Czech the News
President Vaclav Havel Visits the USA
Americans Help the CR After the Floods
Message from the Ambassador
Senate Elections in the Fall
Prague Summit - Challenge for the Czech Republic and the Alliance
President Havel Dedicates Statue
President Havel Meets with Honorary Consuls
Jan Kavan Elected President of the U.N. General Assembly
Introducing the New Government: Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla
Stanislav Gross: Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of the Interior
Council of Higher Education Celebrates 100 Years of Service
News DigestFlood Relief from American Companies in the CR
Claims Trickle In, but Deluge on the Horizon
Radio Free Europe Discontinues Czech Service
Czech Events Around the USA
“Prague-Needs-Help Flood Relief Fund” Established in the USA
President Vaclav Havel Visits the USA
President Vaclav Havel and his wife Dagmar visited the United States of America from September 17 to September 23, 2002. This was the President’s final official visit, as his term of office will expire early next year.
While in the United States, President Havel met with President George W. Bush, as well as with the highest representatives of the U.S. administration and Congress. His meetings focused on the strengthening of Czech-U.S. relations, preparations for the November NATO Summit in Prague, the fight against terrorism, current foreign policy issues, the protection of human rights worldwide, and other issues.
On Wednesday, September 18, the most significant meeting between the two presidents was held. Their meeting in the Oval Office focused on the current world situation, the bilateral agenda between the CR and the USA, the upcoming NATO summit in Prague, as well as the issue of Iraq and other topics. The presidents also agreed that they both favor a robust enlargement of the North Atlantic Alliance at its summit in Prague in November. National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, U.S. Ambassador to Prague Craig Stapleton, Czech Defense Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik, Deputy Foreign Minister Alexandr Vondra, Czech Ambassador to Washington Martin Palous, and others also attended the meeting.
President Havel and the Czech delegation also met with the leadership of the U.S. Congress. In the morning, they met with Dennis Hastert, Speaker of the House, followed by a lunch with members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The afternoon program included a meeting with representatives of Jewish organizations in the USA, as well as a meeting with members of the U.S. Committee on NATO, whose contribution towards the Czech entry into the Alliance was of pivotal importance. Later that same day, President Bush hosted a dinner at the White House in honor of President Havel. This social event was attended by more than sixty guests on both sides.
On Thursday, September 19, President Havel commemorated the first Czechoslovak President Tomas Garrigue Masaryk by delivering a speech at an international conference on T. G. Masaryk and unveiling a statue of this Czechoslovak statesman in the newly established T. G. Masaryk Memorial Park on Massachusetts Avenue in Washington, D.C. (Please see separate article on Page 4). During the reception that followed the unveiling of T.G. Masaryk’s statue, President Havel bestowed the Medal of Merit on the following awardees: Mr. Milton Cerny, for service to the Czech Republic, Mr. Frank Marlow in memoriam, for service to the Czech Republic, Mr. Joseph Lane Kirkland in memoriam, for service to the Czech Republic, Mr. Peter Charles Schultz, for outstanding scientific achievements, Mr. Jan Francis Triska, for service to the Czech Republic.
President Havel and Mrs. Havlova later attended the opening part of a gala dinner organized by the American Friends of the Czech Republic. The presidential couple and the delegation then moved on from Washington, D.C. to New York City.
On September 20, President Havel and Mrs. Havlova began their visit to New York City by visiting Ground Zero to pay their respects to the victims of last year’s terrorist attacks on New York. On this occasion, President Havel honored former Mayor of New York, Mr. Rudolph Giuliani, in the nearby St. Paul’s Chapel with a state decoration - the Medal for Heroism. President Havel then held a half-hour meeting with UN Secretary General, Mr. Kofi Annan. President Havel stated at the meeting that the importance of the UN will increase in the future in direct relation with the increasing globalization of the world.
Friday afternoon’s program was devoted to social events and celebrations beginning with President Havel’s visit to the New York Public Library at 42nd Street, where he held a brief speech at an exhibition of his books translated into the English language. The presidential couple then moved to the nearby City University of New York, where President Havel was the guest of honor at a gala evening entitled, "A Tribute to Vaclav Havel." The festive evening was attended by former U.S. President, Mr. Bill Clinton, as well as Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Mr. Elie Wiesel. The three celebrities engaged in a philosophical discussion in front of an audience of about 400 people. Prior to the discussion, Vaclav Havel spoke about his life as the President and about his feelings stemming from the abrupt political changes of 1989 that caused him to become a politician and a statesman. The next day, the New York Times published an extensive article on Havel’s speech and the evening.
Following his long weekend in New York, President Havel visited Florida on September 22 and 23. While in Miami, he met with political, business and cultural leaders and with the most prominent figures of the Cuban opposition. The main theme of Mr. Havel’s visit to Miami focused on the protection of human rights and solidarity with Cuban dissidents. Upon his arrival in Florida on Sunday afternoon, President Havel granted an interview to the Miami Herald and its Spanish version, El Nuevo Herald. Later in the day, President Havel received a group of former political prisoners of the Castro regime and took part in a reception organized for him by the Cuban-American community in Miami. On this occasion, the President received the "Heroes of Liberty" prize, awarded to him by the "El Consejo de la Libertad" organization. During his stay in Miami, President Havel telephoned Osvaldo Paya Sardinas, a prominent Cuban dissident, whom he had earlier nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
On Monday morning, September 23, President Havel briefly met with the Governor of Florida, Mr. Jeb Bush. After the meeting with Governor Bush, President Havel participated at a conference entitled "From Communism to Democracy: The Power of the Powerless," organized by Florida International University.
