Czech Republic


Czech Republic
a republic in central Europe: includes the regions of Bohemia, Moravia, and part of Silesia; formerly part of Czechoslovakia; independent since 1993. 10,318,958; 30,449 sq. mi. (78,864 sq. km). Cap.: Prague.

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Czech Republic

Introduction Czech Republic -
Background: After World War II, Czechoslovakia fell within the Soviet sphere of influence. In 1968, an invasion by Warsaw Pact troops ended the efforts of the country's leaders to liberalize party rule and create "socialism with a human face." Anti- Soviet demonstrations the following year ushered in a period of harsh repression. With the collapse of Soviet authority in 1989, Czechoslovakia regained its freedom through a peaceful "Velvet Revolution." On 1 January 1993, the country underwent a "velvet divorce" into its two national components, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Now a member of NATO, the Czech Republic has moved toward integration in world markets, a development that poses both opportunities and risks. Geography Czech Republic
Location: Central Europe, southeast of Germany
Geographic coordinates: 49 45 N, 15 30 E
Map references: Europe
Area: total: 78,866 sq km water: 1,590 sq km land: 77,276 sq km
Area - comparative: slightly smaller than South Carolina
Land boundaries: total: 1,881 km border countries: Austria 362 km, Germany 646 km, Poland 658 km, Slovakia 215 km
Coastline: 0 km (landlocked)
Maritime claims: none (landlocked)
Climate: temperate; cool summers; cold, cloudy, humid winters
Terrain: Bohemia in the west consists of rolling plains, hills, and plateaus surrounded by low mountains; Moravia in the east consists of very hilly country
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Elbe River 115 m highest point: Snezka 1,602 m
Natural resources: hard coal, soft coal, kaolin, clay, graphite, timber
Land use: arable land: 40% permanent crops: 3.04% other: 56.96% (1998 est.)
Irrigated land: 240 sq km (1998 est.)
Natural hazards: flooding Environment - current issues: air and water pollution in areas of northwest Bohemia and in northern Moravia around Ostrava present health risks; acid rain damaging forests Environment - international party to: Air Pollution, Air
agreements: Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Sulphur 85, Air Pollution- Sulphur 94, Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands signed, but not ratified: Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Antarctic-Environmental Protocol
Geography - note: landlocked; strategically located astride some of oldest and most significant land routes in Europe; Moravian Gate is a traditional military corridor between the North European Plain and the Danube in central Europe People Czech Republic -
Population: 10,256,760 (July 2002 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 15.7% (male 828,273; female 786,617) 15-64 years: 70.3% (male 3,605,766; female 3,603,058) 65 years and over: 14% (male 551,852; female 881,194) (2002 est.)
Population growth rate: -0.07% (2002 est.)
Birth rate: 9.08 births/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Death rate: 10.76 deaths/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Net migration rate: 0.96 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.06 male(s)/female under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female 15-64 years: 1 male(s)/female 65 years and over: 0.63 male(s)/ female total population: 0.95 male(s)/ female (2002 est.)
Infant mortality rate: 5.46 deaths/1,000 live births (2002 est.) Life expectancy at birth: total population: 74.95 years female: 78.65 years (2002 est.) male: 71.46 years
Total fertility rate: 1.18 children born/woman (2002 est.) HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: 0.04% (1999 est.) HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/ 2,200 (1999 est.)
AIDS:
HIV/AIDS - deaths: less than 100 (1999 est.)
Nationality: noun: Czech(s) adjective: Czech
Ethnic groups: Czech 81.2%, Moravian 13.2%, Slovak 3.1%, Polish 0.6%, German 0.5%, Silesian 0.4%, Roma 0.3%, Hungarian 0.2%, other 0.5% (1991)
Religions: atheist 39.8%, Roman Catholic 39.2%, Protestant 4.6%, Orthodox 3%, other 13.4%
Languages: Czech
Literacy: definition: NA total population: 99.9% (1999 est.) male: NA% female: NA% Government Czech Republic -
Country name: conventional long form: Czech Republic conventional short form: Czech Republic local short form: Ceska Republika local long form: Ceska Republika
Government type: parliamentary democracy
Capital: Prague Administrative divisions: 13 regions (kraje, singular - kraj) and 1 capital city* (hlavni mesto); Jihocesky Kraj, Jihomoravsky Kraj, Karlovarsky Kraj, Kralovehradecky Kraj, Liberecky Kraj, Moravskoslezsky Kraj, Olomoucky Kraj, Pardubicky Kraj, Plzensky Kraj, Praha*, Stredocesky Kraj, Ustecky Kraj, Vysocina, Zlinsky Kraj
Independence: 1 January 1993 (Czechoslovakia split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia)
National holiday: Czech Founding Day, 28 October (1918)
Constitution: ratified 16 December 1992; effective 1 January 1993
Legal system: civil law system based on Austro- Hungarian codes; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction; legal code modified to bring it in line with Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) obligations and to expunge Marxist- Leninist legal theory
