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CZECH REPUBLIC


 



Key Economic Data 
 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
GDP
Millions of US $ 85,438 69,590 56,800 39
         
GNI per capita
 US $ 6,740 5,560 5,250 66
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

Books on Czech Republic

REPUBLICAN REFERENCE

Area (sq.km) 
78,866

Population 
10,246,178 

Density 
(per sq.km) 
132.2

Capital 
Prague 

Currency 
Koruna 

President 
Vaclav Klaus

Private sector 
% of GDP 
80%



Update No: 112 - (26/09/06)

New Czech government under fire for supporting US missile plan 
Within its first week in office in early September, the Czech Republic's new minority government became embroiled in a major political row with opposition parties over a US project to base anti-ballistic missiles on Czech territory. It is not quite clear against whom they are to be deployed.
Ostensibly Washington wants to deploy 10 interceptor missiles and a radar in Europe to reinforce its defences against the threat of a ballistic missile attack from North Korea or Iran. But it would say that, not that it still has Moscow in mind. It currently has its eye on either the Czech Republic or Poland as the favoured home for the new system, rather nearer to Russia than the other two targets. 
The Czech Republic's new right-wing Civic Democrat government, which finally took office on September 4th after three months of political wrangling in the wake of June elections, wholeheartedly backs the US scheme. The Czech conservatives have long had a strongly Atlanticist orientation and distrust and dislike the Russians.
Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek has already declared in a television interview that he is "absolutely in favour" of Czech participation. His foreign minister Alexandr Vondra, a former Czech ambassador to Washington, has made similarly upbeat noises. Almost immediately after taking office he said the missile shield would "reinforce Euro-Atlantic links" and boost his country's security at a time when "certain threats from Iran cannot be underestimated." 
But the country's second biggest party, the Social Democrats, along with the Communists are resolutely opposed to the plan. The Communists curiously are rather popular, mainly with the still numerous poor people, who actually feel nostalgic for communism.

Hot potato that could bring the government down
If the latest opinion polls are to be believed, most Czech citizens seem to back the left on this issue. A recent poll by the Stem organisation showed that 51 per cent of the population found the project "unacceptable" and 61 per cent thought it should be put to a referendum. 
The missile issue has become the country's hottest post-election talking point, with politicians of all colours making daily comments on the question. Outgoing Social Democrat premier, Jiri Paroubek, has voiced his opposition to the project in line with an internal poll of party members. 
The Communist Party, which called for an exit from Nato's military structures ahead of the elections, has launched a petition against the US plan, with the party claiming more than 15,000 signatures. The Communists this week also presented a constitutional proposal for a national referendum on the issue. 
But despite the findings of the opinion polls, few Czechs have actively taken part in the small number of pacifist or anti-American demonstrations that have been organised in opposition to the missile scheme. 
Nevertheless, many people here see any type of US installation as a form of foreign military occupation, sparking painful memories of the seven-year German occupation of the country before and during World War II and the later Soviet presence, according to the local press. 
Supporters of the project have, for their part, called into question the validity of the latest opinion polls and complain that people have been misinformed about the missile shield. They point to one Internet site, for example, which claimed the system would disturb television reception and air traffic control. 
In a bid to scotch such rumours, the Czech foreign ministry has attempted to stimulate a public discussion about the plans by holding a conference entitled "Why the Czech Republic should take part in the MD (missile defence) project." On the same day, the US embassy in Prague launched an Internet site aimed at educating Czechs about the project. The site points out that the missile shield "can integrate with emerging Nato concepts for a missile defence system," aimed at protecting Europe and not threatening Russia, which has attacked the plans. 
Washington says it is waiting for a "positive signal" from Prague before making a formal request, but it is still carrying on parallel negotiations with Poland. Unfortunately for the Americans, public opinion in Poland does not seem any more keen on the scheme. 
The United States is likely to take a final decision about the location of the missile shield before the end of the year, perhaps after a Nato summit in Riga scheduled for November 28th and 29th, according to US diplomatic sources. 
But even if it does choose the Czech option, the final signing of an agreement would require clearance from the lower house of parliament. That is something which in the current political context, with left and right wing factions each having 100 seats, looks unlikely. 
With opinions so deeply divided over the issue, Topolanek's Civic Democrat government could just find itself remembered as one of the most short-lived administrations in the Czech Republic's short history.