In the afternoon, President Havel made a short visit to the Freedom Tower (a former immigration station for Cubans, which is now being rebuilt by the Cuban-American foundation as a memorial) and went to the site commemorating the Chicago mayor of Czech origin, Mr. Anton Cermak, who was assassinated in Miami in 1933 while visiting with President Roosevelt. Shortly before their departure to the Czech Republic, President Havel and Mrs. Havlova participated at a dinner organized by the Honorary Consul of the Czech Republic in Miami, Mr. Allan Becker. The dinner was also a fundraiser for the Vize 97 Foundation, an organization created by Mr. and Mrs. Vaclav Havel. The funds collected at the dinner will be used for flood relief in the Czech Republic.
Overall, the visit to Miami proved to be a success. The Cuban community’s reception was overwhelming, and all of President Havel’s public appearances received a vast amount of media coverage.
President Havel and the Czech delegation left Miami on September 23, returning to the Czech Republic the next afternoon.
Americans Help the Czech Republic After the Floods
Value of Donations Approaches $3 Million
The Czech Republic is presently recovering from the severe flooding of late August 2002. Shortly after the disaster, humanitarian aid began pouring into the country, including aid from the United States of America.
Up to this day, the estimated value of technical and humanitarian aid offered by the U.S. government amounts to approximately $500,000. The U.S. Department of State, together with USAID and AmeriCares, organized shipments of vaccines and disinfectants.
The U.S. Embassy in Prague donated a cash contribution of $50,000 to the Czech Red Cross for immediate humanitarian assistance. The Embassy also “adopted” Kampa Island and the grounds around the Kampa Museum, assisted in the clean-up of the grounds, and helped in raising funds from U.S. companies and private citizens for the repair and restoration of the park and museum.
Numerous financial contributions were made by commercial companies. Overall, a sum total (financial contributions and technical aid combined) amounting to almost two million dollars was donated mostly by subsidiaries of U.S. companies based in the Czech Republic.
Non-governmental organizations and foundations also contributed generously. The Charles C. Mott Foundation provided a grant of 100,000 dollars. The American Fund for Czechoslovak Relief and The Polish-American Congress both donated $50,000.
The “American Friends of the Czech Republic” has opened a special bank account that has received over $230,000 in donations by late October 2002. AFoCR also paid $10,000 for hepatitis vaccines provided by AmeriCares. Over $16,000 have been collected by the Czech-American community in New York. The famous former Czechoslovak figure skater Aja Vrzanova has raised more than $10,000. Czech-Americans in the state of Texas collected about $15,000 and Czech-Americans in Cleveland raised about $5,000. Other groups and individuals throughout the US contributed via special accounts set up in the USA as well as in the Czech Republic. In addition, there are many other contributors whose names shall remain unpublished. To all of those individual donors, we thank you for helping and appreciate your compassion and good heart.
Message from the Ambassador
As you have read on the front page, President Vaclav Havel visited the USA in September. For an ambassador and his team, visits paid by any of the highest officials of their country always bring great challenges, and all of their efforts are driven by one simple goal – to have each visit end as a success. This can mean several months of preparation and careful consideration - setting up meetings, conferring with various parties, and putting together a program that is organized virtually minute by minute – and yet still, may contain open questions and uncertainties. President Havel’s visit was indeed the crowning event of my first year as Ambassador. Among his other activities while in Washington, the president held a meeting with President George W. Bush and unveiled the statue of the first Czechoslovak President, T. G. Masaryk. The presidential delegation then moved to New York to commemorate the events of September 11 and to participate in several social events. The last stop of the president’s visit was Miami, where everyone was overwhelmed by the Cuban community’s warm reception and by the vast publicity granted to President Havel as he spoke to Cuban dissidents in Miami, as well as to those living in Cuba. All three stops of this "American Tour 2002," which was actually Vaclav Havel’s final trip as Czech President, were successful. And I dare say that for me, personally, this was a more than decent first anniversary of my ambassadorship.
Before long, one more extremely important event will be held – in November, the Czech capital of Prague shall host the NATO Summit. This event will bring President George W. Bush and many other statesmen to Prague. I firmly believe that the Summit’s main meeting will bring about new decisions leading to the further enlargement of the Alliance and that it will lay the foundations for a tighter transatlantic partnership and a more secure world. I will keep my fingers crossed for the organizers in Prague and I wish the Summit success.
Senate Elections in the Fall
The first round of elections to the Senate of the Parliament of the Czech Republic is scheduled for Friday, October 25 and Saturday, October 26, 2002. If any one of the candidates does not exceed 50% of the votes, the second round will be held 2 weeks later. New senators will be elected in the following 27 electoral districts where the mandate of the senators is about to expire: Cheb, Louny, Plzen-city, Strakonice, Pelhrimov, Pribram, Praha 5, Praha 9, Praha 1, Kladno, Decin, Ceska Lipa, Trutnov, Kolin, Hradec Kralove, Rychnov nad Kneznou, Zdar nad Sazavou, Znojmo, Vyskov, Brno-city, Prerov, Olomouc, Frydek-Mistek, Ostrava-city, Karvina, Zlin, Uherske Hradiste.
The elections will take place only in the Czech Republic and the voter must appear in person. The Embassies and Consulates will not serve as polling stations.
Czech citizens living abroad who are eligible and wish to vote in the Czech Republic will have the opportunity to obtain their elector’s license at the Czech Embassy or Consulate General in their area, where the special registers of voters are kept. Those who wish to vote and did not register for the previous parliamentary elections in the summer of 2002 must do so by September 15, 2002. By this time they should submit, either in person or in writing, the following documents: proof of identity and Czech citizenship (a Czech passport, personal I.D. /obcansky prukaz/ or certificate of citizenship) and proof of residence (government-issued I.D.). If a photograph does not appear on the citizenship certificate, another photo I.D. must be submitted.
Czech citizens living abroad who hold no permanent residence in the Czech Republic will have the possibility to vote in any of the above-mentioned districts. At the time of voting, they will be required to present their elector’s license and prove their identity and Czech citizenship. The elector’s license can be handed over to the elector no sooner than 15 days and no later than 2 days before the beginning of the elections.
For more information on the elections, please see the Embassy’s web page at www.mzv.cz/washington.
Prague Summit - Challenge for the Czech Republic and the Alliance
The Czech Republic has been a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the organization that provides the country with maximum security safeguards, for over three years. The Czech Republic’s successful integration into NATO was reaffirmed by the decision to hold the 2002 Summit of the Alliance’s member and partner countries in Prague. On November 21 and 22, Prague will host a meeting of leading representatives from 46 states. The NATO Summit in Prague also has symbolic importance - the 1948 Communist coup in Czechoslovakia was one of the factors that stimulated the establishment of the Alliance as a defense grouping of democratic countries. The dissolution of the Warsaw Pact in Prague in 1991 confirmed the end of the Communist bloc and the beginning of the efforts to build a unified and peaceful Europe.
The Prague Summit will be not only an important event in the history of the Czech Republic, but also a significant milestone in the history of the Alliance, which must respond to a new security environment and new risks. The crucial topics of the upcoming talks will fall into three categories: new capabilities, new members, and new relations.
The terrorist attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001 were a horrifying demonstration of the dangers facing the democratic countries. These threats have no borders and, more than ever before, require close cooperation between Europe, the United States, and Canada. The preservation and development of NATO’s transatlantic link is in the vital interest of the Czech Republic. At the Prague Summit the Alliance will decide on its role in the defense against terrorism and other threats, namely weapons of mass destruction. A better-prepared Alliance will significantly contribute to the prevention of such attacks, so as to enhance the security of the population of the countries in the Euro-Atlantic area.
NATO intends to adjust to the new security environment not only in terms of policies, but also in terms of defense capabilities. In Prague the Alliance will declare new initiatives aimed at improving its capability to conduct modern military operations. The Czech Republic wants to offer its extraordinary capabilities in some areas, so as to contribute to the success of the planned initiatives.
While in Prague, NATO will also decide on its fundamental enlargement. This step will improve the security of the new entrants as well as of the Alliance itself. Entry into NATO will enhance the democratic character of the new Allies and deepen the ongoing transformation processes. However, the lasting stabilization of the new members, their capability to contribute to the management of regional crises and defense against terrorism, will also significantly enhance security in the entire Euro-Atlantic area. In the context of the enlargement, the Czech Republic will promote the inclusion of European countries with stable democracy, committed to Euro-Atlantic values and capable of contributing to security in this area.
The Prague Summit will build on the progressing cooperation achieved at the historic meeting in Rome last May between NATO and the Russian Federation. The Alliance’s leading representatives will also discuss the enhancement of cooperation with the Ukraine and the prospects for its gradual integration into the Euro-Atlantic institutions. The Alliance will consult with the Partners associated in the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council and the Partnership for Peace on the possibilities for a better cooperation. The existence of solid relations with the Partners will result in more effective cooperation on security issues and more effective channeling of assistance to countries in transition.
No organization has the capacity to handle the present complex security problems alone. Therefore, NATO is building a strategic partnership with the EU. The joint effort has already produced a number of positive results, namely in addressing ethnic tensions in Macedonia. The Prague Summit should document the Alliance’s determination to develop its cooperation with the EU.
NATO’s long-standing efforts to stabilize the situation in Southeastern Europe have borne fruit. This is evidenced by the growing interest of the countries in the region - including the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia - in closer links and cooperation with NATO. At the Prague Summit, the Allies will reaffirm that NATO’s peacekeeping missions in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in Kosovo will continue until the democratic institutions are fully consolidated and the protection of human rights reliably safeguarded.
For two days this November, Prague will be the host to world politics - a decision will be made on the future orientation of NATO, the most effective politico-military alliance ever. We will welcome the leaders of Allied and Partner countries, many of which have lent us a helping hand during recent difficult times. Some of them were faced with similar disasters. Our country is now entering the difficult stage of coping with the effects of the destructive floods. However, this is also a unique opportunity to demonstrate that we are a firm link in the community based on solidarity and a feeling of belonging together. The Government of the Czech Republic will make every effort to ensure the success of the Alliance’s summit meeting and hopes that its efforts will meet with the support and understanding of the general public.
President Havel Dedicates Statue of Great Czechoslovak Statesman
During the course of his visit to the United States of America, Czech President Vaclav Havel dedicated a statue of Tomas Garrigue Masaryk, the first Czechoslovak President-Liberator, to Washington, D.C.
The festive ceremony took place in the afternoon of September 19, 2002 at the future TGM Memorial Park on the corner of Massachusetts Avenue and 22nd Street, close to the Memorial of another distinguished statesman, M. Gandhi.
The great Czech sculptor Vincenc Makovsky created the statue in 1937, the year of Masaryk’s death. The American Friends of the Czech Republic acquired the statue from the National gallery in Prague, transported it with the financial help of Czech citizens and their compatriots living in the United States to Washington, and achieved an attractive location for it.
“May its presence remind everyone, far all times to come, of what it is that unites the great American nation with the Czech and Slovak nations - our shared ideals of human liberty, human rights, the rule of law, the democratic political system, a free market economy, the awareness of humanity's responsibility for the world - awareness that, as Masaryk used to teach, stems from the realization that the miracle of the world and of human existence is not the mere interplay of haphazard occurrences, but a phenomenon that has a Creator.” - President Vaclav Havel
Pres. Havel Meets with Honorary Consuls of the CR
President Havel and First Lady Dagmar Havlova met with a group of Honorary Consuls representing the Czech Republic in the United States on September 19, 2002. Dr. Martin Palous, the Czech Ambassador to Washington, accompanied the President and the First Lady. During the brief meeting, the Consuls were thanked for their efforts on behalf of the Czech Republic and encouraged to continue in their endeavors.
Honorary Consul General of the Czech Republic in Philadelphia Peter A. Rafaeli presented the President, on behalf of the “Czech Honorary Consular Corps in the U.S.,” with a special “Wedgwood” porcelain “Philadelphia Bowl.” The bowl depicts a number of scenes from historic Philadelphia, the cradle of American democracy, and is displayed on a cherry wood base that bears the following inscription:
Presented by the Honorary Consuls of the Czech Republic
in the United States of America to H.E. Vaclav Havel
First President of the Czech Republic
With admiration and respect for his leadership in returning the Czech Lands to freedom, democracy and a civil society.
Washington, DC on September 19, 2002.
Jan Kavan Elected Pres. of the U.N. General Assembly
Former Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan was elected President of the UN General Assembly, a post he took on September 10th as the 57th session opened in New York.
Shortly after his election, Mr. Kavan said that he would like to use his post to fulfill the millennium declaration that the UN General Assembly approved two years ago. He went on to say that he would pay special attention to the role of the UN in peace and security keeping, in preventing conflicts, and in fighting international terrorism. He also noted that he was aware of the need to carry on the process of revitalizing the General Assembly and that he wanted to continue the effort to reform the UN, an effort that was launched ten years ago, admitting that he did not have any illusions about what could be done within one year. According to Kavan, a reform of the UN Security Council is especially needed.
The path to the Czech chairmanship of the UN General Assembly was opened when Belarus withdrew its candidacy in June. The Czech Republic belongs to the central and east European group. In the past, this group has been represented by Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria and the former East Germany at the head of the UN General Assembly.
Introducing the New Government: Prime Minister
Vladimir Spidla (51) is one of the founding members of the Social Democratic Party, serving successively since 1996 as its spokesman for labor and social affairs, chairman of its regional organization in South Bohemia, and statutory Vice-Chairman of the CSSD. He became the head of the CSSD after former Prime Minister Milos Zeman stepped down from this position.
In 1990, Mr. Spidla became Vice-Chairman of the Jindrichuv Hradec District National Committee responsible for education, health care and social affairs; between 1991 and 1996 he served as Director of the local Labor Office.
Prime Minister Spidla was born on April 22, 1951 in Prague. He graduated from the Faculty of Arts at Prague’s Charles University, having majored in history and prehistory. During the period of “normalization,” he took up diverse blue-collar jobs (e.g., a scene-shifter, a worker in a word-processing plant, and a position in a dairy). He was later employed as a clerk in the Culture Department of the Jindrichuv Hradec District National Committee, an archeologist in the District Museum of the same town, and an industrial plant worker.
Mr. Spidla is married and has four children.
Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of the Interior
Social Democrat Deputy Chairman Stanislav Gross (32) is one of the ministers to continue at his post after the CSSD’s victory in the mid-June elections. Gross, who regularly leads polls as the most popular Czech politician, took over the Interior Ministry two years ago from Vaclav Grulich. While his predecessor had honed in on reforming the state administration, Gross found his strengths in security policy. When the Chamber of Deputies passed the new criminal code last year, Gross began a broad re-organization of the police based on merging the investigative and criminal offices. He was also successful in pushing through a bill on assembly that forbids demonstrators from masking themselves during police actions. Gross presented the drop in the crime rate as a great success of the outgoing CSSD government.
Stanislav Gross was born on October 30, 1969 in Prague. He attended a transportation secondary school and completed his law studies three years ago. He joined the CSSD in 1990 and led the young social democrats until 1993. Between 1995 and 2000, Gross was a deputy and stood at the head of the CSSD deputies’ group. For two years he was deputy chairman of the Chamber of Deputies. He left both posts two years ago to become Interior Minister. Last year, Gross became the CSSD’s statutory deputy chairman.
Gross and his wife Sarka have a five-year-old daughter named Denisa and are expecting their second child in the fall.
Council of Higher Education Celebrates 100 Years of Service
The Council of Higher Education (Matice Vyssiho Vzdelani) celebrates its 100th Anniversary this year. Founded in 1902, the Council has provided scholarships and loans to Americans and Canadians of Czech and Slovak ancestry in all fields of study. In a retreat held in Cedar Rapids, Iowa last fall, the Council’s Board of Trustees, which consists of fourteen educators and business persons, recommitted the Council "to promote Czech and Slovak heritage and culture through the encouragement and support of higher education in the United States and Canada. In the interest of promoting cultural diversity, the Council seeks to increase knowledge of Czech and Slovak heritage and culture, and raise public awareness of contributions made by individuals of Czech and Slovak descent in North America."
One of the means by which the Council encourages and supports higher education is by granting scholarships to students from the United States and Canada of Czech, Slovak, and Ruthenian ancestry on the basis of need and academic achievement or excellence. Last year, the Council awarded over sixty scholarships in amounts ranging from $1,000 to $2,000 to over 60 students studying at over 45 diverse institutions of higher learning in over 23 states.
Finally, it is noteworthy that the Council was instrumental in establishing the teaching of the Czech/Slovak languages at several universities (Nebraska in 1907, Iowa in 1912, Texas in 1915, and later, in the 1920’s at Columbia, Creighton, and St. Procopius), as well as several high schools, notably Harrison and Morton, in the Chicago area. Furthermore, in 1961, the Council contributed toward the establishment of what was to be a Chair of Czech and Slovak Studies at the University of Chicago. Also, the Council has promoted a broader educational program of enlightening Americans of Czech and Slovak descent through lectures, publications, and mobile libraries. In addition, it sponsored clubs at colleges and universities beginning in 1904 at the University of Nebraska. It was at its retreat in 2001 that the Council renewed its commitment to encourage teaching and research in Czech/Slovak culture and language.
Havel Visits Most Severely Flooded Villages
September 2 President Vaclav Havel and Mrs. Dagmar Havlova visited municipalities in west, south and central Bohemia that were most severely afflicted by the recent floods.
The couple started their tour in Svihov, a small historical town of 1,200 people that is probably the most heavily hit in the Plzen region.
After Svihov, the Havels visited the villages of Metly and Predmir in southern Bohemia, which were almost razed to the ground by the flood, and then the village of Stechovice near Prague.
The Havels brought cleaning means, rubber gloves, axes and other items as humanitarian gifts to all of the places that they visited. President Havel donated about 60,000 crowns from his disposal fund.
September 9 In Copenhagen, Czech Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla (CSSD) demanded equality for existing and new EU member countries in his speech held at the Danish Parliament during his official visit to Denmark, the EU-presiding country.
Spidla said in a debate in the Danish Parliament (Folketing) foreign committee that new member states should enter the EU on conditions enabling them competitiveness with the existing members, even in agriculture. Spidla also said he was convinced that the budget situation of new member states would improve considerably after the EU accession, in comparison to the current situation.
September 10 Combating terrorism, prevention of conflicts, and eradication of poverty will be the priorities of the Czech presidency of the 57th session of the UN General Assembly in New York, the Assembly's new president Jan Kavan said in his opening speech.
Kavan, who is a former Czech foreign minister (1998-2002), is taking over the UN post as the first representative of the Czech Republic in the UN’s history. In his speech, Mr. Kavan said that the current anniversary of the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington serves as a reminder to the international community of the necessity to continue fighting international terrorism and to uphold the international anti-terrorism coalition.
Prague NATO Summit to Enter History as Milestone – Havel
September 10 The November NATO summit in Prague will enter history as a milestone, President Vaclav Havel said at a meeting with the heads of NATO member countries' general staffs at Prague Castle. The members of the NATO Military Committee arrived in Prague to check on the state of the preparations for the NATO summit.
"Our country has undergone a big test in the form of a natural disaster recently but it understands that it must do something for the development of the community of solidarity, the community of values, whose member it has become," Havel said.
Besides the chiefs-of-staff of NATO countries, the meeting was attended by Premier Vladimir Spidla, Defense Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik, Senate Chairman Petr Pithart, and Alexandr Vondra, government commissioner for the Prague summit.
September 18 Vladimir Mlynar (Freedom Union-DEU) will become Minister of Information Technologies as of January 1, 2003 as the government of the Social Democrats (CSSD), the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL), and the US-DEU approved the establishment of the new ministry.
Mlynar said that the ministry and himself would seek to prepare a legislation providing for the establishment of an "eGovernment" electronic communication network in the civil service, put an emphasis on the liberal market in Czech communication, and establish an effective and modern post.
"My goal is that at the end of the election term about 25 percent of duties of the civil service be performed in the electronic form," Mlynar said.
September 18 If Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) quits broadcasting from Prague and is moved to another country, it would be a big shame for the Czech Republic, President Vaclav Havel said in Washington during his visit to the USA.
Havel explained to the U.S. senators why the relocation of the U.S.-funded broadcasts was being considered. Havel said that he was worried that a suitable alternative building, to which the radio station could be relocated, was not still found.
"We experienced ourselves what importance the message of Radio Free Europe, the Voice of America and the BBC at the time of the totalitarian regime has had," Havel told journalists.
President Havel said that he had told the U.S. senators that it had been him who had invited Radio Free Europe to broadcast from the Czech Republic.
September 20 New skyscrapers should be built at the place where the twin towers of the World Trade Center stood before the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Czech President Vaclav Havel told journalists in New York after having visited Ground Zero with former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani.
According to Havel, the skyscrapers intrinsically belong to Manhattan, although last year's tragedy should not be forgotten, he said. "I know Manhattan without the two buildings, but I also knew the two buildings. Once I had a dinner at one of them," Havel said.
Havel also awarded Giuliani with a state medal for bravery for his role during the post-September 11 period.
September 22 The Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) received the most votes in the Slovak parliamentary elections, but the pro-reform and pro-Western parties will have a majority in the Parliament.
The Central Election Commission officially announced that the HZDS received 19.5 percent of the vote in the September 20-21 general elections, the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKU) received 15.09 percent and the Smer party received 13.46 percent.
The Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK) received 11.16 percent, the Christian Democrats (KDH) - 8.25 percent, the Alliance of New Citizen (ANO) - 8.01 percent and the Communists (KSS) - 6.32 percent. Out of more than 4.1 million eligible voters, 70.07% took part in the general elections.
The victory of center-right parties in Slovakia’s elections has boosted the country's chances of EU and NATO accession.
September 26 The Ministry for Local Development in Prague released another CZK 160 million for areas hit by August’s disastrous floods. "We released CZK 136 million to the Usti nad Labem region and another CZK 24 million has been earmarked for the Central Bohemian region. The latter already received CZK 50 million," stated Ministry Spokesman Petr Dimun.
The ministry has thus far released CZK 418 million in support of flood-hit areas and people.
The August floods have caused damage to houses and flats worth CZK 1.75 billion, and regions have calculated the necessary repair of damaged housing at over CZK 5 billion. The ministry will provide about CZK 2 billion for housing repair this year.
Flood Relief from American Companies in the CR
The Embassy of the Czech Republic in the USA acknowledges the assistance provided by American companies in the Czech Republic to those who suffered from the largest floods in the nation’s history in August 2002, particularly in the capital city of Prague. According to AmCham (the American Chamber of Commerce in Prague), the Chamber’ s members provided corporate financial contributions, employee donations, or material help (foodstuffs, furnishings, cleaning products, vaccines etc.) in total value of 53.8 million CZK (approximately $1.8 million). Among the major contributors are Eastman Chemical, Procter & Gamble, Colgate-Palmolive, 3M, Phillip Morris, Ahold Czech, Citibank, KPMG, Federal-Mogul Friction Products, Coca-Cola, Pfizer, Marriott Hotels, Amway International, Master foods, Microsoft, SC Johnson, Pharmacia, Dun & Bradstreet, and Marsh.
In addition to this, Microsoft Czech replaced all legal software products and Citibank provided low-interest loans to the victims of the floods.
Claims Trickle In, Deluge on the Horizon
As the floodwaters slowly began to recede, the Czech Republic’s insurance companies began the onerous task of assessing hundreds of thousands of claims. With thousands of people still unable to return home, damage estimates cannot be expected for at least one to two weeks, say insurance company representatives.
But whether or not the final figure reaches the semi-official estimates of CZK 100 billion ($3.2 billion), the disaster is expected to be a major test for the industry and will reveal which companies had adequate insurance and reserves. While most insurance companies seem to have learned their lessons from the last major flooding that hit East Bohemia and Moravia in 1997, the general public had not, with an estimated 50 percent of homes uninsured and many companies cutting corners.
Insurance companies expect that pressure will be brought to bear on the coalition government to bail out the uninsured, but warn against going too far, as this could undermine the insurance business in the Czech Republic. Premiums — which are already under pressure following the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States — will likely go up once all the claims have been paid out.
The country’s insurance companies were mobilizing and many had teams ready to go into the affected areas once the "all clear" was given by the authorities. Hotlines were set up — in some cases toll-free numbers — to deal with the claims.
A major concern for those in the insurance business is that many of those hit by the floods had little or nothing in the way of insurance coverage. The consensus was that there would definitely be companies in flooded areas that thought themselves safe and went without flood insurance. Many companies may also have decided to forego business interruption insurance, which does cover loss of profits for disasters but is often an expensive form of coverage.
The problem is further compounded by the fact that many companies with insurance are under-insured, as they are insured under the old book value system that predominated (continued on page 10) (continued from page 9) during the communist regime, rather than the replacement system.
For thousands of Czech homeowners, the outlook is grim. The outlook is even more so for those who did not bother with insurance, either as a calculated risk or because they may have lacked the funds to buy it, which is very often the case for the elderly. With one in two homes uninsured nationwide, there is little doubt that many of the homes damaged by the floods were not covered.
Insurance company representatives expect that enormous pressure will be exerted on the Social Democrat-dominated coalition government to bail out those without insurance. In 1997, the Czech government picked up some CZK 17 billion of the total CZK 63 billion tab, CZK 5 billion of which was raised through issuing flood bonds. Insurance companies paid out roughly CZK 10 billion in claims. Some in the insurance sector believe the share paid-out by insurance companies will not have grown that much.
During the floods, insurance companies in the Czech Republic stopped signing new contracts with people in areas hit by the floods after panicked home owners apparently tried to buy insurance for areas that were under water within days or even hours. For those wanting to buy insurance after the floods, the consensus was that premiums were likely to go up.
The floods could also bring trying times for smaller insurance companies, as they have higher reinsurance costs. This situation may also bring to light deficiencies in the insurance companies; all insurance companies will suffer, but the recent floods will be a test of their reinsurance programs.
September 11 Some American companies active in the Czech Republic took this day off or limited their operations. Reports say that Americans did not want to call much attention to themselves on this day. U.S. Ambassador Craig Stapleton said that neither he nor the other Americans living in the CR can quickly forget the sincere expressions of sympathy and consolation they received from their Czech friends after September 11, 2001.
September 18 Prague transit officials said that the metro might be back in full operation in February or March. The A (green) line from Skalka to Dejvice should reopen by Christmas. Also, 500 cooks will gather on Charles Bridge on Friday, September 20 to serve goulash and beer as a way to show the world that Prague is ready to greet tourists.
September 26 The International Monetary Fund expects Czech GDP growth to be 2.7% this year and to reach 3.2% next year. This is slightly behind the 3.3% estimate for average GDP growth in the EU candidate countries. Czech representative to the IMF Jiri Jonas said that the relatively low growth is due in part to the floods and the strong crown.
September 30 The European Investment Bank has earmarked 1 billion Euros or around 30 billions Czech crowns in long-term low-interest loans. These funds will be available not only to the Czech Republic, but also to Slovakia, Germany and Austria as countries that were also affected by August’s devastating floods. The European Investment Bank will provide an additional 4 billion Euros in loans next year for regional flood repair. The bank said the repayment of the loans could be spread over 30 years with an initial grace period of seven years where no payment would be required.
October 2 A final figure of CZK 79.5 billion (approximately USD 2.6 billion) was placed on the size of the flood damage yesterday in the eight regions affected. The biggest damage was in Southern Bohemia (CZK 29.3 billion), followed by Prague (CZK 24.0 billion) and Central Bohemia (CZK 10.1 billion). The government had officially estimated that the flood bill could reach CZK 90 billion, and Finance Minister Bohuslav Sobotka has suggested that it could be exceed CZK 100 billion. The final figure could still rise, if the winter weather causes additional damage. The 1997 flood in Moravia caused total damages of CZK 63 billion.
October 8 The 12th international fair of information and communication technologies Invex 2002 opened in Brno yesterday, presenting 810 exhibitors from 16 countries, including the USA. The fair will last until October 11 and focus on business meetings. Last year, more than 135,000 visitors saw 846 expositions from 16 countries.
Radio Free Europe Discontinues Czech Service
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) ceased broadcasting in the Czech language on September 30, after the RFE/RL's board of governors in Washington decided to terminate its funding.
According to RFE/RL Director Thomas Dine, the station's budget now has to cover new priorities and new financial obligations that did not exist before the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington last September. RFE/RL recently began broadcasting to Afghanistan and the Caucasus; meanwhile, broadcasting is being prepared for the Kurds in Iraq. The Czech Republic is a democratic country, a NATO member, and on the verge of a European Union membership, Dine emphasized.
Radio Svobodna Evropa (RSE), the Czech version of RFE/RL, which has ten permanent employees and 15 external workers, broadcasts 40 hours of political and educational programming on Czech Radio each week. The Polish version of RFE/RL stopped broadcasting five years ago, while the Hungarian version closed in 1993.
RFE had been stationed in Munich since 1949, when the commission to develop the radio station was created in a U.S. Government initiative. The first test broadcasts for Czechs and Slovaks were sent on July (continued on page 11) (continued from page 10) 4, 1950 from a van stationed close to the Czechoslovak border. Daily broadcasting began less than a year later on May 1, 1951, with the sentence: "The voice of the free Czechoslovakia is calling."
Many important personalities were present at the birth of the Czechoslovak department of RFE, including journalist and publisher Ferdinand Peroutka and former post-1989 Minister of Culture Pavel Tigrid.
In 1995, RFE/RL moved its headquarters to Prague in an attempt to lower costs. The Czech broadcasts of RFE broke away from the mother even before the move. In February of 1994, the foreign broadcasting committee decided on the creation of a new non-profit organization dubbed Radio Svobodna Evropa (RSE), which began broadcasting in July of 1994 from the premises of Czech Radio. The funding for this broadcasting came from RFE/RL. Since November of 1995, a joint project of RFE/RL, RSE and Czech Radio has been broadcasting from RSE's frequency under the name Czech Radio Free Europe.
Czech Events Around the USA
Through January 5
"The City of K.: Franz Kafka and Prague." The Czech Center New York presents "The City of K: Franz Kafka and Prague," an exhibition featuring photographs, manuscripts, media, and crafted environments that convey the power and meaning of Franz Kafka’s literature in an artfully designed series of installations, taking visitors through the environs of Kafka’s imagination and psyche. Although Prague was never directly mentioned in Kafka’s writing, the city and the man are inextricably linked. "The City of K: Franz Kafka and Prague" explores the tremendous impact that Prague and the era - from the end of the Austro-Hungarian Empire through The Great War to the modern age - had on this young author and his writings. At the Jewish Museum, 1109 Fifth Avenue, New York, NW. For more information, please call 212.423.3200 or visit www.thejewishmuseum.org.
