Czech the News

February 2001

Contents :

Message from the Ambassador

Congratulations to President George W. Bush

TV Legislation Passed

General Ralston Visits the Czech Republic

Year 2000: Economic Turnaround

Two Czechs Detained in Cuba Are Finally Released

Vaclav Klaus in California

Jaroslav Bures Appointed Justice Minister

News Digest

Czech - US Economic Relations Remain Dynamic

Citibank Enters Czech Retail Market

Skoda Exports Soar, Domestic Sales Strong

Governor Ridge to Take a Trade Mission to the Czech Republic

Business Digest

Czech Government Renews Five-Year Program to Assist Czechs Abroad

Czech Republic to re-introduce visas to Canada

The New Connection : The Best of Slovak and Czech Art

Celebrating the Texas-Czech Physician Exchange Program

Milan Hlavsa, Legend of the Czech Underground, Dies at 49

Profile - Dr. Josef Hasek

Artist of the Month : Dagmar Hochova

Czech Center New York

Message from the Ambassador

On January 21, George W. Bush was inaugurated as the new President of the United States. It was my first inauguration and despite a long wait with the other ambassadors in the freezing, rainy weather, I found the event an extremely worthwhile experience. I was strongly moved by the way in which the ceremony was conducted. The mere fact that the president swore on a Bible in front of the Capitol and the very people who had elected him into office gave the event a feeling of ritual, as well as a sense of dignity and power. The inauguration led me to think about Europe, where traditions of public coronation do not really exist. The old continent still prefers to confirm leaders behind closed doors.

I was also hoping to start networking within the new U.S. administration as soon as possible, but had to quickly change my plans due to an unprecedented incident that occurred in Cuba. Two Czech citizens (and friends of mine) were imprisoned by Fidel Castro in the famous Villa Marista prison. Their guilt: meetings with dissidents. They finally were freed after twenty-three days, but only after a massive international media campaign and interventions by numerous politicians. I would like to thank all of those Americans who helped to bring this case to the public's attention. With the memory of our fight for freedom against the communists in former Czechoslovakia still fresh, we know the importance of human solidarity and support from abroad.

Through numerous phone calls, meetings and conversations in support of my countrymen, I actually did achieve valuable networking within the new administration. And when the incident was over, I went to see the truly worthy new Julian Schnabel film based on the memoir of Cuban writer Reinaldo Arenas, "Before Night Falls."

So, good luck to President G. W. Bush and the new U.S. administration, as well as to all of the human rights fighters in Cuba.


Congratulations to President George W. Bush

In a letter to President George W. Bush, Czech President Vaclav Havel congratulated Mr. Bush on the occasion of his inauguration. Mr. Havel stressed his belief that "the United States of America will become a guarantor of security, peace and democratic development throughout the world." The Czech President also extended an invitation to the new US President for a visit to the Czech Republic: "I hope that our cooperation will take place not only within the bounds of diplomatic relations. I would be delighted if we could continue the close friendly relations, such as those which bound me with both your father and with President Bill Clinton. Therefore, I would like to welcome you here to the Czech Republic, either for a bilateral friendly visit as Head of State, or as Head of a delegation of an ally at the NATO Summit in 2002, which will take place in the capital city of Prague."

Prime Minister of the Czech Republic Milos Zeman also emphasized in a letter to Mr. Bush the good relations that exist between the Czech Republic and the USA. He noted that "these links are for us of great importance - the United States represents for the Czech Republic one of the pillars of peace and security in the transatlantic community working towards respect for human rights, the strengthening of democracy, and the extension of stability and prosperity in the world in harmony with the aspirations of the majority of the people."

TV Legislation Passed

The Chamber of Deputies of the Czech Parliament has passed a new law aimed at resolving the crisis in the Czech Television, which began in December 2000. The employees went on strike in protest of the appointment of the station=s new Director-General Jiri Hodac, claiming that his presence would interfere with their journalistic independence. In the journalists= support, thousands of Czech citizens have taken part in the largest public protests in Prague since November 1989.

The new law calls for an interim Director to be named while a Supervisory Council is formed. The council will be based on recommendations from civic groups, rather than from politicians, as previously. The Social Democrats have said that they would like to see the interim director appointed within two weeks.

January 23's vote in the Chamber of Deputies overrode a Senate veto from earlier in the month that claimed the legislation did not provide guarantees for the station to remain independent. Jiri Hodac left his post earlier in January after thousands of Czechs crowded the streets in support of the strikers. The employees remain on strike, demanding that the top managers appointed by Hodac, whom they claim are biased, leave their posts. The new legislation allows the Chamber of Deputies to temporarily adopt the powers of the Czech TV Council and elect a caretaker, acceptable to the employees, as the head of Czech TV. The legislation will take effect once it has been published in the Law Gazette.

General Ralston Visits the Czech Republic

NATO Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, General Joseph Ralston, visited the Czech Republic on January 9 and 10, 2000, where he praised the Czech Republic for its contribution to the peace-keeping missions in the Balkans with the KFOR and the SFOR. General Ralston met with numerous high-level Czech officials during his visit, including Prime Minister Milos Zeman, Defense Minister Vladimir Vetchy, and Czech Army Chief of Staff Jiri Sedivy to discuss the ongoing reform of the Czech armed forces, the development of a European defense policy, and the integration and cooperation of the Czech army with NATO forces. They also discussed modernization and personnel issues. General Ralston additionally approached the issue of the depleted uranium resources, or the so-called "Balkan Syndrome". According to the Czech Army Chief of Staff Jiri Sedivy, radiation and chemical experts who are part of the Czech units in the Balkans did not detect any remains of projectiles among the toxic waste at the sites where the depleted uranium had been used. This trip was General Ralston´s first visit to the Czech Republic since he was appointed to lead the Supreme Allied Command Europe in May 2000. General Ralston is the highest-ranking NATO official to visit the Czech Republic since the country joined the Alliance in March of 1999.


Year 2000: Economic Turnaround

While in the United States, the year 2000 was marked by disappointment with the new economy, concerns about slowing growth, and stock markets on the downward slope, the Czech Republic saw many of its industries with e-commerce at the forefront boom. The last quarter of 2000 was the most successful period ever for Czech electronic trade, with sales totaling more than $2 million. For the whole year 2000, on-line sales exceeded $5 million. 2000 also saw a large volume of green-field foreign investment in high-tech industries in the Czech Republic.

Unemployment rose by 0.3 percent in December, seeing out the year at 8.8 percent. Just over 457,000 people were out of work at the end of December, a number which is 30,000 less than in December 1999, when the unemployment rate stood at 9.4 percent. Analysts say that the labor market confirms the benefits of the government's active employment policy.

The consumer price index grew only 0.2 percent in December, suggesting that there will be no near-term rate hike by the Czech National Bank. Yearly inflation reached 4.0 percent in December and the average 12-month inflation rate reached 3.9 percent.

The government's investment support scheme seems to be paying off: the state-run CzechInvest agency announced that it had succeeded in attracting some 1.5 billion dollars in direct foreign investment in2000, a rise of almost 120 percent as compared to 1999. CzechInvest said the projects would create almost 18,000 new jobs in the country over the next few years.

Two Czechs Detained in Cuba Are Finally Released

After 23 days of imprisonment in Havana, Ivan Pilip and Jan Bubenik were released and allowed to return home on February 5.

Mr. Ivan Pilip, a member of the Czech Parliament and a former Education and Finance Minister, and Mr. Jan Bubenik, a Czech NGO representative, were detained by the Cuban authorities in the town of Ciego de Avila on January 12, 2001, on the grounds of an alleged "violation of immigration law" due to their meeting with members of the Cuban opposition.

The Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs addressed its partners in Europe and the Americas, informing them of the situation and requesting their assistance in efforts aimed toward the release of the Czech citizens. In support of Pilip and Bubenik, many political leaders from various countries urged Cuba to release the Czech citizens. A two-member delegation of the Inter-Parliamentary Union came to Cuba to mediate the incident.

Chairman of the Czech Senate Petr Pithart also traveled to Cuba to negotiate the release of Pilip and Bubenik. During his stay in Cuba, he met with Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Pérez Roque and with Cuban parliamentarians from the Foreign Affairs and Judiciary committees. Mr. Pithart also met with Mr. Castro for six hours. Though the meeting did not result in the immediate release of Pilip and Bubenik, his mission was useful and helped to resolve the case, according to Mr. Pithart. After having met President Castro, Mr. Pithart stated: "I am convinced that both sides are interested in resolving the case as soon as possible." The most encouraging outcome of Mr. Pithart´s meetings with President Castro and Chairman of the National Assembly Ricardo Alarcón was that both sides pledged a commitment "to continue in making every effort to find a solution in a reasonable period of time."

The solution did come on February 5, when Mr. Pilip and Mr. Bubenik were released from Villa Marista State Security Detention Center. On their way to the Havana airport, the men were accompanied by mediators from the Inter-Parliamentary Union, Chairman of the IPU Anders Johnsson, and IPU Human Rights Committee President Juan Pablo Letelier, who also had assisted in the talks concerning Pilip and Bubenik´s release. Mr. Pilip and Mr. Bubenik left Havana with the IPU mediators on a flight headed to Madrid. Ivan Pilip and Jan Bubenik arrived safely in Prague on Tuesday, February 6.

Vaclav Klaus in California

Chairman of the House of Deputies Vaclav Klaus visited the state of California on January 15 - 19, 2001. Mr. Klaus went to California on the invitation of Claremont McKenna College, a private liberal arts college based in Claremont, California and specializing in the fields of economics, government, and public affairs. On January 17, Vaclav Klaus presented a lecture entitled "Creating Capitalism in Eastern Europe: The Czech Case, " as part of a series organized by the Res Publica Society. In his lecture, Mr. Klaus spoke about the major events that occurred in the Czech Republic during the last 10 years. Most importantly, he discussed the changes in the economic and political system, the liberalization of foreign trade and prices, the economic transition and privatization, and the impact that these events have had on society.

Jaroslav Bures Appointed Justice Minister

Prime Minister Milos Zeman has decided that Jaroslav Bures, 46, will become the Czech Republic's new justice minister. Bures, who was until recently the Prague High Court's chief judge, replaces interim Justice Minister Pavel Rychetsky, who had held the position since Otakar Motejl's resignation last year. Motejl became the Czech Republic=s first ombudsman, or public defender of rights. During his two years as Justice Minister, Motejl was the only independent member of Zeman's cabinet. His resignation in September 2000 came after he failed to get support from the parliament for his judicial reform proposals aimed at harmonizing Czech laws with those of the EU.

News Digest

January 5: The Czech Under-20 National Ice Hockey Team won second their consecutive World Championship in Moscow after defeating all of their opponents in the tournament. The Czech Republic boasts gold medals from the 1998 Nagano Olympic Games and the 2000 World Championship. Czech players Pavel Brendl, Rostislav Klesla and Tomas Duba were voted best forward, defenseman and goalkeeper of the tournament, respectively.

January 10: Defense Minister Vladimir Vetchy announced a tender to acquire new tactical supersonic fighters for the Czech Army. Five Western companies, all of which have shown interest in obtaining the order in the past, should submit their offers by the end of May. A possible winner of the tender should be known by October 31, according to Minister Vetchy. The Cabinet approved a tender for 36 or 24 new fighters earlier this month.

January 10: NATO Supreme Allied Commander in Europe (SACEUR), General Joseph Ralston praised the Czech Republic for its contribution to the peace-keeping missions in the Balkans during his two-day visit to Prague. General Ralston discussed the ongoing reform of Czech armed forces and the development of European defense policy with several high-level Czech officials, including Prime Minister Milos Zeman, Defense Minister Vladimir Vetchy and Czech Army Chief of Staff Jiri Sedivy. He promised that NATO would be transparent in informing about the use of depleted uranium in the Balkans. According to the Czech Army Chief of Staff, radiation and chemical experts in the Czech units in the Balkans did not detect any remains of projectiles among the toxic waste in places where the depleted uranium had been used. However, medical check-ups of Czech soldiers departing the international peace-keeping missions will be enlarged, according to Defense Ministry officials.

January 16: Thirty-two years ago, Jan Palach, a student of the Faculty of Arts of Charles University in Prague, set himself on fire at the top of Wenceslas Square in Prague's center in protest of the 1968 Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia. He died in a hospital three days later. 500,000 people attended his funeral on January 25, 1969 in an event that developed into a national demonstration in support of freedom and democracy. This year, Jan Palach was also commemorated in Brussels, where a memorial was unveiled to pay homage to his death. Ambassadors and local politicians agreed that his act was important for all of Europe and deserves remembrance in the seat of the EU.

January 17: The Cabinet approved an action plan for the Czech Republic's entrance into the EU. The plan, which contains 37 concrete tasks for individual Ministries, is aimed toward the first half of this year, according to government spokesman Libor Roucek. The document was devised on the basis of last year's regular European Commission's assessment report of the country's progress in preparation for EU admission. "Each task is described, a guarantor is named, and the date of fulfillment is set," Roucek said. The measures contain new tasks as well as matters previously formulated in the Czech national program of EU membership preparations.

January 18: Supported by 24.6 percent of the Czech population, the minor opposition Coalition-of-Four is the most popular party in the Czech Republic, followed by the senior opposition Civic Democratic Party (ODS) with 20 percent, according to a poll conducted by the Sofres-Factum. The ruling Social Democrats (CSSD) placed third with 14.4 percent of the votes, followed by the Communists (KSCM) with 12.3 percent. According to another polling agency, SVVM, Interior Minister Stanislav Gross (Social Democrats, CSSD) replaced his party colleague Petra Buzkova, Chamber of Deputies Deputy Chairwoman, as the most popular Czech politician. Mr. Gross is trusted by 62 percent of the people questioned in contrast with Ms. Buzkova's 61 percent.

January 19: The tenth anniversary of the Visegrad Four (V4) was celebrated at the V4 summit in Pszczyna, Poland. Presidents of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia --Vaclav Havel, Ferenc Madl, Alexander Kwasniewski and Rudolf Schuster --all voiced their satisfaction with their mutual cooperation, while also stressing their readiness for its continuation and intensification. The four heads of state also discussed issues of European integration.

January 22: The government approved an updated and amended National Security Strategy for the Czech Republic which defines the country's interests, security risks and possible security threats. Foreign Minister Jan Kavan said that the document reflected the changes that had taken place in the country's security situation over the last two years. The key change is the Czech Republic's admission to NATO, while the development of an EU defense policy is also significant. The government plans to up-date the document every two years.

January 23: Prime Minister Milos Zeman met with representatives of the German automobile concern BMW to discuss a possible investment of 20 billion CZK into the Czech Republic. BMW is to decide the site for its new factory that should begin construction in 2004, with a capacity of up to 200,000 cars per year. The factory is to employ almost 3,000 people. During his one-day visit to Bavaria, Mr. Zeman also met with Bavarian Prime Minister Edmund Stoiber. The two politicians agreed to launch a Czech-Bavarian forum to discuss issues of European integration, economic and administrative cooperation, education, and environmental projects.

January 23: The Chamber of Deputies rejected changes in the amendment to the law on the public broadcaster Czech Television as proposed by the Senate, and subsequently passed its own version of the legislation. Under the amendment, the Chamber of Deputies will assume some powers of the CT Council, including the appointment of a provisional administrator of the CT until at least ten out of fifteen its new members are elected (which may last a few months). Moreover, the amendment allows for changes in CT financial management and the election of the CT Council. The legislation was signed into law by President Vaclav Havel immediately afterward.

January 24: The Constitutional Court upheld a complaint filed by President Vaclav Havel and struck down key provisions of an amendment to the election law. According to the Court's Chairman, Zdenek Kessler, the abolished parts of the law deviated from the system of proportional representation and, in this respect, violated the Constitution. The amendment was aimed at strengthening the power of the biggest political parties by stressing majority elements and was pushed through by the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) and the ruling Social Democrats. President Havel vetoed the amendment in June 2000. The Chamber of Deputies, however, overruled the veto.

January 25: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic issued a statement resolutely rejecting recent statements made by leading Iraqi representatives on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the Desert Storm operation, questioning the present Iraqi-Kuwaiti borders and calling for their revision. According to the Foreign Ministry, such statements and threats are in defiance of the letter of resolutions of the U.N Security Council and clearly detrimental to the stabilization efforts within the whole region.

January 25: Anna Sabatova, former spokeswoman for Charter 77, was elected Deputy to the first Czech ombudsman, or rights protector, Otakar Motejl. Mrs. Sabatova received 92 votes in a secret ballot in the Chamber of Deputies, beating former ODS Senator Jan Voracek, who received 50 votes. She was supported by the Social Democrats, the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL), the Freedom Union, and a part of the Communist (KSCM) deputies.

January 29: Christian Democrat (KDU-CSL) Deputy Chairman Cyril Svoboda was unexpectedly chosen as the four-party coalition leader as a result of the political council of the right-wing coalition being unable to choose among the nominated candidates, which included: Freedom Union Chairman Karel Kuehnl, KDU-CSL candidate Jaroslav Kopriva, and Civic Democratic Alliance (ODA) Deputy Chairman Michael Zantovsky. Mr. Svoboda's task will be to form a shadow Cabinet by the end of March and to lead the opposition grouping to the parliamentary elections in 2002. According to the agreement, the Freedom Union will have seven seats in the shadow Cabinet, the KDU-CSL will have four seats including the Prime Minister, the ODA will have two seats and the Democratic Union (DEU) will have one seat.

Czech - US Economic Relations Remain Dynamic

The US market remains a key strategic destination for Czech exporters, despite the fact that the EU has become the Czech Republic's major trading partner, accounting for more than 60% of Czech exports. The USA belongs among the top 10 trading partners of the CR. Over the last decade, trade between the US and the CR has reported very positive dynamics. According to Czech statistics exports to the US amounted to 818 mil. USD, and imports from the US amounted to 1.424 mil. USD.

With more finished or semifinished industrial goods, there has been a positive change in the commodities structure of Czech exports to the US. Engineering items, such as machine tools, textile machines (including knitting machines), printing machinery, woodworking machinery, transportation equipment, and engineering industrial components are finding their way to US manufacturers and consumers.

Various traditional Czech products have already established a strong position in the US market, such as TOS machine-tools and forming machines, ZETOR agricultural tractors, traditional glassware, Carlsbader chinaware, beads and imitation jewelry Bijou de Bohéme, musical instruments, crystal chandeliers, electrical machinery, chemicals, aircraft engines, fabrics, and food specialties (including the world's leading brand of beer, Pilsner Urquell --the one and only original Pilsner from Pilsen).

The Czech Republic welcomes US imports of high-tech products and technologies that support the increase of productivity of labor in the Czech industry, including the latest IT and telecom systems, as well as the sophisticated US consumer products that enrich the diversity and availability of the domestic Czech consumer markets.

Aside from the exchange of goods and services, US direct investment into the Czech Republic has been of paramount importance for the country's economic upswing, as well as a new impetus in bilateral economic relations. US investment in the country amounts to approximately 1.7 billion USD, ranking the United States as the top No. 4 foreign investor in the CR. The advancement of the US into Central Europe (be it from the US or through affiliations in the EU) is a logical next-step toward tapping into the 100 million consumer market of Central Europe.

The CR in particular has become a prime destination for foreign direct investment. Foreign investors are taking advantage of the country's unique comparative advantages, such as strategic geographical location, highly educated quality labor, industrial tradition and, at present, the most favorable investment incentive package among the Central European countries. The CR is the only country in which the investment scheme is actually written into law and is in full compliance with EU regulations. These factors make the CR well-positioned to receive both large scale projects of multinational corporations or investment by SME's. Electrotechnical, electronic and automotive manufacturing are the top manufacturing sectors of interest to foreign investors.

With the current process of practical negotiations with the EU advancing at such a rapid pace, an influx of FDI has gained new momentum. Overseas companies targeting Europe have recognized the strengths of the CR and their place as the center of a newly shaped European market of 500 million consumers --the largest single market in the world. European firms grew faster and started to shift facilities in order to produce at lower costs by the mid-90s. Preliminary figures for 2000 suggest FDI will amount to over 6 billion USD.

In most cases, investment projects in manufacturing result in an increase of trade as the final production is exported to the EU and the world market, including the USA.

We believe that the Czech Republic is becoming increasingly more visible on the radar screens of US companies, be it as a source for quality products at very competitive prices, a prospective destination for investment in Europe, or as a suitable place for European company headquarters.

The commercial office of the Embassy of the Czech Republic in Washington or our representative trade and investment offices in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Miami will be pleased to be of assistance in trade and investment inquiries.

Jiri Kulis

Economic and Commercial Counselor

Citibank Enters Czech Retail Market

Citibank is launching retail services in the Czech Republic to complement its corporate arm, which has been active in the country since 1991. According to Citibanks's Czech retail division, they expect to attract 50,000 to 75,000 clients within a year.

Citibank's officials stated that the bank will rely on new distribution channels, such as phone and Internet banking, but will also build up a network of approximately 10 branches. The bank plans to gradually build its own network and is not planning any acquisitions of local banks. Marketing director Mr. Dvorak told a news conference that Citibank will not compete in prices, claiming the bank's typical client would be a person who does not want to spend time in banks. Citibank plans to offer a portfolio of consumer services with an emphasis on international credit cards, a service in which they are a worldwide market leader.

The Czech market is dominated by Erste Bank's Ceska Sporitelna, KBC' unit CSOB, and the soon-to-be-privatized Komercni Banka. At least three other smaller banks have recently launched a retail drive. Citibank's central European presence also includes the Polish Bank Handlowy and a Hungarian branch.

Skoda Exports Soar, Domestic Sales Strong

A sharp increase in exports to Western Europe helped Volkswagen's Czech unit Skoda Auto raise their overall sales by 13 percent to 435, 403 cars in 2000. Skoda sales in Western Europe rose 19.2 percent to 229,109 cars, while domestic sales grew 6.5 percent to 80,882 units. Shipments to other Eastern European markets edged 1.6 percent higher to 102,633 cars. Skoda had earlier reported that it had raised production by 21.5 percent to 450,911 cars last year. Volkswagen took Skoda over in 1991 and turned the company into the biggest success story of Czech privatization.

The British magazine The Economist recently rated Skoda Auto as the most successful company in post-Communist Europe. Skoda's unassailable position on the domestic market is due to its best-selling brands, including the Octavia, the Felicia, and the highly successful new compact car, the Fabia, which received fourth place last year in the European Car of the Year awards.

Governor Ridge to Take a Trade Mission to the Czech Republic

The Honorable Tom Ridge, Governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, will take a Trade Mission to Europe on May 8, 2001 with an itinerary that includes the Czech Republic. The Mission, which also includes visits to Poland and Hungary, intends to highlight their stop in Prague. The Governor's International Business Development staff, as well as the Consulate General in New York and the Honorary Consulate General in Philadelphia have already begun working in close cooperation with an authorized business representative in Prague. This Trade Mission will be just one of many in which the Governor has been working to enhance the international business relations of Pennsylvania. Previous to Governor Ridge, the Commonwealth had only four representative offices throughout the world. Six years later, Pennsylvania has 17 representative offices worldwide. Businesses interested in participating in the Trade Mission should refer to the Commonwealth's web site at, or contact the Honorary Consulate General of the Czech Republic -Philadelphia at (215) 646-777 or

- this can also be postponed to the next issue, if you can´t squeeze it into the 12 page CTN

Business Digest

January 1: Cellular phones were possibly the most popular present in the Czech Republic this past Christmas. According to estimates, there were 4.4 million mobile phone users among the Czech Republic's 10 million citizens just after Christmas. All three Czech mobile operators had expected a steep rise in the number of clients and had reinforced their networks to handle the increased traffic around the end of the year. Their reinforcements paid off -- though the 4 million Czech mobile phone users exchanged an incredible 43 million text messages on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve combined, none of the networks experienced any significant problems.

January 3: The Czech Anti-Monopoly Office has imposed a fine of more than $200,000 on the cable television provider Dattelkabel for setting dumping prices. Dattelkabel is a newly acquired daughter company of the Dutch-based United Pan-European Communications (UPC). After a probe as to whether UPC had abused its dominant position on the market by sharply increasing prices nearly 300 percent for some users, the ruling came as a surprise. The Anti-Monopoly Office said in its decision that Dattelkabel offered its programs at prices below the overall average cost between 1998 to 2000 in order to control the market.

January 4: 2000 was the most successful of the last ten years for the Czech Republic's tourist industry, according to Czech newspapers. The papers ascribed record-high sales to an improved economic situation in the United States and throughout Western Europe, as well as a stabilized economic environment in the Czech Republic. Experts also noted that Czech catering and accommodation facilities now compare with the most developed countries. The Czech Statistical Office was quoted as saying that the number of overnight stays in Czech hotels for the year 2000 rose by over 18 percent, as compared to 1999. The papers additionally say that almost 90 million foreign tourists visited the country from January to October 2000.

January 8: The Czech foreign trade deficit almost doubled in the year 2000 to $3.5 billion, as compared to less than $1.8 billion in 1999. The Czech Statistical Office (CSU) attributes the widening gap to a passive balance in categories such as raw materials, semi-finished products and chemicals, as well as machinery and transportation.

January 10: The Czech birth rate has fallen by thirty percent since 1970. According to the latest data provided by the Czech Statistical Office, there are now nine children born per 1000 inhabitants a year. Thirty years ago, the figure was fifteen. Experts say the demographic development is cause for concern because the aging of the population, which is common throughout Western Europe, is likely to create serious problems for the labor market.

January 11: Czech newspapers have uncovered a wide-spread practice among small Czech firms --they officially pay their employees salaries near the minimum wage, but additionally pay them the same amount or more in cash. In his way, the employers economize on taxes but damage the workers' interests. Official authorities warned employees that by accepting this practice, they are party to a crime and could be confronted with possible criminal prosecution. Moreover, employees could face a number of other disadvantages in the long term, since social benefits and pensions are calculated according to officially declared wages.

January 12: German car manufacturers Audi and BMW are supposedly eyeing the Czech Republic for future manufacturing facilities. CzechInvest director Martin Jahn said that Audi would probably be examining the Czech Republic for a location for its new European car plant, while BMW has included the Czech Republic in a list of eight locations in four countries for its new plant. The other contenders include neighboring Germany and Slovakia.

January 15: Flight tickets were the best-selling commodity in Czech on-line shops in the year 2000, with sales exceeding $1 million. These sales account for approximately 20 percent of the total turnover in Czech electronic trade. According to a survey conducted by Deloitte and Touche, home appliances came second, closely followed by music recordings.

January 16: The Czech Republic intends to join the world's most developed countries in the World Bank and start participating intensely in development programs. At the same time, the country intends to stop using World Bank funds. According to Czech Finance Minister Pavel Mertlik, the Czech Republic will sign an agreement regarding entry into the graduation process at the World Bank and IMF Spring Meetings in Washington.


January 17: The U.S. Food Safety and Inspection Service of the Department of Agriculture approved the Czech Republic to export meat to the United States, based on an audit conducted by FSIS in June, 2000. The audit report also noted that there was no outbreak of animal diseases, including BSE, reported in the country.

January 18: Komercni Banka, the only remaining state-controlled bank, laid off more than 20 percent of its employees in 2000 in a run-up to the planned privatization of the bank this year. The bank's CEO, Mr. Vavra, does not see reason for further redundancies. Komercni Banka now has nearly 11 thousand employees. Mr. Vavra expects that the state could sell its 60-percent stake in the bank for more than one billion dollars. However, some analysts are rather skeptical, estimating the price at around $700 million.

January 19: The Czech Internet market witnessed its first big crash when the server went out of business. Globopolis was an international site, offering tourists information about major cities in Central and Eastern Europe. Observers say Globopolis, which was backed by American investors, had a good chance of prospering but had emerged too early. On one hand, the server operated on a market where 70 percent of the population had never used the Internet, while on the other, it lacked the resources for a massive marketing campaign to attract clients from the rest of the world.

January 22: Winterthur, a Credit Suisse Group business unit, paid $70 million for a 93 percent stake in the largest Czech pension fund, Vojensky Otevreny Penzijni Fond (VOPF). The purchase of the pension fund, which was made from the Czech financial services company Union Group, occurred near the end of last year as part of Winterthur's strategy to become the pace-setting insurance company in its major markets. The move also fit with the CS Group's asset-gathering strategy, which apart from key European markets, targets eastern and central Europe and Asia. The purchase gives Winterthur a share of about 25 percent in the Czech supplementary pensions market, including VOPF's 340,000 clients. Winterthur will have 550,000 customers and about 450 million Swiss francs worth of managed assets in the Czech Republic.

January 24: A unit of the Austrian wood, paper and pulp trader Heinzel will take over the dominant Czech pulp producer Biocel, according to the manager of the sale. Heinzel will pay CZK 1.93 billion ($51 million) for their 94 percent stake, or CZK 620 per share. The stake was mainly held by investment funds controlled by a unit of the Czech bank CSOB. The sale remains subject to the approval of the Czech Anti-Monopoly Office.

January 26: The Czech State Telecommunications Office has ended a long dispute between the dominant telecommunications operator, Czech Telecom, and alternative operators who were allowed to enter the market on January 1. The alternative operators had been unable to reach an agreement with Czech Telecom over prices for interconnection between their networks. The regulator has set the prices for interconnection at a level 100 percent higher than those recommended by the European Commission, but far lower than the prices included in Czech Telecom's Reference Interconnection Offer. The alternative operators are satisfied with the outcome, however, and say that their prices will be determined according to the so-called "best practice principle," namely according to the prices common in EU countries.

January 29: Prague's main stock indices climbed to a three-month high, driven by foreign demand in telecom issues. Ceske Radiokomunikace soared 6.6 percent on the speculation that Deutsche Telekom could buy a large stake in TeleDanmark --SBC' European arm. TeleDanmark has a 20 percent stake in Radiokom, and is bidding for a 51 percent government's stake. The tender is expected to be completed by the end of the first quarter.

Czech Government Renews Five-Year Program to Assist Czechs Abroad

On December 8, 2000, the Czech Government approved and extended their five-year program to assist Czechs living abroad through education. The program, which will last from 2001-2005, will include annual four-week long language courses in the town of Dobruska, near Prague. Though sixty participants will receive the benefits of the course at the government's expense, others will be eligible to participate in the program for a fee. Czech students from abroad may also obtain fifteen governmental stipends through Czech universities. Additionally, twelve Czech teachers will have the opportunity to travel to a Czech community abroad for a one-year stay. The total value of the assistance for 2001 exceeds 14 million crowns. The Czech Republic=s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has coordinated the program in cooperation with the Ministry of Education.

Applications for the stipends at Czech universities, as well as applications for teachers interested in traveling to communities abroad, can be submitted at any time throughout the year (dates of application submissions will determine for which year the applicant is eligible). The dates for this year=s four-week long Czech language courses in Dobruska have already been assigned to July 26 -August 24, 2001. The deadline for applications for this year is March 30, 2001.

For application forms for this summer's language courses, as well as for information on other forms of Czech governmental assistance, please see the web page of the Cultural section of the Czech Embassy, or contact the Cultural section at tel. (202) 274-9105.


Czech Republic to re-introduce visas to Canada

In reciprocation of a similiar action taken by the Government of Canada on October 8, 1997 regarding the citizens of the Czech Republic, the Czech Government decided on January 31, 2001 to reintroduce the visa requirement for the citizens of Canada, effective April 1, 2001.


The New Connection : The Best of Slovak and Czech Art

In an effort to promote social, cultural and political cooperation between the Slovak and Czech Republics, the Contemporary Art Agency-International (C. ART. A) of Bratislava, Slovakia organized "The New Connection," featuring works by the best young artists of both countries. The show is the cornerstone of a month-long celebration of Slovak culture in New York. After its opening in the United States, the exhibition will travel to Prague and Bratislava.

All Czech artists showing works at the World Financial Center are winners of the Chalupecky Prize (founded in 1990; listed in chronological order): Vladimir Kokolia, Frantisek Skala, Michal Nesazal, Martin Mainer, Michael Gabriel, Petr Nikl, Katerina Vincourova, Jiri Prihoda, Jiri Cernicky, and Lukas Rittstein. The Slovak artists are either winners or finalists for the Tonal Prize (founded in 1996): Patrik Kovacovsky and Dusan Zahoransky, Anton Cierny and Peter Ondrusek, Ilona Nemeth and Dorota Sadovska, Emoke Vargova and Robo Kocan, and Vanesa Hardi and Marek Kvetan.

The Foundation for a Civil Society was a partner in the establishment of both prizes. Prize-winners receive a grant to live and work at an art colony in Headlands, California for three months, plus a week-long visit to New York City to explore the contemporary art scene.

Financial support for this exhibition was provided by the trust for Mutual Understanding and Czech Airlines.

Where: World Financial Center

200 Liberty St., NYC

Subway 1,9, N, R to Courtland St.

or A, C, E to Chambers St.

When: Opening Thr. Feb. 1 (as part of the opening of

Slovak Culture Month in New York

On view through March 4

(212) 945-0505 or



Celebrating the Texas-Czech Physician Exchange Program

Organized by the Czech Cultural Center in Houston, the Museum of Health and Medical Science in Houston, and the Czech Honorary Consul Mr. Ray Snokhous, January 22, 2001 proved to be an exceptional evening benefiting the Texas-Czech Physician Exchange Program.

Although Ambassador Alexandr Vondra´s attendance at the event was by no means coincidental, he did take all of the guests by surprise when he presented Dr. Arthur M. Jansa and Dr. Tomas Klima, the two men who started the exchange program in 1991, with commemorative medals from President Václav Havel. The presidential medals were bestowed as tokens of recognition for their outstanding contribution toward Czech physicians and the Czech Republic. Over the last nine years, the program has given $315,000 to ninety Czech physicians and other medical professionals to travel to the US and gain new experiences from their Texas colleagues. Ambassador Vondra emphasized that "transplanting your experience and your knowledge to my country through the Czech people who come here . . . is undoubtedly one of the best ways to help the Czech Republic. And this is precisely the focus of the Texas-Czech Physician Exchange Program." The event's cultural program consisted of the Performing Strings orchestra and Michael Sust, Houston´s Czech-born bass baritone vocalist.

Milan Hlavsa, Legend of the Czech Underground, Dies at 49

Milan Hlavsa, composer, bassist, and founder of the legendary Czech underground rock band, the Plastic People of the Universe, passed away on January 5, 2001. Several thousand people went to his memorial service to bid him farewell. Hlavsa founded the Plastic People in the sixties and immediately found himself under the constant persecution of the Communist authorities, who believed that his music did not fulfil the prescribed idea of "happy" communist culture. Resisting their harassment for twenty years, Hlavsa still managed to produce and record unique music, an act of peaceful defiance that eventually became a strong political statement itself. Following a government crackdown on the band, the 1976 trial of the Plastic People's sparked the establishment of the human rights movement Charter 77. The first spokesperson of the movement was playwright Vaclav Havel, who would later become the President of Czechoslovakia.

In the late eighties, Hlavsa founded the band Pulnoc and toured the United States, recording the CD "City of Hysteria" for an American label. Under Hlavsa's leadership, the Plastic People reunited in the nineties and toured America in 1999. Hlavsa and American musician Lou Reed of the Velvet Underground even performed at a White House dinner in honor of President Havel.

With Hlavsa´s death, Czech society has not only lost an important musician --they have lost a hero and a symbol of the perpetual fight for the freedom of expression.

Profile - Dr. Josef Hasek

An influential and steadfast representative of the post-1948 Czechoslovak exile Community, Dr. Josef Hasek was a valiant crusader for democracy, education, and the secure future of his beloved Czechoslovakian homeland.

Born to an important Prague business family in 1911, Dr. Hasek grew up in an environment of politics and opportunity. Extensive travel in the pre-World War II years enabled Dr. Hasek to establish a wide range of contacts within the international community during that historically crucial era. During the pre-War years, his father, a banker, contributed substantially toward the economic success of the mid-sized Czechoslovak National-Social Party. The brutal abduction and execution of the senior Hasek during the German occupation did not deter his son from risky engagements in support of other victims of Nazi violence, nor from active participation in the Prague uprising of May 1945.

Following liberation from the Nazis, Dr. Hasek placed his talents and connections within the newly revised Czechoslovak economy. It was in pursuit of the economic reforms that he travelled to the United States on a business mission. The transitional events of February 1948 kept Dr. Hasek in America, where he was eventually joined by his mother and daughter Eliska (who later excelled in various White House and other government functions).

Josef Hasek's wisdom and characteristic behavior immediately made him a recognized figure in Washington. It was these personal qualities that so freely opened the doors of American society to him. Through his friendship with Senator Humphrey and various other Senators and Congressmen, Josef Hasek ceaselessly reminded the US Congress of the totalitarianism that existed in Eastern Europe. Likewise, his innumerable articles written on the subject served to inform a wider American public. His goal was to make everyone aware of his beloved Czechoslovakia's plight, and to warn against the dangers of Soviet expansion into Europe and other parts of the world. It was Dr. Hasek who, in 1968, personally looked after the young playwright who was soon to be recognized as one of the most dangerous enemies of totalitarianism, Vaclav Havel.

Much of Dr. Hasek's energy was devoted to the cause of his native country. He took an active part in the Czechoslovak National Council of America and maintained a deep involvement with the Czechoslovak Society of Arts and Sciences. He believed that the future of his Czechoslovakia could only be possible with a force of educated young people, and therefore established The Josef Hasek Scholarship Fund for Czech students, so that they might return to Czechoslovakia with a sensory experience of democracy and further spread its ideals. Dr. Hasek never missed any opportunity to encourage his fellow Czech Americans to join forces against those who trampled upon human rights and obstructed inherent freedoms.

Dr. Hasek lived to see democracy restored to his native land and was able to return to his beloved Prague on numerous trips. He recently passed away in the Czech town of Susice, near his family homestead. His unsung but meritable work shall be remembered on both sides of the ocean, while his outstanding personality and indestructible legacy has already left unforgettable marks in the annals of both Czech and American history.

-This article is a revised version of the biographical sketch provided by Mr. Vladimir Kabes.

Artist of the Month : Dagmar Hochova

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

The diminutive but extremely lively figure of documentary photographer Dagmar Hochova (1926) has been an inseparable feature of Prague's intellectual life for decades. A student of the world-renowned photographer Jaroslav Funke, her photo archives contain truly important personalities and moments --e.g. the philosopher Jan Patocka, Vaclav Havel at the funeral of Nobel Laureate Jaroslav Seifert, the artist and poet Jiri Kolar in his Paris exile, or the politician Alexandr Dubcek at the May Day celebrations during the Prague Spring of 1968. Hochova recorded both the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 and the Velvet Revolution twenty-one years later. Following the changes of 1989, she was a natural choice for the new Czech parliament, where she sat for two years. However, the political aspect of Dagmar Hochova's photographs remained hidden for a long time. During the Communist regime, she was best known for her photographs of children, her other main subject-matter. The children in her pictures are relaxed and spontaneously engaged in play, as though the photographer were nowhere around. A three-volume retrospective collection of Dagmar Hochova's work was published in the 1990's.

Embassy Events


Tuesday, March 13

The founding member and artistic director of the legendary Czech theater group Sklep, as well as a renowned architect, writer and actor, David Vavra is one of the most ingenious Czech artists of contemporary culture. Audiences will have the rare opportunity to experience a variety of talents combined into one never-before-seen creature when Vavra presents an evening of his poetry readings. This event will be in its original Czech only. Non-Czech speakers who are interested will enjoy the event on March 15. 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.


Thursday, March 15

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 Bubbling Cities were written and created by the architect, actor, writer and comedian David Vavra, who will attend the screening in person. Over the last two decades, Vavra has been an outstanding figure of the Czech art scene both physically as well as artistically. The ability to blend his many talents into an original mixture makes him a personality that is beyond imagination. This unique evening will feature three films from the series, introducing the architecture of the Czech towns of Zlín, Opava and Hradec Králové. Discussion to follow. At 7:30 p.m., at the Czech Embassy. Reservations are not required. Admission is free.


Friday, March 23

The Martinu String Quartet will present the works of Haydn, Smetana and Schubert. The ensemble, which was founded in 1976 at the Prague Conservatory under the guidance of Viktor Moucka of the legendary Vlach Quartet, has won numerous prizes at major international competitions, including Portsmouth, ARD Radio in Munich, Evian, and the Prague Spring Festival. The group garnered its name from the prolific early 20th-century composer Bohuslav Martinu. At the Czech Embassy, 7:30 p.m. Reservations are recommended. Please call 202.274.9100 x. 3413. Tickets are $10 at the door.


Wednesday, April 11

Vaclav Koubek

As a musician, storyteller and songwriter, Vaclav Koubek's songs provide a wistful mixture of beautiful melancholia and intelligent humor. Accompanying himself with only an accordion, his performances are reminiscent of old Prague Cabarets. Though his stories will be told in the Czech language, his music guarantees the crossing of any language barrier. At 7:30 p.m. at the Czech Embassy. Reservations are recommended. Please call 202/274-9100, x. 3413. Tickets are $10 dollars at the door.


Wednesday, April 19

"The non-conformist work of Ladislav Klima has almost always shocked us, has often incited scandal, but has hardly ever left us indifferent . . . we might move the awareness of the horizons of our own will, and of our own skills, in agreement with Klima, much rather than we generally, and a bit timidly, are willing to admit," writes Vaclav Havel about the profound work of Ladislav Klima (1878-1928). On the 73rd Anniversary of his death, the Embassy celebrates the dawning of a new era in literature with the first-ever American release of The Sorrows of Prince Sternenhoch by Ladislav Klima, the great Czech writer, poet, prosaic, playwright and, above all, philosopher. Please join the Czech Embassy and Politics and Prose Bookstore in a celebratory presentation of the book in collaboration with the SCENA Theater. At 7:00 p.m., Politics and Prose Bookstore, 5015 Connecticut Avenue, NW. Admission is free.

To receive updated information about Cultural Events held at the Czech Embassy, please send an Email with the word "subscribe" in the subject field to:

Czech Events around the USA

Karlin Wednesday Concerts "2001"

Czech Food served from 5:30 to 7:30 PM, dancing from 7:30 to 10:30 PM. Karlin Hall and Club, 5304 Fleet Avenue, Cleveland, OH

For reservations, please call 216.429.2450

For details, please call 216.883.4760

The American Sokol, Washington DC Activities

Adult Volleyball, February 26 and March 5, 12 & 19

Wood Acres Elementary School, 5800 Cromwell Drive, Bethesda, MD 20816

8:00 PM -10:00 PM

For more information, please call 301.585.8534

The American Sokol, Washington DC Activities

Gymnastics for Children, February 23 and March 2, 9 & 16

Wood Acres Elementary School, 5800 Cromwell Drive, Bethesda, MD 20816

8:15 PM -10:00 PM

For more information, please call 301.424.1658

The American Sokol, Washington DC Activities

Aerobics for Adults, February 23 and March 2, 9 & 16

Wood Acres Elementary School, 5800 Cromwell Drive, Bethesda, MD 20816

8:30 PM -9:30 PM

For more information, please call 703.534.3648

Through April 1

The Wolfsonian-Florida International University hosts the exhibition of Dreams and Disillusion: Karel Teige and the Czech Avant-Garde

1001 Washington Avenue, Miami Beach, FL 333139

Adults $5, seniors, students and children 6-12 $3.50

Wolfsonian Members, FIU students, faculty, staff with ID and children under 6 are free

For more information, please call 305.531.1001

February 19

The Komensky Club hosts "Dolces Volces," a Nebraska group singing songs from the Baroque Age

At the Nebraska Union Building, 14 & R Streets

7:00 PM

February 25

Ceska Sin Karlin hosts the Botton Box Jamboree, refreshments and sandwiches available. At 5304 Fleet Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44105.

1:00 PM

Admission is $3

For more information, please call 216.833.4760

March 4

The Prague Chamber Orchestra and the Beaux Arts Trio will perform works by Rossini, Beethoven, Janacek and Dvorak at the Washington Performing Arts Society in Washington, DC

To order tickets, please call 202.785.WPAS or visit

March 5

The Komensky Club hosts a musical performance by Dolen and Sarah Freeouf

At the Nebraska Union Building, 14 & R Streets

7:00 PM

March 11

The St. Joseph Society Czech Catholic Union hosts an Annual Communion-Breakfast at Our Lady of Lourdes.

Mass is at 11:00 AM

For more information, please call 216.341.0444

March 17

Ceska Sin Karlin hosts a St. Patrick -St. Joseph Party with a corned beef dinner and/or sandwiches. At 5304 Fleet Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44105

Music by Frank Moravcik from 7:00 PM -11:00 PM.

Reservations are required, admission is $4

For reservations, please call 216.429.2450

March 21

The Chicago Opera Theater presents a New Production of the Satirical Opera The Good Soldier Svejk, bringing this much-loved opera back to Chicago with a new production.

The Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport, Chicago

7:30 PM

For more dates and showtimes, please call 312.704.8420, ext. 12

For tickets, please call the COT Box Office at 312.704.8414 or Ticketmaster at 312.902.1500

March 24

The Czech & Slovak American Genealogy Society of Illinois will hold a genealogy conference including six sessions of speakers and topics. A Luncheon and Entertainment with the Moravian Cultural Society Dancers and Richard Proner will also be featured. At the William Tell Hotel, 6201 Joliet Road, Countryside, IL.

For more information about the Conference or CSAGSI, please call 630.906.8175 or 708.485.6189, or visit

Czech Center New York

Exhibition : The New Connection : "The best of Slovak and Czech Art"

This exhibition which works by the best young artists in the Slovak and Czech Republics (winners of the Chalupecky Prize [Czech] and Tonal Prize [Slovak)]), was put together by the C.ART.A in an effort to promote social, cultural and political cooperation between the two countries and The Foundation for a Civil Society. Presented as part of Slovak Culture Month in New York.

February 1 -March 3, 2001, World Financial Center, NYC

Exhibition : Slovak Art from Prague : "Paintings by Eva Chmelova"

Exhibition of works by native Slovak artist Eva Chmelova, who has lived in Prague since 1981. Presented as part of Slovak Culture Month in New York. Members of the Slovak government will participate at an opening reception.

February 2 -March 1, 2001, Czech Center New York

Lecture : Franta Nedved : Illustrations and other Passions

For this special event, Franta will talk about his professions and obsessions : Painting, illustration and writing.

February 22, 2001, Czech Center New York








ue since 1981. Presented as part of Slovak Culture Month in New York. Members of the Slovak government will participate at an opening reception.

February 2 -March 1, 2001, Czech Center New York

Lecture : Franta Nedved : Illustrations and other Passions

For this special event, Franta will talk about his professions and obsessions : Painting, illustration and writing.

February 22, 2001, Czech Center New York