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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)

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Update No: 116 - (25/01/07)

There is a simmering crisis in the country. There is an absolute deadlock in parliament between the coalition government and the opposition, each with 100 seats. 
In early June 2006, Czech voters renewed the Chamber of Representatives. Final results gave the ODS 35.58 per cent of all cast ballots, followed by the CSSD with 32.32 per cent. Czech parties require at least five per cent of the vote to earn seats under the country's proportional representation system. The final tallies gave the ODS, the KDU-CSL and the SZ 100 seats in the lower house, with the remaining 100 seats going to the CSSD and the KSCM. 
The tie among rival factions has led to a long political stalemate. Czech president Vaclav Klaus re-appointed ODS leader Mirek Topolanek as prime minister. In a previous attempt, the government failed to win a confidence motion in the Chamber of Representatives. 
What will happen in the next election?

Topolanek's Coalition Could Win in Czech Republic
Civic Democratic Party (ODS) remains the most popular political organization for Czech voters, according to a poll by STEM. 32.3 per cent of respondents would vote for the ODS in the next legislative election.
The Czech Social Democratic Party (CSSD) is second with 20.9 per cent, followed by the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSCM) with 12.4 per cent, the Green Party (SZ) with 11.1 per cent, and the Christian and Democratic Union - Czech People's Party (KDU-CSL) with 7.5 per cent.
A new vote in the legislature is scheduled. CSSD deputy chairman Ivan Langer discussed the current state of affairs, saying, "I believe in more responsible CSSD deputies who will enable the government to win confidence and terminate the long-term political crisis in the country."
The poll suggests that, if a new election took place, the ODS, SZ and KDU-CSL would secure 119 of the 200 seats in the Chamber of Representatives.

Polling Data
What party list would you vote for in the next parliamentary election?
                                                                   Jan. 5   Dec. 8  Oct. 27
Civic Democratic Party (ODS)              32.3% 32.9%  35.1%
Czech Social Democratic 
Party (CSSD)                                           20.9%  20.6%  20.7%
Communist Party of Bohemia 
and Moravia (KSCM)                              12.4%   13.1% 10.9%
Green Party (SZ)                                     11.1%   11.2%  9.4%
Christian and Democratic Union
-Czech People's Party (KDU-CSL)         7.5%      7.0%  7.5%
Source: STEM
Methodology: Interviews with 1,272 Czech voters, conducted from Dec. 27, 2006, to Jan. 5, 2007. No margin of error was provided.

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These are comparatively ephemeral matters. What of the long term?

The Czechs are torn between two continents, Europe which is bread and butter business, and North America, which is their ideal. They are appreciating that the Euro-Atlantic community is not a monolith. 
Which matters more - the EU or NATO?

Europe needs a simple constitution, Czech prime minister says
Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek said on January 24th that his government supports efforts to renew work on the European Union constitution, but said the bloc needs a document that is simpler than the original one. In a television interview, Topolanek said Europe needs a new treaty, "but we cannot return to the document that already was rejected."
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who was due to visit the Czech Republic on January 30th, is planning to consult all 27 EU nations to hear any reservations about the draft treaty - which was ratified by 18 states but rejected in Dutch and French referendums in 2005 - and to determine which parts can be rescued to form the basis of a new document. Approval by all member nations is required before it can be accepted.
Germany, which holds the EU presidency, wants to save as much as possible of the draft text, which was designed to accelerate policy-making and give the EU, now with 489 million people, more visibility by creating the posts of EU president and foreign minister.

The US counts too
The Czechs are in a difficult position. They find it difficult to refuse the Americans anything, being fundamentally pro-US. They know that they owe their Velvet Revolution in 1989 and freedom ultimately to the US beating the USSR in the Cold War, rather than to the West Europeans, who did nothing in 1968 when the Soviet tanks rolled into Prague, nor yet did the US at that wretched time.
But Washington is now putting them in a real quandary.

US wants missile system in Czech Republic 
The United States has asked the Czech Republic and Poland to host a radar base that would be part of a global missile defence system, the prime minister announced on January 20th, drawing a warning from Russia of retaliatory actions.
US officials contend the system could defend Europe against intercontinental missiles fired by states such as Iran and North Korea. But the Kremlin warned that the military balance in Europe could be at stake and said the development risked a new arms race.
Independent defence experts have said the ground-based missile defence system is still years from being able to protect against long-range missile attacks. But the US has been negotiating with Poland and the Czech Republic, both former communist states now in NATO, as it explores setting up missile defence sites in Eastern Europe.
The US has missile interceptor bases in Alaska and California. It activated a powerful X-band radar site in northern Japan as part of the system last September, but so far has no anti-missile weapons based outside US territory.
The US request that the Czech Republic host only an X-band radar facility could indicate Washington is considering putting launchers for anti-missile missiles in Poland. Czech authorities refused to comment on Poland's possible role. Topolanek said only that he would discuss the issue with his Polish counterpart, Jaroslaw Kaczynski.
Topolanek said his government would name a committee to consider the U.S. request and a decision could take several months. Czech opposition parties have spoken against the defence system, and the premier's governing coalition does not have enough parliament votes to pass measures on its own. 
In Moscow, Andrei Kokoshin, the former Russian Security Council chief who now heads parliament's committee for ties with former Soviet bloc nations, warned that Czech approval of the plan would "not pass without consequences." Russian lawmakers dealing with security issues "will recommend taking retaliatory measures" that would "help maintain strategic stability and ensure the national security of Russia and our friends and allies," Kokoshin was quoted as telling the Interfax news agency.
A State Department spokesman, Edgar Vasquez, told The Associated Press he could not confirm that the Czechs had been asked to host the radar site and Poles the missile interceptors. He only repeated that negotiations were under way. "Depending on the result of the discussions, the U.S. will seek to field a limited number of ground-based missile defence silo launchers, with their associated interceptors, similar to those currently fielded at Fort Greely, Alaska, and to deploy an X-band radar for midcourse tracking and discrimination of ballistic missile threats out of the Middle East," he said. Vasquez would not specify which countries in the Middle East are considered a threat, but U.S. officials and others worry about Iran's development of long-range missiles that can reach Europe.
The missile defence system is intended to begin tracking missiles early during their boost phase and then guide interceptor missiles that would destroy the threatening missiles in flight. So far, the US military has deployed only a small number of interceptor missiles - at least 11 at Fort Greely and two at Vandenberg Air Force Base on the central California coast.
Topolanek said that if the Czech Republic approves the US request, some 200 American specialists would be deployed here and the base would become operational in 2011. "We are convinced that a possible deployment of the radar station on our territory is in our interest," he said. "It will increase security of the Czech Republic and Europe."

The following is self-explanatory:-

Wake up, Mr. Klaus
By Peter Josika
President Václav Klaus, like his Polish counterpart Lech Kaczynski, has reintroduced a rather ambiguous term into European politics: the notion of "defending the national interest." The idea behind this term, as defined by a new generation of European nationalists, is very simple: Get as much as you can for "your country," but try to give back nothing, or as little as possible, to your neighbours, the European Union or the international community. 
Sadly, this is also the very principle that has caused prejudice and bias among Europeans in the past, often also culminating in open conflict, including war and ethnic cleansing. 
The policies of Klaus, and other members of the populist Czech right, can be best summarized as follows: 
Be the advocate of the most fundamentalist forms of social Darwinism and free-market liberalism if it suits your needs, but squeeze as much money as possible out of EU pockets in the name of fair redistribution and social justice. 
Fight for the equal treatment of Czechs in the West European labour markets, but reject the rights of other Europeans to buy agricultural property in your own country. 
Play the advocate for human rights in Cuba, North Korea and Iraq but maintain the divisive and inhumane Beneš Decrees and cover up and excuse one of Europe's biggest crimes against humanity - the expulsion of one-third of the Czech Republic's historic population: the Sudeten Germans. 
Benefit from an open European market, but do whatever it takes to prevent further political integration into the EU. 
Celebrate T.G. Masaryk's democratic Czechoslovak Republic on a national day every year as if you founded the country yourself, but lobby against Karel Schwarzenberg, a highly acclaimed member of an old Czech-Austrian family that stood by the country during Nazi occupation but still suffered expropriation, expulsion and mistreatment for decades. 
Klaus, a staunch anti-communist during the 1990s, was elected president with the support of members of the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia who disliked the pro-European and moderately "Beneš Decrees-critical" candidate of the Social Democrats, Jaroslav Bureš. During the past couple years, Klaus has spent most of his time travelling around the Czech Republic, Europe and the world attacking the EU and its institutions. At the same time, he has become a strong advocate of admitting as many new countries to the EU as possible, openly admitting his aim to weaken the EU by creating more division. 
Although holding an office with a mostly representational function, Klaus did all he could to influence or hinder the EU-friendly policies of the government of former Prime Minister Jirí Paroubek. He celebrated the rejection of the EU constitution by France and the Netherlands as if it were his personal success and a defeat of the Czech government. Any attempt by the government, members of his own party or any other organization to provide the Czech public with unbiased information about the EU, and the associated importance of post-war reconciliation, was met by another fiery anti-European speech or statement. 
Not surprisingly, Klaus also strongly rejected Paroubek's rather cautious first step toward reconciliation with Sudeten Germans through the public rehabilitation of the so-called "German Anti-fascists." 
While initially a staunch supporter of a centre-right coalition led by Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek, Klaus recently turned increasingly "Topolánek-sceptical," anti-Green Party (SZ) and pro-grand coalition. This seems to have happened after he realized that (a) Topolánek was not as anti-European as he expected him to be, (b) the Christian Democratic Union and the SZ have turned the new coalition agreement into something "dangerously pro-European," from his point of view, and (c) to make matters worse, the SZ nominated a member of an old Austro-Bohemian family as the new foreign affairs minister.
But, whatever Klaus says or does, he never fails to remind the public that he has done it for "the Czech national interest." However, the saddest thing about this ongoing crusade against everything post-war Europe stands for is that it does anything but defend the national interest of the Czech Republic. A small country in the centre of Europe surrounded by neighbours with which it has a difficult and conflict-ridden history can only secure its long-term future and prosperity by actively pursuing EU integration. Not hard-line policies toward neighbours and former population groups, but fair, honest and truthful reconciliation in line with the principals of equality for all, will secure lasting peace and long term security for Czechs and all Central Europeans. 
Topolánek, until now mostly perceived as a rather faceless disciple of Klaus, has suddenly become the leader of a new wing within the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) that is looking for a new approach to Europe and the Czech Republic's neighbours. He represents the majority of ODS voters, who continue to be the most pro-European of all Czechs, despite the ongoing anti-EU campaign by party co-founder and Honorary Chairman Klaus. 
Topolánek hit the nail on the head when he called Klaus and his anti-European lobby "obsessed by the idea of Czech national revival" and the associated hatred of anything German and aristocratic. Topolánek recognizes the enormous advantage in actively pursuing the Czech Republic's incorporation into the prosperous West European economy. At the same time, he also seems to understand the enormous historical opportunity associated with the EU unification process, and the importance of reconciliation with Austria, Germany and the Sudeten Germans, something Schwarzenberg surely stands for.
Mr. Klaus, your divisive and outdated anti-European nationalism is an ugly form of chauvinism that contradicts the very principles of post-war European reconciliation. Stop talking about democracy. Pursue it if you want to become a political leader worth being remembered for; follow the path of great Czechs like T.G. Masaryk, Václav Havel, Jirí Gruša, Wenzel Jaksch and Schwarzenberg. They are people who represent the long-term interests of a truly democratic, prosperous, diverse and peaceful Czech Republic in a reconciled Central Europe. 

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ENERGY

RWE Transgas extends contract with Gazprom 

RWE Transgas and Gazprom has extended the natural gas delivery contract to supply the Czech Republic with gas until 2035, New Europe reported.
According to RWE the original contract had been due to expire in 2014 and it is for the delivery of 9,300,000,000 per year. RWE said the contract extension ensure supplies to an essential part of the European natural gas market in the long term. The company informed that the Russian deliveries would cover 70 per cent of the Czech Republic's needs and deliveries from Norway would cover 30 per cent. The remaining Russian gas will be sold abroad, said RWE. Both the companies agreed to use the Czech gas pipelines to transport the gas further west until 2035.

CEZ wants to build 1 billion Euro power plant in Poland

Czech energy company CEZ is considering the construction of a new coal-fired power station worth roughly 1 billion Euro, or nearly CZK 30 billion, in Poland, daily Mlada fronta Dnes reported recently.
"We are interested in that. The area of Skawina where we bought a power station last year is one of the possibilities, but we are also searching for other localities," CEZ spokesman, Ladislav Kriz, told the daily.
CEZ has therefore approached two Polish coal companies, offering to purchase coal for them for 40 years, from 2014 to 2054, the paper said.
CEZ investment head, Vladimir Schmalz, told Mlada fronta that the final decision on the project had not been taken yet.
CEZ stressed that the construction of a new power station would concern the supplying of the Polish market. The project should therefore have no impact on the plan to modernise and build coal-fired power stations worth over CZK 100 billion in the Czech Republic.
CEZ is facing a problem concerning the construction of a new Czech power station because it has no long-term contract for coal, the daily said.

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FOOD & DRINK

Czech beer output likely to advance 4 per cent in '06 

This year's output by the Czech beer industry would see only a slight increase, said the Czech Beer and Malt Association head Jan Vesely. According to Vesely, beer output should grow roughly by four per cent year-on-year to 19.8 million hectolitres this year.
"Data for January-November suggest a four per cent increase, and the beer industry should retain this pace at the end of the year," he added. 
According to the association, the growth would still be fuelled by exports, which should grow to 3.5 million hectolitres from last year's 3.1 million hectolitres. Czech breweries are increasingly successful on foreign markets and the ratio of exports to total production grew to almost 18 per cent in the first half of the year, against the global average of six percent. Germany was still the largest market for Czech beer exporters, covering 40 per cent of the total volume. Slovakia came second. 
Vesely said output for the domestic market was likely to grow as well this year, mainly owing to a long, hot summer. Czech consumption has been more or less flat at around 16 million hectolitres for a long time. The figure represents about 160 litres per person per year, but brewers say Czechs have been drinking less beer and the figure is flat owing to an increasing number of incoming tourists. 
According to the Beer and Malt Association website, foreigners drink about 12.5 per cent of beer sold to the Czech market, which is about 20 litres of the 160 litres sold per head every year. 
"Total beer output will also grow owing to the increasingly popular alcohol-free beers," said Vesely. In 2005, Czech breweries made 239,000 hectolitres of soft beer, but this year's output may be 100,000 hectolitres higher, owing to stricter rules for drivers introduced in July. 
In 2005, Czech breweries produced 19.07 million hectolitres of beer, a year-on-year growth of 1.7 per cent. They exported 3.1 million hectolitres, a growth of 17 per cent against 2004.

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