156.Dates:
January 18 - 7 pm: Capricious Summer
January 22 - 7 pm: Closely Watched Trains
January 25 - 7 pm: Larks on a String
January 27 - 7 pm: Cutting It Short
January 28 - 7 pm: My Sweet Little Village
 January 29 - 5 pm: Festival of the Snowdrops
January 30 - 1 pm: My Sweet Little Village, 3 pm: The Life and Extraordinary Adventures of Private Ivan Chonkin

Czech and Slovak National Museum, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Permanent Exhibition
Homelands The National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library’s permanent exhibition tells the story of the Czech and Slovak people from the days of Slavic tribes wandering into Central Europe, through the Velvet Divorce in 1993. Homelands features 250 objects, including works of art, a 1935 Czech-made motorcycle and Czech and Slovak folk costumes. Museum hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. Regular admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors (65 and over), $2 for children ages 5-16. Children under 5 with an adult companion are admitted free. Members are admitted free. Children and teens admitted free on Sundays with a paying adult. Admission includes a tour of the Immigrant Home and A New World Presence.

January 19: Learn at Lunch. Rollie Raim, “Resources for Research.” Discover the different resources available for researchers, where to find them and how to use them. Noon. Free.
January. 30: Sunday Lifelong Learning Series. “The Three Golden Keys, Kolace, and the Month Brothers: The Czech-Slovac Culture in Family Literature.” Sharron McElmeel 2 p.m. Free
February 14: Kava a Knihy (Coffee and Books). Reading Discussion Series. “The Three Golden Keys” and “Tibet: Through the Red Box,” by Peter Sis. 7-9 p.m. Free.
February 16: Learn at Lunch. Heritage Hall. Free.
February 27: Sunday Lifelong Learning Series. 2 p.m. Free.

Czech Avant - Garde Book Design
Exhibition. Reflections on European Art and Photography in Book Design, 1922-40.Collection of Czech arthistorian Zdenek Primus exhibited in Pennsylvania. Venue: Payne Gallery of Moravian College, Bethlehem, PA; phone: 610-861 1680. The exhibition will be on display until February 6, Tue - Sun, 11:00 am - 4:00 pm.

January 25
Martin Kasik American debut of Czech pianist. Venue: Terrace Theater, Kennedy Center, Washington, D. C.; phone: 202-331 0405. 7:30 pm

January 27
Czech Immigration to America 1848-1920. Exhibit from Naprstek Museum in Prague, supplement by items from the Balch Institute's own collection open until February 3, 2000. A special evening with H.E. Alexandr Vondra, Czech Ambassador to the U.S.A. at 6 P.M. on, 2000 followed by reception. By invitation. Inquiries to the Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies, 18 S. 7th Street, Philadelphia, PA (215) 925 8090 or Hon.Consulate General at (215) 646 7777.

February 10-11
 Art, Music and Education as Strategies for Survival
(Symposium, Exhibit, Reception & Concert)
A 2-day Symposium held at Moravian College, Bethlehem, PA. Symposium opens on February 10, 2000 at 8:30 A.M. at Foy Concert Hall at South Campus. It concludes in early afternoon hours of February 11, 2000 with Zuzanna Justman's Emmy Award-winning documentary "Voices of Children". Panelists include noted Terezin experts from the Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany and the U.S. Cost of Symposium $ 60.-(students and Holocaust survivors and their families free) includes lunch on both days. 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: