Czech the News, January 2002


Contents :

Message from the Ambassador

Czech Troops Ready to go to Afghanistan, Some Already There

Ownership of Bohemian National Hall Transferred to the CR

President Havel Addresses the Nation on New Year’s Day

Jagr Chosen as Olympic Captain

Visa Waiver for US Citizens Extended

President Havel Appears on CNN

Tenth Anniversary of the Nobel Prize for Aung Suu Kyi

New Honorary Consulate Opens in San Juan, Puerto Rico

News Digest

Euro Makes Headlines in the CR

Wage up Nine Percent on Average

Lower House Passes 2002 Budget

Business Digest

Slovaks Still Like Czech Beer

Thirtieth International Exhibition of Children’s Art in Lidice

Arnost Lustig Celebrates his 75th Birthday

Artist of the Month – Arnost Lustig

Events at the Embassy

Czech Events Around the USA


Message from the Ambassador

Let us start the New Year with good news: After a long and strenuous process, the Bohemian Hall in New York is going to have a new future. The Czech state, which recently acquired ownership of the historical building from the Bohemian Benevolent and Literary Association, has committed itself to its preservation. The investment of 10 million dollars will create a facility whose existence will not only strengthen the presence of the Czech element in Manhattan, but will also serve as a new impulse for the whole Czech-American community. In order to dispel all doubts about this transaction, which has been widely discussed for nearly twelve years, the former owners will be guaranteed the unlimited right to utilize one floor of the building for free, while all plans for its future uses will be realized in close cooperation with them. The Czech state's intention is certainly not to "nationalize" the Bohemian National Hall, but to bring it back to all those who are interested in it and care about the multiform relationships between the Czech lands and America. I know that those who have thus far felt negatively about the deal can hardly be convinced by a couple of nice sentences and what they may consider at best to be pious wishes from a naive ambassador, but I would like to stick to my vision anyway -- a vision which I believe is shared by many like-minded Czechs and Czech-Americans: let us, on the basis of mutual trust and understanding, build a dynamic new center for cultural exchange, educational activities, trade promotion etc., between the Czech Republic and the United States; let us contribute to the preservation of many important traces of our common past, which are unmistakably present here; let us at the same time build a bridge between the past and the future, and let us think with open eyes and fresh minds about what we, as the Czech-American community, want to become in the so far unknown world of the 21st century.



Czech Troops Ready to go to Afghanistan, Some Already There

O n December 19 and 20, both houses of the Parliament approved the deployment of Czech Army troops in the U.S.-led campaign against terrorism and the UN peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan. The Czech chemical-protection unit and field hospital will participate in operation ”Enduring Freedom.” The contingent of up to 400 soldiers can operate under its current mandate until September 30, 2002. In addition to a chemical-protection unit, a rapid deployment brigade of up to 200 soldiers will participate in the UN Afghan peace keeping mission, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

Czechs have also joined the resumed international efforts to provide humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan. In a refugee camp near Mazar-i-Sharif in northern Afghanistan, the People in Need Foundation has been distributing food financed by the government. The Czech aid consists of 40 tons of rice, sugar and oil. During the critical winter months, the foundation will also distribute medicine, medical material, tents and blankets. In the spring, the foundation aims to launch development programs, such as the distribution of grain seeds, assistance in irrigation canal restoration, and the reconstruction of destroyed houses, schools and hospitals.

Ownership of Bohemian Hall Transferred to the Czech Republic

On December 7, 2001 at 2 p.m., ownership of the Bohemian Hall at 321 East 73rd Street in Manhattan was passed to the Czech Republic, a final step in the process of transferring the building according to the contract between the Bohemian Benevolent and Literary Association (BBLA) and the Czech Republic, signed on January 31, 2001 and amended on May 24, 2001.

Thus begins a new period of cooperation, not only between the BBLA and the Czech Republic, but also between the entire Czech-American community and its country of origin. After the building’s reconstruction, which is planned to be completed in the Spring of 2004, the Bohemian Hall will become a common space for organizing events and meetings of Czechs living in America and their countrymen back home.

The origins of the recently completed contract date back to 1997, when the BBLA and the Czech Republic began to negotiate over cooperation on the reconstruction of the Bohemian Hall. The only feasible and mutually advantageous solution appeared to be to transfer ownership of the building to the Czech Republic, which would consequentially commit (continued on page 3) (continued from page 1) to reconstruct the entire building and give use of one floor to the associations of the umbrella organization of BBLA rent-free.

The years of 1998 and 1999 marked the negotiations of details of the rather complicated legal relationship, the approval of the whole project by the Czech government (January 2000), and the arrival at the preliminary agreements of the individual member associations of the BBLA.

The contract documents were prepared in the year 2000, when they were also presented and discussed with the New York State Attorney General’s Bureau for Non-Profit Organizations. Individual member associations of the BBLA discussed the matter once again and approved the contract with the necessary three-fourth (3/4) majority of BBLA votes. After the contract was amended in the first half of 2001, the New York State Attorney General approved it and certified that the proposed transaction was fair to the BBLA, and that it allowed for the association to develop future activities in cooperation with the Czech Republic in the reconstructed building.

After the Attorney General approved the contract on June 14, 2001, the BBLA, as the selling party, asked the New York State Supreme Court for the contract’s certification. However, at that time three opponents of the entire project filed a lawsuit, which resulted in a court hearing, rather than a simple process of court approval. Thus the entire procedure, which was also affected by the tragic events of September 11, took more than five months. On November 29, Judge Martin Schoenfeld, Jr. issued a judgement in which he approved the sale of the Bohemian Hall to the Czech Republic under the conditions given by the valid contracts. At the same time, he rejected the lawsuit filed by the opponents. Thus all conditions needed for the completion of the transaction were fulfilled.

The Czech Republic is aware of the great responsibility it assumes as it takes over the property built between 1895 and 1897 from the funds of Czech-American associations and, until today, held and managed by the Bohemian Benevolent and Literary Association. It intends to reconstruct the building in the shortest possible time, in the best quality, and according to its status as a Landmark of the City of New York. After the reconstruction, the CR intends to place the offices of the Consulate General and the Czech Center in the building and to operate the grand ballroom together with the Czech-American community. The BBLA will utilize the entire third floor, while Czech-American foundations, exhibitions, museums and a Czech pub should find their homes in various other spaces of the building.

Contributed by Petr Gandalovic, Consul General of the CR in New York


President Havel Addresses the Nation on New Year’s Day

In his traditional New Year's speech, broadcast by Czech Television and Czech Radio, Vaclav Havel focused on a variety of issues at the beginning of the new year, including the importance of the election year 2002 for the further development of Czech democracy.

Following are excerpts from President Havel's New Year's Address:

”Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Fellow Citizens,

I wish to share with you one very personal, profound sentiment: I feel that tonight we have embarked upon a year which, in a sense, may well be a year of pivotal importance for our country. Not only will a total of four elections be held but, more importantly, in those elections crucial matters will be at stake.

Only now, twelve years after the fall of Communism, are innumerable causes - that are converging, intertwining and complementing each other in various ways - bringing about a situation in which we shall presumably be deciding on the future character of our society and our State, the form of our mutual coexistence, the manner in which our country shall be incorporated into the surrounding world, and the climate that shall prevail in our public life, and consequently indirectly on the lives of each and every one of us.”

President Havel (continued on page 4) (continued from page 2) went on to mention the future of the Czech Republic as part of the enlarged Europe:

”John Amos Comenius wrote that, as Europeans, we are like voyagers on an enormous ship. This is indeed the case. At all times, Europe has been one single huge, yet intricately structured political body. Its internal order, however, was always imposed by the more powerful entities upon the weaker ones; and whenever the weaker entities succeeded in safeguarding their dignified positions, they usually did so at the cost of endless sacrifices. Fifty years of European integration constitutes an historically first attempt to organize Europe in a truly equitable way, and with full respect for the will of all those participating in it. Hence, this integration has been evolving toward the benefit of all Europeans; it is due to this integration that peace has prevailed for so long on our continent.

There is firm hope that in the course of this year the relevant deliberations will be concluded and that the treaty of accession for admitting the Czech Republic into the European Union will be drawn up, and perhaps even signed. This opportunity, too, confirms that this year will indeed be a pivotal year. Perhaps for the first time in its history our country will become a firm part of a solidary, genuinely democratic European alliance which gradually - and in certain aspects very rapidly - will be translated into a host of practical benefits, but which above all will be of absolutely fundamental historical importance."

Reflecting on issues of global importance, President Havel shared his view on the tragic events of September 11 in the United States:

”An American friend of mine observed that the sacrifices caused by the terrorist attacks of last year's September 11th have not been in vain. In a certain peculiar sense, those persons died for their entire homeland, as they did for our entire contemporary civilization. Their horrific deaths and subsequently their families' sufferings, as well as the shock experienced by the entire world have alerted us, in a highly drastic way, to the evil existing in this world and to the easy access to all inventions of modern times, which in the hands of fanatics can so effortlessly become instruments of mass destruction. This has been a great portent, a great challenge for deeds, a great impulse for the strengthening of human solidarity, for the ability of self-restraint and for the willingness to struggle for fundamental human values; this has been a great impetus toward a new perception of the world we inhabit and of all the threats looming over it. It is a sad paradox that the persons who died as passengers in the hijacked planes and those killed in the attacked buildings pointed to civilization's problems more acutely than do the hundreds of thousands, and even millions of people who are dying of starvation, diseases and senseless local wars in a host of impoverished, or semi-forgotten parts of the world. And yet, in a way, the September 11th victims drew attention to the fates of those people, as well.

Let us hope that that horrendous event helped to awaken to life all the forces of good that are slumbering within humanity.

Permit me, at this point, to suggest a minor metaphor: in the spirit of the apocalypse, that horror descended from the heavens. If only it would move all of us to glance above ourselves more often and more attentively, toward where human civilizations have traditionally sensed the source of that mysterious gift: the world, all life within it, and the human spirit!

I believe that that event has had, and will continue to have, a cathartic significance in our region, too. I believe it will strengthen within us an awareness that we are not merely citizens of the Czech Republic, inhabitants of one or other community, specialists in this or that field, voters for one or another political party but that last, though by no means least, we are also inhabitants of this planet, whose individual destinies have perhaps never before been so firmly interlinked in one single destiny.

The notion that a possible attack on New York City or Washington D.C. would also constitute an attack on Prague would have seemed, until just recently, like a mere cliché. Yet today this is an accurate description of the true state of affairs.”

President Vaclav Havel concluded his New Year’s address by wishing everyone ”much happiness, good health, inner peace and great successes in the year 2002!”

Jagr Chosen as Olympic Captain

The Czech Republic’s 2002 Olympic hockey team will be led by Washington Capitals winger Jaromir Jagr. The Czech team, which won the 98 Winter Olympic Games in Nagano, Japan will defend its first place stance at the 2002 Winter Games held in Salt Lake City from February 8 to 24. The right wing Jagr follows Vladimir Ruzicka, who led the Czech Team as captain to the gold medal in Nagano in 1998. Fellow Czech NHL players who will join Jagr include Dominik Hasek, Martin Rucinsky, Patrik Elias, Petr Sykora, Milan Hejduk, and others.

Jagr is looking forward to his position as captain of the team. He is highly regarded both in Washington and in the Czech Republic, where he is held at an almost god-like status. Many Czechs consider Jagr to be a symbol of success since he is the first player to ”make it big” after the fall of communism. Though he plays for an American league, Jagr’s Czech connections have not been changed by his success in the U.S. He wears (continued on page 5) (continued from page 2) a symbolic number ”68” on his uniform to protest communism and to remember the Soviet invasion during the Prague Spring of 1968 and he returns to Kladno every summer to spend time with his parents. ”I love coming back here every year because the whole country feels like one big family,” Jagr says. Lubos Rys, Jagr’s childhood coach and mentor, has said that Jagr has a strong heart and a ”fast brain.”

After playing for the Pittsburgh Penguins for a long time and leading his team to two Stanley Cup championships in 1991 and 1992, Jagr was traded to the Capitals in July 2001. Though there have been some adjustment problems, the Capitals have faith that Jagr will eventually become more comfortable with the team. The trade was seen as the most important move in the Capitals’ 27 year history and the switch has allowed Jagr to make a fresh start.

Another prominent NHL star playing for the Capitals is Peter Bondra, who came to the U.S. in 1990. Bondra was born in the Ukraine and raised in Slovakia. He first joined the Czech League and was later spotted by the NHL when they began looking to multi-national tournaments in Europe. Bondra never dreamed of joining the NHL and was content with the Czech League. However, he was drafted after being observed by an NHL executive. Once he joined, things were still not easy for Bondra — he could not speak English and had to have a translator in order to understand the coach’s instructions. However, after a lot of hard work, Bondra is considered to be one the greatest goal scorers of his generation and a national hero in Slovakia.

Most recently, Frantisek Kucera, a native of the Czech Republic, was picked to join the Washington Capitals. Kucera has a lot of experience in the NHL and was named top defender in the league three times, as well as MVP of the Czech league from 1999-2000. He and Jagr were teammates in Nagano when they won the gold medal..

Jaromir Jagr, Peter Bondra and Frantisek Kucera have overcome many boundaries to get where they are today and have become symbols of success to all.

Visa Waiver for U.S. Citizens Extended

Beginning January 1, 2002 a new visa regime for US travelers to the Czech Republic entered into force. Under the previous regulation, US citizens were allowed to stay on the territory of the Czech Republic without a visa for 30 days; the Czech Government’s new initiative extends the limit to 90 days.

However, the visa waiver does not apply to visitors intending to engage in gainful activities. In such cases (employment, etc.), a visa will be required for visits shorter than 90 days. At the same time, the new regulation does not impact visa requirements for long term visitors (over 90 days) or non US nationals who are temporarily or permanently residing on US territory.

President Havel Appears on CNN

On December 2, 2001 an interview with Czech President Vaclav Havel was broadcast on CNN’s Larry King Live, where he was asked about the Czech Republic’s position after the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States. President Havel proudly stated that the Czech Republic is unified in its backing of the U.S., noting, ”Our citizens showed great solidarity to Americans.” There was an outpouring of popular sympathy for America in the Czech Republic on September 11 — Czech citizens offered their help and many people brought flowers to the American Embassy in Prague as a sign of support.

Havel was also questioned about the current status of Czech - Russian relations. Overall, said Havel, the relations are good. Although President Havel has not yet met President Putin, he is confident that relations will continue to improve even beyond the good ties that he had with Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin in the past. Havel also stated that he is happy with the improvement of NATO relations with Russia and that good international relations are not a question of the Alliance alone, but are a much wider issue in the ”future security architecture of this world.”

When asked about his health, Havel grinned and said, ”Thank you for your interest. I am well.” After his term in office concludes, Havel hopes to have more time to study and think.

10th Anniversary of Nobel Prize for Daw Aung Suu Kyi

December 8, 2001 marked ten years since the Burmese dissident Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace. On the occasion of this 10 year anniversary, the Nobel Prize Laureates met in Oslo, Norway, as well as in assemblies in 30 places throughout the world, to support both the democratization process and the dissident movement in Burma.

President Vaclav Havel, who strongly supports Ms. Aun San Suu Kyi and the democratic movement in Burma, has repeatedly invited her to attend the annual Forum 2000 conferences in Prague. However, her participation has been denied every year by the ruling military regime in Burma.

President Havel has sent the following message to the participants of the assemblies throughout the world:

It has been ten years since the Nobel Prize for Peace was conferred upon Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who became a symbol of the struggle for democracy and human rights. I believe that, indeed, as the world expressed solidarity against the battle with totalitarian regimes in Central Europe . . . it is now the duty of the Czech Republic, and of all of us, to repay this debt by supporting democratic powers.

Czech citizens remember well the years of oppression under the Communist regime and are aware that not all nations in the world were lucky to free themselves.

Recently, that is on November 17, 2001 we recalled the 12th Anniversary of the student demonstrations in Prague which led to the fall of the communist regime. Let these two anniversaries remind us that values, such as human rights and democracy, are universal and valid throughout the world.

Therefore, I add my voice to the support of all events which aspire to achieve justice and democracy in Burma by peaceful means. I wish Mrs. Aun San Suu Kyi, and all those who believe in democracy, great success and, as it appears in the motto of our presidential flag: ”Truth Prevails.”

New Honorary Consulate Opens in San Juan, Puerto Rico

On December 3, 2001 a new Honorary Consulate of the Czech Republic commenced activities in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The official opening was attended by the Ambassador of the Czech Republic to the USA, Mr. Martin Palous, and other distinguished guests.

Mrs. Judith Ann Conde (Gordon) has been appointed to the post of honorary consul. Mrs. Conde is an active member in the media industry and has practiced everything from public relations to hosting and producing her own television program, as well as writing for daily newspapers. Among her other activities, she has served as a board member of the Chamber of Commerce of Puerto Rico, Director of the Board of Directors of the Puerto Rico Convention Bureau, Director of the Dr. Raul Garcia Rinaldi Foundation, Director for the Pediatric Foundation, a Board Member for the Ponce Museum of Arts and a Board Member for the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra. Mrs. Conde was born in Worcester, Massachusetts and is fluent in Spanish, having lived in Puerto Rico for over 35 years. She graduated from the Sacred Heart University in 1974 as an honor student with a B.A. in Literature. From 1967 to the present, she has been the President of Television Programs in San Juan, producer of The Judy Gordon Show, featuring interviews with local and international celebrities such as Placido Domingo, Lech Walesa and Julio Iglesias. In 1993, she began writing her monthly Art Talk column in the Caribbean Business Newspaper and in 1994 she began to write her weekly Puerto Rico Social columns and a monthly Puerto Rico Social magazine for the San Juan Star Daily Newspaper. Mrs. Conde also worked as a Special Assistant to the Mayor of San Juan from 1985-89. She has been married to Carlos Conde III since 1977 and has one son and three daughters. Mrs. Conde is a woman who seems to have it all: success, a good career, and a family — and she strongly believes that all women can do the same.

The new Consulate is situated at:

62 Caleta San Francisco

Old San Juan, Puerto Rico 00901

tel. 1-787-722 0939

fax 1-787-723 5787

E-mail :

Mailing address :

Honorary Consulate of the Czech Republic

P.O. Box 9022254

San Juan, PR 00902-2254

News Digest

Poll Shows Pithart and Havel Enjoy Great Confidence of the Public

December 3 A poll conducted by the STEM agency showed that Senate Chairman Petr Pithart (Christian Democrat, KDU-CSL) is the most trustworthy Czech politician and enjoys great confidence of the public. The poll also showed that public trust for President Vaclav Havel is strong; in November he enjoyed the trust of 48 percent of the people. Confidence in Pithart rose to 50 percent in November, from 46 percent in the first half of the year.


Czech SFOR Troops End Their Mission in Bosnia

December 3 In a process of consolidating the Czech military presence in the Balkans, the Czech contingent of the international SFOR forces, comprised of 600 soldiers, concluded its mission in Bosnia. Czech troops were deployed in Bosnia since the beginning of 1996. The participation of the Czech mechanized battalion was praised by both NATO command and local Bosnians. In January 2002, the Czech Republic will raise its contingent in KFOR from 200 to 400 troops. Later in December, at a meeting of NATO Defense Ministers in Brussels, Czech Defense Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik said that at the British request, the Czech Republic was considering deploying army helicopters in the region.


President Havel Vetoes Church Law

December 5 President Vaclav Havel vetoed the law on churches and religious associations and returned the legislation to the Chamber of Deputies for renewed deliberation. According to the President, the law infringes on the European Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, since it prevents churches from running their own hospitals and charity foundations. On December 18, however, the Chamber of Deputies overrode President Havel’s veto by votes of the Social Democrats, Civic Democrats and the Communists. Representatives of the Catholic Church hinted that they would challenge the law before the Constitutional Court.


Bill Gates Donates Windows to Czech Schools

December 5 Microsoft Corp. Chairman Bill Gates announced that all computers supplied to Czech schools under the project ”Internet to Schools” would be equipped with the Windows operating system free of charge. Microsoft also decided to extend its project to children's hospitals and other medical entities. The gift will save Czech schools about 325 million CZK of the project budget. The Ministry of Education plans to invest 7.4 billion CZK by 2005 in computers, the Internet and other modern technologies for schools.


Czechs Close Energy Chapter in EU Talks

December 10 The Czech Republic closed the energy and justice and home affairs chapters in its EU accession talks in Brussels today. Foreign Minister Jan Kavan noted that a statement made by his Austrian counterpart, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, did not mention the possible reopening of the energy chapter, something Vienna had threatened in connection with safety concerns over the Temelin nuclear power plant. On November 29, the Czech Republic and Austria reached an agreement that the Czech safety commitments would be attached to the future protocol of Czech accession to the EU and in return, Austria would not block negotiations on the Czech Republic’s accession to the EU. The Czech Republic has now closed 24 out of 30 accession chapters.


Majority of Czechs for Entry to EU - Eurobarometer

December 12 More than half of Czechs (54 percent) would have voted for the country's entry into the European Union in a referendum if it had been called in the fall, according to an international poll by the Gallup Institute and the European Commission carried out in EU countries and 13 EU candidates states. Less than 20 percent of Czechs would vote against entry to the EU and 15 percent would not take part in such a referendum at all. Ten percent of the respondents were undecided.



Chamber of Deputies Approves Amended Electoral Law

December 13 The Chamber of Deputies passed a government draft amendment to the law on parliamentary elections, which is necessary for holding elections in 2002. The bill, which is yet to be approved by the Senate and signed by the President, restores two voting days, divides the country into 14 election districts, and provides for the classical d'Hondt method of assigning parliamentary seats. It also requires at least a five-percent popular vote threshold, even within the coalition, to get into Parliament.

Havel Says He Has Understanding for Bush's ABM Decision

December 13 According to his spokesman, President Vaclav Havel understands U.S. President George W. Bush's decision to withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM). The Czech President believes that "we are entering a world in which it is necessary to strengthen defense systems and to limit systems of offense in every way possible. In this regard, the ABM Treaty is obsolete." President Havel made a similar statement at a meeting of NATO heads of state in Brussels on June 13. He firmly believes that "the U.S. and Russia will find a solution, within the coming six months, of replacing this treaty and concluding truly modern agreements which will correspond to the new security situation in the world."


Brno's Tugendhat Villa Placed onto UNESCO List

December 14 The Tugendhat villa in the city of Brno, designed by the renowned late German architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, entered as the eleventh Czech site in the UNESCO list of world heritage. The Brno villa is a rare example of the functionalist architecture from the period between the world wars. Among the ten Czech sites already on the list are the historical centers of Prague and Cesky Krumlov, the Archbishop's Palace and the adjacent chateau gardens in Kromeriz, and the baroque Trinity column in Olomouc.


Freedom Union Approves Merger with DEU

December 15 A national conference of the Freedom Union smoothly approved the party's merger with the non-parliamentary Democratic Union (DEU), the Union's minor ally within the center-right opposition Coalition-of-Four (4K) grouping. The two parties will present themselves under a common name of the Freedom Union-DEU as of January 2002. With the Freedom Union and the DEU merging, the 4K becomes a three-party grouping. The 20 percent vote threshold for a four-party coalition to get into the Parliament in the mid-2002 elections will thus be reduced to 15 percent.


Czech Republic Satisfied with EU's Stands in Laeken

December 15 "I'm satisfied with this summit's results, as it approved important things," Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman said at a press conference after a joint lunch of EU countries' Prime Ministers and their counterparts from EU candidate countries at the EU summit in Laeken. ”The enlargement process has been confirmed as irreversible. It was said that it would end in 2004 [by the admission of] the best prepared candidate countries,” Prime Minister Zeman said. According to Milos Zeman, domestic politicians will soon start to consider nominations for the Convention on the future of the EU. In the 105-member Convention, the 13 candidate countries will be represented by two parliamentary deputies and one government official. Prime Minister Zeman said that he strived for a ”joint creation of dreams, or visions and projects,” rather than decision-making.


Czech Trial of Ex-Communist Prime Minister Begins

December 17 A Prague court began the trial of former Czechoslovak Interior Minister (1961-65) and Prime Minister (1970-88) Lubomir Strougal for abuse of power. The 77-year-old former official is accused of blocking the prosecution in 1965 of Communist-era secret police suspected of murdering three men after brutal interrogations. Strougal, who pleads innocent, faces up to 10 years in prison.


Havel Signs Judicial Bill into Law, But Will Challenge Some Provisions

December 19 President Vaclav Havel signed a law aimed at improving and accelerating court proceedings in the Czech Republic. However, President Havel will appeal to the Constitutional Court over clauses that could compromise judges’ independence as soon as the law comes into effect. He criticizes two aspects in particular: one that allows judges to simultaneously work in public administration, and another giving the Justice Minister considerable authority over assessments related to judges’ performance.


State Attorney Charges Former Leaders with Treason

December 19 The Prague State Attorney’s Office filed treason and subversion charges against two senior figures in the Communist-era Czechoslovak government in connection with the 1968 Warsaw Pact invasion. Milous Jakes and Jozef Lenart are accused of "conspiracy to commit treason and subversion." The two sought to legalize the invasion by Soviet-block troops through the ”workers’ and peasants’ government,” something the State Attorney’s Office insists was against the Constitution at the time.


Czech Police to Undergo Substantial Changes

December 20 Czech Interior Minister Stanislav Gross said that a sweeping reorganization of police structures and procedures set to take effect on January 1, 2002 will be the most dramatic in Czech history. According to Minister Gross, the reforms, which will eliminate investigators’ offices and merge their work with the criminal police under a new Criminal Police and Investigation Service, should accelerate and improve the effectiveness of criminal procedures and eliminate some areas of overlap between law enforcement agencies. The move is aimed in part at increasing coordination across the country by subordinating regional and local investigators to a national structure.

Euro Makes Headlines in the Czech Republic

The euro was officially unveiled in the Czech Republic on December 5. The currency’s upcoming introduction of notes and coins is all over the Czech news. Yet again, the Czech crown has reached a new high against the euro. On December 12 the crown traded at 32.60 Czech crowns to the euro.

Analysts say there will be an immediate impact because German marks and Austrian schillings are very commonly used foreign currencies. Once the Czech Republic joins the European Union, it is assumed that the euro will sooner rather than later replace all of the country’s foreign transactions, even though Czechs will have to wait another few years before they can enter the European Monetary Union.

In a related development, Jablonec-based mint Bizuterie Ceska Mincovna will invest CZK 50-70 million in the next five years to prepare for the minting of the euro coins.

In the meantime, the Czech Roman Catholic church has come up with a novel idea preceding the introduction of the euro and the abolition of 12 of the EU’s 15 national currencies: the Church held a charity fundraising for donations of coins from Eurozone countries that people will not have the chance to spend or change themselves. The money will be used to fund orphanages and other charity projects.

Lower House Passes 2002 Budget

The Czech Republic will have a deficit budget in 2002 amounting to CZK 46.2 billion, as decided by the Chamber of Deputies on December 18, 2001.

Revenues will total CZK 690.4 billion and expenditures CZK 736.6 billion. The bill was backed by the Social Democrat (CSSD) and Civic Democratic Party (ODS) deputies and was opposed by the Communist (KSCM), the Christian Democrat (KDU-CSL) and the Freedom Union (US) deputies.

Over a hundred changes to the original version have been approved, but many others, especially proposals for higher investments on the local level, have been turned down.

Analysts say that while the budget’s passing was expected, it is still positive news. The budget, however, does not resolve the problems of fiscal policy, the analysts argue. The revenue side is likely to be strained next year because of a slower than expected GDP growth. The final version of the budget is acceptable for both Premier Milos Zeman and Chamber of Deputies chairman Vaclav Klaus.

Wage up Nine Percent on Average

Figures released for the third quarter show that the average gross monthly wage rose by almost 9 percent to CZK 14,400. In general, wage growth was lower in the private sector than in the public sector, where wages have traditionally been significantly lower. The highest wage growth was seen in sectors which already enjoy the highest wages, such as air transport, banking, and insurance, where salaries grew by more than 17 percent.

The figures also show that the gap between wages in Prague and in the rest of the country is still significant - employees in Prague get paid around 30 percent more than those in the regions where salaries are lowest, e.g. Northern Moravia.

Business Digest

December 4 Skoda Auto CEO Mr. Vratislav Kulhanek met with representatives of the Russian government to discuss building a car assembly plant in Moscow. According to newspapers, the tentative deal could bring most of the production of Skoda, Volkswagen and Audi to the country for the promising Russian market.

December 5 Microsoft founder Bill Gates visited Prague to launch Microsoft’s new product MS Visual Studio.Net. While in Prague, Mr. Gates also announced that Czech schools will receive the Windows operating system for free under the ”Internet for Schools” project - a gift worth CZK 325 million.

December 6 Czech Railways began offering ticket booking over the Internet for selected high-speed trains at From now on, travellers can book their tickets as far as two months in advance and at least two days before their departure.

December 11 Prime Minister Milos Zeman announced that the cabinet will postpone the privatization of Cesky Telecom until after the June election, when the next government can get a better price. The opposition welcomed the decision.

December 11 According to data from domestic car importers and manufacturers, almost 140 thousand new cars have been sold so far this year, a 3.1 percent annual increase. The largest domestic manufacturer, Skoda Auto, increased its domestic sales by 5.8 percent. Skoda also has the highest sales of utility vehicles, despite discontinuing their production.

December 13 The Czech National Bank decided to cut interest rates to an all-time low in the face of a weakening global economy. The discount rate for commercial bank loans was cut by half a percent to 3.75 percent — the first time the rate has ever dipped below 4 percent. Other key interest rates were also cut by half a percent.

December 13 A London court ruling upheld an earlier decision by a lower court last year that allowed Budejovicky Budvar to use the ”Bud” name in the United Kingdom. Since the St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch began to aggressively export its beers over the past two decades, it has tried to prevent Budvar from using the same name in countries where they are both distributors. Anheuser-Busch exports to more than 80 countries and the state-owned brewer in the Czech city of Ceske Budejovice (Budweis) now sells to more than 60 countries. According to the press, both companies are involved in nearly 40 court cases and more than 40 administrative proceedings at patent offices. The Czech company has so far prevailed in most European markets, recently winning trademark cases in Germany and Lithuania. Budvar reported a 6.5 percent year-on-year increase in exports for the first three months of this year.

December 14 Czech food prices may grow some 10-20 percent by 2004, according to the Chairman of the Czech Agriculture Association, Mr. Miroslav Jirovsky. The Chairman attributed the hike to costs related to the preparatory steps for the EU accession, the removal of non-tariff trade barriers within the EU, and to the adjustment of local price levels of agricultural products to EU market prices.

December 17 Foreign direct investment (FDI) reached CZK 110.3 billion ($3.1 billion) for the first three quarters of 2001, a drop of CZK 13.9 billion compared to the previous year. However, the Czech National Bank expects a significant increase in the last quarter due to privatization revenues. Most of the foreign investment in 2001 came from EU countries (CZK 97 billion), particularly from Germany (39.4 billion), the Netherlands ( 26.9 billion) and France (9.9 billion), while U.S. companies invested a mere CZK 8.9 billion in the same period.

December 20 President Vaclav Havel signed several bills including the 2002 state budget which was passed by the Chamber of Deputies on December 18 by votes of the ruling Social Democrats (CSSD) and the allied opposition Civic Democrats (ODS).

President Havel also signed a law on road tax under which the tax for vehicles manufactured before 1989 is increased by 15 percent.

Another law signed by the President is ”the atomic law,” which aims to harmonize Czech regulations with EU legislation.

Slovaks Still Like Czech Beer

Since the split of Czechoslovakia at the beginning of 1993, the Slovaks have never lost their taste for Czech beer and thus, Czech breweries enjoy healthy sales figures in Slovakia. One major Czech brewery, Velkopopovicky Kozel, whose product is also sold in the United States, has doubled its sales in Slovakia in the last year to an estimated 170 thousand hectoliters and is the biggest selling foreign beer. Several others, such as the most popular Czech beer Gambrinus, as well as Budvar-Budweiser and Krusovice are also doing well.

The 30th International Exhibition of Children’s Art in Lidice

The 30th Annual Lidice Exhibition of Children's Art will open in June 2002 at the Museum of Strakonice Castle in Southern Bohemia. A familiar contest to young artists and their instructors worldwide, the Lidice Exhibition offers children across the globe a special opportunity to showcase their talents and celebrate their lives through art.

The Exhibition is open to artists between the ages of four and sixteen and welcomes submissions of paintings, graphics, photographs and sculptures in all media such as metal, ceramics, wood, textiles, paper, etc. The year 2002 has been designated the ”International Year of Mountains,” but other subjects will be welcomed, particularly those reflecting the permanent theme of the Exhibition: the lives of the world's children. All entries must be received no later than April 1, 2002 in order to be evaluated for entry. Works received after this date will be reserved for inclusion in the 2003 Exhibition.

The International Exhibition of Children's Art in Lidice is held to honor the memory of the young victims of the town of Lidice, destroyed by the Nazis during the German occupation of the Czech lands. This event has been organized by the Mlada fronta Publishing House, the Municipality of Lidice, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, the Czech Commission for Cooperation with UNESCO, the Ministries of Culture and Education of the Czech Republic, the Czech-Slovak Foreign Institute, and the Strakonice Castle Museum.

For information on submissions, please contact: 30th International Exhibition of Children's Art Lidice 2002, Mgr. Luba Riedlbauchova, Exhibition Secretary, Mlada fronta, a.s., Radlicka 61, 150 00 Praha 5 - Radlice, Czech Republic.

Arnost Lustig Celebrates his 75th Birthday

On December 21, 2001 Arnost Lustig, one of the greatest Czech writers of the second half of the 20th century, celebrated his 75th birthday. We would like to offer our sincere regards to him on this occasion and wish him a lot of successful books, screenplays and soccer matches in the years to come.

Artist of the Month: Arnost Lustig

Introduced by Chad Evans Wyatt’s 101 Artists in the Czech Republic

Arnost Lustig (1926) is Professor of Film and Literature at the American University in Washington, DC. One of the founders of Czech Nouvelle Cinema in the 1960’s, he is the author of numerous stories and 13 books, five of which were made into films in his native Czech Republic. Trained in journalism, sociology, and political science, he took issue with the Czechoslovak Writers’ Union in 1967 over the government’s anti-Israeli stance, and was proclaimed an ”enemy of the people” and ”part of the Zionist conspiracy.” The following year he emigrated to Israel, where he worked on a kibbutz. The next year, he worked in the former Yugoslavia on a film about Tito; in the fall of 1970, he emigrated to the US. Since the Velvet Revolution of 1989, he has divided his time between Prague and the US, making both countries his home. As he puts it, ”sometimes over the ocean I don’t know if I am coming or going,” as he works and teaches in both lands. A survivor of Theresienstadt, Buchenwald, and Auschwitz, Lustig made the Holocaust the central theme of his fiction. He writes about the humanity of the dehumanized, the courage of the terrorized and the possibilities of moral triumph in the face of fear and humiliation. As one critic of his works said, ”No writer in Europe, in the East or in the West, has expressed as much truth about the time of the Holocaust as Arnost Lustig.” His works have been translated into more than 20 languages; among those in English are A Prayer for Katerina Horovitzova (1974), Night and Hope (1976), Darkness Casts no Shadow (1977), Diamonds of the Night (1978), The Unloved (1986), and Beautiful Green Eyes (2000).

Events at the Embassy

Tuesday, February 19

LITERATURE In his latest work, House of Returned Echoes, author Arnost Lustig presents a fictionalized yet haunting memoir of his father who perished in Auschwitz. Born in 1926, Lustig remains one of the greatest living Czech authors — a winner of many literature prizes, he has written eighteen books and his works have been translated into twenty languages. In 1986, his screenplay, ”The Precious Legacy” won an Emmy award for best film script for a documentary. A presentation by the author and a booksigning will take place at 7:00 p.m. at Politics and Prose Bookstore, 5015 Connecticut Ave, NW.

Saturday, February 23

PRESENTATION Following in the ancient Czech tradition of wood-turning, artist Jan Honza will open an exhibition of his wooden objects and lead a workshop for children and adults in his craft. Reaching into the depths of their imaginations, participants can try their own hand at designing and creating wooden fantasy characters at the workshop. In addition, adults will assist children with woodcarving, drilling, hammering, and building. This event is held in collaboration with the Smithsonian Associates. From 1 - 4 p.m. at the Czech Embassy. For tickets, please call 202.357.3030 and refer to code: 4A0-070. (Please note that the exhibit will be on display weekdays from 9 - 5 and evenings during events through March 18).

Friday, March 15

CONCERT In 1977, the Brno Chamber Orchestra emerged from the framework of the Brno State Philharmonic Orchestra to take its place among the world class ensembles of its size, its members bringing with them influences from the three major music institutions of the capital of Moravia — the Brno State Philharmonic, the State Theatre Orchestra, and the Janacek Academy of Arts. This will be the Brno Chamber Orchestra’s second performance at the Embassy, following a successful concert in 1998 during their last tour. At 7:30 p.m. at the Czech Embassy, reservations are recommended. Please call 202.274.9100, x. 3413. Tickets are $10 at the door.

Monday, March 18

EXHIBIT The exhibit Czech Interior and Furniture Design 1989 - 1999 offers an introductory glimpse into the contemporary work of Czech architects and designers in both public and private spaces. A unique project detailing works from this new period, the exhibit also expands into the future and new horizons of design. The exhibit opening will feature a lecture by renowned architect David Vavra. At 7:30 p.m., admission free.

Tuesday, March 19

FILM As part of the Washington Environmental Film Festival, the Czech Embassy presents some of the most imaginative films ever to be made on modern Czech architecture. Produced by Czech TV and directed by Radovan Lipus, the films from the series Bustling Cities were written and created by the architect, actor, writer and comedian David Vavra and directed by Radovan Lipus. This unique evening will feature three films from the series, introducing the architecture of the Czech towns of Spindleruv Mlyn, Liberec, and Cesky tesin. At 7:30 p.m. at the Czech Embassy. Reservations are not required, admission is free.

Czech Events Around the USA

January 9 - 25

The Czech Center New York and the Avalon Publishing Group present an exhibition featuring works by Jiri Sliva, one of the Czech Republic’s leading graphic artists, to celebrate the release of his book, Café Fetish: Dreams of a Coffee Lover, published by Marlowe & Company, an imprint of the Avalon Publishing Group.

Czech Center New York, 1109 Madison Ave. at 83rd St., NYC; Subway 4,5,6 to 86th Street

Gallery Hours: Tue, Wed, Fri 9 AM - 5 PM

Thu 9 AM - 7 PM

January 17 - February 23

Opening Reception of Czech Photography at

Leica Gallery on January 17

Viktor Kolar solo exhibition

Leica Gallery, 670 Broadway, NYC

Subway 6 to Bleecker St., F to Broadway-Lafayette

For more information, please call

212. 777.3051

Reception 6 - 8 PM

Gallery Hours: Tue-Fri 11AM - 6 PM

Sat 12 - 6 PM

January 19

Book signing and presentation of Fototorst:

A retrospective anthology of work by Viktor Kolar which was recently released by the Czech publishing house, Torst. Also present will be Torst owner Viktor Stoilov who will introduce the Fototorst book series.

