Books on Czech Republic
% of GDP
Update No: 108 - (30/05/06)
Next Czech government may include communists, Greens
The general trend in world politics is against the left. But there are certain
counter-trends all the same.
Latin America can always be trusted on for a leftist resurgence, with visceral
anti-Americanism to the fore. One just has to think of Chavez in Venezuela and
now Morales in Bolivia, both now pals of course with Castro in Cuba.
Elsewhere the right is totally dominant, bar perhaps Nepal.
But Europe is a different story. A new poll has found that nearly half of Czech
voters want communists in power once again. This has increased the likelihood
that Prague's next government will look nothing like the current, centre-left
With national elections set for June, shifting voter preferences suggest that at
least one new face will join the group of political parties in the next ruling
coalition. One possible newcomer is the communist party, KSCM, which now holds
15 percent of parliament's seats and, according to the latest SC&C survey,
has support for its government bid from 48 percent of 3,000 voters polled.
Another possible coalition partner is the liberal Green Party (SZ), which is
expected to win its first parliamentary seats this year.
Coalition in trouble
In recent months the current ruling party, the leftist Social Democrats (CSSD)
of Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek, which has held power since 1998, has courted
both KSCM and SZ. CSSD is keeping its options open because its current coalition
partners - the Christian Democrats (KDU) and Freedom Union (US) - are
struggling. Inter-party friction has soured relations between KDU and CSSD, and
polls show US may be unable to muster the five percent voter support needed to
compete in the election.
But paradoxically the conservatives may be the most popular all the same
Meanwhile, according to a Facto Invenio poll released on April 18, the
conservative opposition Civic Democrats (ODS) have the highest support from
voters. The poll said more than 29 per cent of voters chose ODS, compared with
23 per cent for CSSD, 18 per cent for KSCM, 12 per cent for KDU and 10 per cent
ODS leader Mirek Topolanek would likely replace Paroubek if the CSSD loses the
June election. However, like CSSD, ODS probably would need at least one
coalition partner in order to control a majority in the 200-seat lower chamber
of parliament. Possible partners for an ODS-led government include SZ and KDU.
Although the idea has been rejected by Paroubek and Topolanek, some political
analysts have speculated that the CSSD and ODS could jointly run the government
through an "opposition agreement." These same parties cooperated under
a similar system in 1998-2002. Referring to the current evolution, SZ leader
Martin Bursik said on a weekend TV talk show that his party's emergence has
"shuffled the cards" in Czech politics.
"For some time the game had only two variations: a grand coalition of CSSD
and ODS or a minority government with the support of the communists,"
Bursik said. Paroubek appeared on the same programme to reject speculation that
CSSD might team up with ODS or KSCM.
Czechs keep up hope for Hyundai car plant
Czech officials clung to hopes recently that the construction of a 3,000-job
car-assembly factory would not be delayed by Hyundai Motor Group's bribery
scandal in South Korea. Despite reports in Seoul that Hyundai would likely
postpone the Czech project "we still don't have any official
information" from the company, Alzbeta Honsova of the government agency
Honsova explained that not even Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek, whose
administration has been negotiating with Hyundai for months, had heard from the
company. "We're still counting on the 16th or 17th of May" for a
groundbreaking ceremony at the plant in the eastern city of Nosovice, Honsova
told Deutsche-Presse-Agentur (dpa).
CEZ group's restructuring brought huge savings
Czech state-run power producer CEZ said on April 5th it had saved about one
billion Czech crowns in costs, before taxes, in 2005, owing to asset and
personnel restructuring. CEZ Board Member, Tomas Pleskac said "last year
almost CZK one billion … exceeded the plan … for 2005," New Europe
However, part of the savings was swallowed by transformation costs reaching
about 300 million crowns. The transformation process, which began in 2004,
should save costs worth more than five billion crowns by 2008 compared with
2003. Pleskac said this year's savings should increase to 1.4 billion crowns. In
2008, CEZ plans to save around 2.5 to 3.0 billion crowns. Atlantik FT analyst
Petr Novak said CEZ had originally planned gross savings worth 830 million
crowns. "This means CEZ raised its gross savings by CZK 170 million, which
is in line with its projection with respect to the fact that the savings plan
was drafted in 2004, and to the amount of costs of the CEZ group will reach CZK
95.6 billion." He added that CEZ could show a total gross savings worth 7.7
billion crowns owing to the Vize 2008 transformation project.
Within the group's restructuring, CEZ transferred the assets and staff of five
distributors to new companies. Staff numbers at the original distributors in the
group should drop to 6,442 at end 2007 from 7,954 in 2003. Last year, CEZ
established its key units CEZ Prodej (sales) and CEZ Distribuce (distribution)
and completed the main part of the planned transformation. At end 2005, the CEZ
group comprised 93 companies after it took over three Bulgarian distributors and
Romania's Electrica Oltenia. The group had 29,905 staff at end 2005, up 7,137 on
the year. The group had 3.4 million final customers in the Czech Republic, 1.9
million in Bulgaria and 1.3 million in Romania. The CEZ group reported
preliminary un-audited net profit worth 22.3 billion crowns in 2005, up by 56
percent year-on-year. CEZ has alone increased profit by 70 percent to a record
high of 17.6 billion crowns and has become the most profitable Czech company.
Gas-processing plant to be built by Czech Republic
Director of the Skoda IS Moscow Office, Ladislav Lung, announced that the Czech
delegation is reviewing different options for the construction of a gas refinery
in the Krasnoyarsk Krai, New Europe reported.
He said that the company recently implemented a turn-key gas refinery project in
the Republic of Komi. A similar plant could be constructed in the Krasnoyarsk
Krai with Czech banks providing investments on beneficial terms.
Broad cooperation prospects with China
Czech President Vaclav Klaus said recently that China was one of his country's
most important partners in Asia, New Europe reported.
He added that the two countries foresaw even greater prospects in the future.
Klaus made the statement during the meeting with visiting Chinese Vice Premier,
Hui Liangyu. The president said that frequent high-level visits in recent years
showed the close relationship between the Czech Republic and China. Prague was
glad to see that bilateral trade ties had also developed rapidly. China played
an increasingly important role not only in Asia, but also in terms of
international affairs, and Czech-Chinese cooperation had wide-ranging future
prospects, Klaus said.
With regard to the Chinese, Hui said bilateral cooperation had been achieved in
the fields of trade, culture, education and tourism. China attached great
importance to its relations with the Czech Republic and was ready to promote
more extensive bilateral cooperation with concerted efforts in various areas.
iPass and T-Mobile partner up for Wi-FI connectivity
The Czech Republic's biggest telecom company, iPass Inc, has announced a
partnership with T-Mobile to incorporate T-Mobile's and T-Com's European Wi-Fi
hotspot networks into the iPass Global broadband roaming network, New Europe
More than 800,000 unique quarterly iPass users are expected to benefit from
access to over 8,000 new locations in Germany, the United Kingdom, the
Netherlands, Austria and the Czech Republic. The T-Mobile HotSpot and T-Com
HotSpot networks include thousands of business friendly locations that would
enable iPass customers to connect quickly and securely to their company network.
The T-Mobile HotSpot and T-Com HotSpot networks will soon be available to iPass
customers at familiar venues throughout Europe, including Starbucks coffeehouses
and international airports like London Heathrow and Frankfurt. Additionally, it
will be available to existing T-Mobile HotSpot locations in the US like
Starbucks, Borders Books, music stores, Hyatt hotels and San Francisco and
Dallas/Fort Worth international airports.
"Over the last 18 months the popularity of Wi-Fi has grown dramatically. We
have reached a point where the usability, security and quality of our HotSpot
service means that customers are demanding to use our network to get connected
to their business," said Andre Stark, executive vice president of business
marketing for T-Mobile international.
"iPass is a truly visionary player in the enterprise connectivity market
and one of our key strategic partners across the world. Our existing partnership
with them in the US has been very successful and brought many customers to our
network. We are looking forward to seeing the same impact in Europe," he
As part of the integration process, T-Mobile's and T-Com's European Wi-Fi
hotspots would be put through the iPass enterprise ready certification programme
to ensure they are ready for use by iPass' customers. The venues will be tested
to ensure network quality and service availability standards as well as
interoperability with policy and security tools, such as virtual private
networks, personal firewalls and anti-virus software. "As the wireless
access market matures, we are looking to increase the size of our network, add
new venues and services and make it even more convenient for users to connect
wherever they go. We're seeing greater demand all the time for new types of
services such as security and mobile systems management, as well as new
connectivity methods," said Anurag Lal, iPass senior vice president of
strategic services and business development. "By partnering with a truly
international mobile operator like T-Mobile, we not only provide our customers
with a robust and convenient transatlantic Wi-Fi hotspot network, we also expect
to access next-generation connectivity technology like 3G, which has the
potential to revolutionise how our customers work."