Through October 31
"Tavik Frantisek Simon, Master Printmaker, Images of the Grand Tour.” The Czech Center presents an exceptional body of work by the Czech graphic artist Tavik Frantisek Simon from C. Dudley Brown of Washington’s collection. The exhibition is held in cooperation with the Victorian Society in America, and was organized by Majda Kallab Whitaker. At the Czech Center New York, 1109 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10028. For more information, please visit www.czechcenter.com.
Czech Voice of Cleveland with Joe Kocab on WERE AM/1300 Saturdays 2 - 3 PM and WERE AM/1300 Sundays 1 - 3 PM
Every Second Sunday
The Czech/Slovak Club of Tucson meets the 2nd Sunday of the month at the Knights of Columbus Hall at 1330 Mountain View Avenue (off 22nd Street), Tucson, AZ. The club is closed in June, July and August. For more information, please call 520.625.8868 or email email@example.com.
September 20 - January 5
The National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library hosts Bohemian Women from West River: Mel Spinar Paintings of their Myths and Legends, an exhibit from this South Dakota artist. Located in the NCSML’s South Gallery, 30 16th Avenue, SW, Cedar Rapids, IA. For more information, please call 319.362.8500 or visit www.ncsml.org.
October 31 - November 10
The Black Moon Theatre Company performs Kafka’s "The Metamorphosis" in a La MaMa Theatre debut of an „Expressionistic Realism" production, adapter and directed by Rene Migliaccio in a unique fusion of live theater and film. At LaMaMa E.T.C. (First Floor Theater), 74A East Fourth Street, New York, NY. For tickets and information, please call 212.475.7710 or visit www.lamama.org.
The Orinda/Tabor Sister City Foundation hosts the Stamic Quartet from Prague performing a benefit concert for the Czech Flood Relief fund, as well as to further the foundation and program of exchanges of teachers, doctors and students between Orinda, FL and Tabor in the CR. At 7:30 PM at the Orinda Library. Admission is $28 for adults, $25 for seniors and children. Please send your check to: The Orinda/Tabor Sister City Foundation, c/o Ed Balsdon, 7 El Dorado Lane, Orinda, FL 94563. For further information, please call 925.962.0540.
Twenty-five year old pianist Martin Kasik will make his Lincoln Center recital debut at the Alice Tully Hall in New York City as the tenth recipient of The Michaels Award of Young Concert Artists with a program that includes Bach, Chopin, Ravel and Rachmaninov. At 1941 Broadway at 65th Street. To charge tickets by phone, please call Young Concert Artists at 212.307.6656.
As part of the Music in the Museum Series, the National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library hosts a return performance by the #1 jazz pianist in the Czech Republic, Emil Viklicky and Benny Golbin, an American saxophonist. Tickets are $8 for members and $10 for non-members. At 8 PM in the NCSML Grand Hall, 30 16th Avenue, SW, Cedar Rapids, IA. For more information, please call 319.362.8500 or visit www.ncsml.org.
The Fessenden Ensemble holds an evening of distinctive music, featuring compositions by Bohuslav Martinu (Three Madrigals, violin and viola), among others. At St. Columbia’s Episcopal Church, 4201 Albermarle Street, NW, Washington, DC. General Admission $20, 8-concert subscription: $140, 5-concert general subscription: $90. For more information, please call 202.362.2390.
“Prague-Needs-Help Flood Relief Fund” Established in Washington
The Biggest Flood Since 1890
After a long-lasting heavy rain, six regions of the Czech Republic, including parts of the historic center of the Czech capital city Prague were submerged under water. Severe storms and water have taken a human toll of eleven lives. The flooding has forced more than two hundred thousand people across the country out of their homes, causing a disruption and huge loss in personal belongings as well as security.
For those willing to help, an account has been opened by the American Friends of the Czech Republic in co-operation with the Czech Embassy. Tax deductible contributions can be made by writing a check to "AFoCR - Prague-Needs-Help Flood Relief Fund" and sending it to "AFoCR - Prague-Needs-Help Flood Relief Fund," Citibank FSB, 1901 Wisconsin Ave. N.W., Washington, DC 20007.
The following account number can be used for transfers: 1507-4196, routing No. 254070116.
American Friends of the Czech Republic is a 501 (c) (3) organization. More information available at www.afocr.org
other tax-deductible accounts set up in the USA:
The Foundation for a Civil Society/VIA - send your check to Carol Hochman, Friends of VIA,1541 Pinehurst Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15241.
Please indicate “Flood Relief” or “Cultural
Heritage” on your check.
Friends of Czech Greenways – send your check to FCG/Suzanna Halsey, 515 Avenue I, #1B, Brooklyn, NY 11230.
Please indicate “Friends of Czech Greenways – Flood Fund” on your check.
Project Judaica Foundation – send your check to Project Judaica Foundation, 1017 New Jersey Avenue, SE, Washington, D.C. 20003.
Please indicate “Prague” on your check.
Czech Cultural Center Houston – send your check to Czech Cultural Center Houston, 2315 Del Norte, Houston, TX 77018.
Please indicate “Disaster Relief.”