2 - 4 PM

January 24

Who Wants to Kill Jessie (Kdo chce zabit Jessie), a sci-fi comedy in which a female scientist invents a dream manipulation machine and decides to try it out on her husband. She finds that he s having dreams about a gorgeous comic-strip character called Jessie and two villainous characters who are out to get her ... Staring Jiri Sovak, Dana Medricka and Olga Schoberova. Directed by Vladimir Vorlicek. 1966, 81 min., English subtitles.

7 PM

Every Sunday

Czech Voice of Cleveland with Joe Kocab on WRMR AM/850 11AM - 12PM

WERE AM/1300 1 - 2PM

January 26

The Czech and Slovak American Genealogy Society of Illinois (CSAGSI) holds its next quarterly meeting, including a presentation of the film In the Shadow of Memory.

At the Riverside Township Hall, 27 Riverside Road, Riverside, IL 60546

1:30 PM

For more information about the meeting of CGAGSI, please contact: 708.485.6189 or visit

Through February 24

The National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library features The Road to Understanding, an exhibit featuring original rare and historic books, prints and maps from the collection of the National Library in Prague. This exhibition was developed exclusively for the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library and bears testimony to the Czech voyages of discovery and more than five hundred years of Czech book culture and the art of book printing.

30 - 16th Avenue, SW, Cedar Rapids, IA 52404

Admission is free to members; Adults $5, Seniors $4, Youth $2

For more information, please contact 319.362.8500

February 2

The Czech and Slovak Heritage Association of Maryland presents a Sibrinky Celebration with Dinner and music a Costume Ball. Czech and Slovak beer will be available. Prizes will be given to those in costume.

American Turners Hall, 9124 Lennings Lane, Rosedale, MD 21237

Rosedale, MD

Admission $35

For more information, please call 410.661.0139

February 2

The Czech and Slovak Sokol Minnesota hosts an Amateur Night Dance/fundraiser for the Sokol Camp featuring the band ”Chord Authority.” Wanted are singers, dancers and musicians, etc. Beer, pop and appetizers to purchase.

383 Michigan Street, St. Paul, MN 55102

For more information or to participate in the talent show, please call Mary Kodada at 763.586.7879

February 2

The National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library hosts Muzika Muzika (Music Music) with the Franklin Middle School Honor Ensemble.

Grand Hall, Cedar Rapids, IA

2 PM

Admission is free

For more information, please contact 319.362.8500

February 8 - 10

The University of St. Thomas in Houston, TX presents a conference focusing on the faith, values and heritage of Czech culture and how Czechs - and those of Czech origin - carry this heritage forward in today’s world. The conference is dedicated to the memory of Bishop John L. Morkovsky.

At St. Mary’s Seminary in Houston, TX

For more information, please visit

February 11

The National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library hosts Kava a Knihy (Coffee and Books) with a discussion of I am Snowing: The Confessions of a Woman of Prague by Pavel Kohout.

WFLA Heritage Hall, Cedar Rapids, IA

12 PM

Admission is free

For more information, please contact 319.362.8500

February 21

The National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library hosts Learn at Lunch. Bring a sack lunch and learn about Czech and Slovak traditions.

WFLA Heritage Hall, Cedar Rapids, IA

12 PM

Admission is free

For more information, please contact 319.362.8500

February 23

The Los Robles Master Chorale presents ”Dvorak!” featuring Antonin Dvorak’s choral works (Mass in D and the Te Deum), his symphonic music (”Slavonic Dances”) along with Czech folk songs and dances with Guest Conductor Miroslav Kosler.

Fred Kavli Theatre, Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, 2100 Thousand Oaks Blvd., Thousand Oaks, CA

8 PM

For more information, please call 805.497.0386 or visit

March 4

The Department of Music at Cornell University celebrates Karel Husa’s eightieth birthday with a performance of Music for Prague 1968, Portrait, Celebration, Concerto for Wind Ensemble and Concertino for Piano with the IC Symphony Orchestra and the IC Wind Ensemble.

Tully Hall, New York

For more information, please call 607.255.4097

March 12, 14 & 19

The National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library offers a Porcelain Painting Class. Learn how to paint a ceramic Easter egg with instructor JoAnne Neff. Class size is limited to 15, please enroll by March 11.

WFLA Heritage Hall, Cedar Rapids, IA

6:30 - 9:30 PM

Enrollment is $20

For more information please call 319.362.8500

March 17

The American Czech-Slovak Cultural Club welcomes Dr. Joseph Patrouch, Associate Professor of History and Director of Graduate Studies at Florida International University to speak about The Habsburgh Dynasty and the Kingdom of Bohemia.

13325 Arch Creek Road, North Miami, FL 33181

3 PM

Admission is free

For information, please call 305.891.9130 or visit

March 20

The Honorary Consulate General of the Czech Republic in Philadelphia presents the powerful documentary Lidice Must Live, followed by a Question & Answer session.

At the N.E. Branch of the Philadelphia Free Library, Cottman Avenue at Oakland Street, Philadelphia, PA

7:30 PM

For further information, please call 215.885.0163 or call Peter A. Rafaeli, Hon. Consulate General of the Czech Republic - Philadelphia, Bethlehem Pike, Suite #102 P.O.Box 777 Spring House, PA 19477-0777 USA Phone: 215.646.7777 Fax: 215.646.7770 . Other information about activities relating to the Honorary Consulate General of the Czech Republic in Philadelphia can be found at