Topolanek visits Czech troops in Kosovo
Premier Topolanek has reinforced the high profile of Czech troops abroad. He visited Czech troops who serve within the multinational KFOR mission in Kosovo in late September. Apart from Kosovo, Czech troops operate within foreign missions in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Afghanistan and Iraq. 
However, Topolanek indicated that the Czech Republic probably would not send its troops to southern Lebanon to join U.N. stabilisation forces. 
The European Union agreed to send troops to Lebanon in late August and the Czech Republic promised help, too. The former government of Jiri Paroubek nevertheless, required that the U.N. Security Council first clarify the mandate of the multinational military mission. This has yet to happen.

Marshall Centre professor named Czech Minister of Defence
To emphasise the great importance of defence issues in the country, a Marshall Centre professor has been named the new Minister of Defence for the Czech Republic. He is one of the top Czech intellectuals.
Dr. Jilí Sedivý, a professor of Central European Security Studies at the Marshall Centre's College of International and Security Studies, has been asked by Prime Minister Topolanek to consider returning to his country to assume the position of Minister of Defence. Sedivý was officially appointed September 4th along with the rest of the new government. 
"We will surely miss Dr Sedivý at the Marshall Centre," said Centre Director Dr. John P. Rose. "His academic skills are superb and his understanding of current international defence and security issues is outstanding. He relates very well to the young leaders from throughout North America, Europe and Eurasia who study at the Marshall Centre. He has a love and passion to teach, mentor and work with students. This is a great move for the Czech Republic and we at the Marshall Centre are proud that Dr. Sedivý was part of our team," Rose said.
"I loved being in the Marshall Centre and was honoured and inspired working there," Sedivý said in a farewell message to the Centre's leadership.
"I…decided to accept the honour in order to serve my country. … among other things, I will have a unique opportunity to test the security sector theories that I was lecturing on in the Marshall Centre."
Sedivý's background in international security studies goes well beyond his 2-plus years at the Marshall Centre. He is a graduate of Charles University, Prague, where he earned a doctorate in Political Science, as well as King's College London, where he earned a master's degree in War Studies. Sedivý specialized in international security, international politics, international relations theory and war studies while teaching at the Marshall Centre.

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FOOD & DRINK

Czech firm M L Moran bids for Setuza's debt 


A roughly CZK four billion claim on food company Setuza may be sold to the firm M.L. Moran which recently gained over a third of Setuza, says the Aktualne.cz server, adding that M.L. Moran´s subsidiary OleoFIN has been financing Setuza´s operation for several months already.
"If we enter Setuza, we would like to sign a set of agreements which would improve the current relations between the company, the state and the Farming and Forestry Support and Guarantee Fund [PGRLF]," OleoFIN deputy board chairman Zdenek Smejkal told the server.
If this strategy succeeds, Setuza would be split into two companies. The original Setuza would continue producing margarines, stearins, detergents and toothpastes.
The new Setuza would focus on the processing of oilseeds and subsequent production of biodiesel and bioalcohol, Aktualne.cz reported.
"There are no property links between us and M.L. Moran. They only finance us through their subsidiary, and it is quite a lot of money. Banks were not willing to finance us directly," said Tomas Pitr whose name is connected with the company Cesky olej, Setuza´s majority owner. 
M.L. Moran became the co-owner through its another subsidiary Chapelco only recently. At a general meeting, it was announced that it newly holds 37.3 per cent of the shares. Cesky olej has 53.4 per cent.
In the summer of this year, several companies wanted to buy in a public tender the claim which was transferred from bail-out agency CKA to the PGRLF and whose existence Setuza has not acknowledged.
The highest bid was submitted by the firm ABCredit from investment group PPF Investments controlled by Petr Kellner. M.L. Moran also took part in the tender through another subsidiary and was placed second. The tender was abolished in the end.

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