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal
Executive branch: chief of state: President Vaclav HAVEL (since 2 February 1993) head of government: Prime Minister Milos ZEMAN (since 17 July 1998); Deputy Prime Ministers Vladimir SPIDLA (since 22 July 1998), Pavel RYCHETSKY (since 22 July 1998), Jan KAVAN (since 8 December 1999) cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the president on the recommendation of the prime minister elections: president elected by Parliament for a five-year term; election last held 20 January 1998 (next to be held NA January 2003); prime minister appointed by the president election results: Vaclav HAVEL reelected president; Vaclav HAVEL received 47 of 81 votes in the Senate and 99 out of 200 votes in the Chamber of Deputies (second round of voting)
Legislative branch: bicameral Parliament or Parlament consists of the Senate or Senat (81 seats; members are elected by popular vote to serve six-year terms; one-third elected every two years) and the Chamber of Deputies or Poslanecka Snemovna (200 seats; members are elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms) elections: Senate - last held 12 and 19 November 2000 (next to be held NA November 2002); Chamber of Deputies - last held 19-20 June 1998 (next to be held by NA June 2002) election results: Senate - percent of vote by party - NA%; seats by party - KDU-CSL 28, ODS 22, CSSD 15, ODA 7, US 4, KSCM 3, independents 2; Chamber of Deputies - percent of vote by party - CSSD 32.3%, ODS 27.7%, KSCM 11%, KDU-CSL 9.0%, US 8.6%; seats by party - CSSD 74, ODS 63, KSCM 24, KDU-CSL 20, US 18, CSNS 1
Judicial branch: Supreme Court; Constitutional Court; chairman and deputy chairmen are appointed by the president for a 10- year term Political parties and leaders: Christian and Democratic Union- Czechoslovak People's Party or KDU- CSL [Cyril SVOBODA, chairman]; Civic Democratic Alliance or ODA [Michael ZANTOVSKY, chairman]; Civic Democratic Party or ODS [Vaclav KLAUS, chairman]; Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia or KSCM [Miroslav GREBENICEK, chairman]; Communist Party of Czechoslovakia or KSC [Miroslav STEPAN, chairman]; Czech National Social Party of CSNS [Jan SULA, chairman]; Czech Social Democratic Party or CSSD [Milos ZEMAN, chairman]; Democratic Union or DEU [Ratibor MAJZLIK, chairman]; Freedom Union or US [Hana MARVANOVA, chairman]; Quad Coalition [Karel KUHNL, chairman] (includes KDU-CSL, US, ODA, DEU); Republicans of Miroslav SLADEK or RMS [Miroslav SLADEK, chairman] Political pressure groups and Czech-Moravian Confederation of
leaders: Trade Unions [Richard FALBR] International organization ACCT (observer), Australia Group,
participation: BIS, CCC, CE, CEI, CERN, EAPC, EBRD, ECE, EU (applicant), FAO, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IEA, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ISO, ITU, MONUC, NATO, NEA, NSG, OAS (observer), OECD, OPCW, OSCE, PCA, PFP, UN, UNAMSIL, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNMEE, UNMIBH, UNMIK, UNMOP, UNMOT, UNOMIG, UPU, WCL, WEU (associate), WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO, ZC Diplomatic representation in the US: chief of mission: Ambassador Martin PALOUS consulate(s) general: Los Angeles and New York FAX: [1] (202) 966-8540 telephone: [1] (202) 363-6315 chancery: 3900 Spring of Freedom Street NW, Washington, DC 20008 Diplomatic representation from the chief of mission: Ambassador Craig
US: R. STAPLETON embassy: Trziste 15, 118 #01 Prague 1 mailing address: use embassy street address telephone: [420] (2) 5753-0663 FAX: [420] (2) 5753-0583
Flag description: two equal horizontal bands of white (top) and red with a blue isosceles triangle based on the hoist side (identical to the flag of the former Czechoslovakia) Economy Czech Republic
Economy - overview: Basically one of the most stable and prosperous of the post-Communist states, the Czech Republic has been recovering from recession since mid- 1999. Growth in 2000-01 was led by exports to the EU, especially Germany, and foreign investment, while domestic demand is reviving. Uncomfortably high fiscal and current account deficits could be future problems. Unemployment is gradually declining as job creation continues in the rebounding economy; inflation is up to 4.7% but still moderate. The EU put the Czech Republic just behind Poland and Hungary in preparations for accession, which will give further impetus and direction to structural reform. Moves to complete banking, telecommunications, and energy privatization will add to foreign investment, while intensified restructuring among large enterprises and banks and improvements in the financial sector should strengthen output growth.
GDP: purchasing power parity - $147.9 billion (2001 est.)
GDP - real growth rate: 3.4% (2001 est.)
GDP - per capita: purchasing power parity - $14,400 (2001 est.) GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 5% industry: 41% services: 54% (2000) Population below poverty line: NA% Household income or consumption by lowest 10%: 4.3%
percentage share: highest 10%: 22.4% (1996) Distribution of family income - Gini 26 (1996)
index: Inflation rate (consumer prices): 4.7% (2001 est.)
Labor force: 5.203 million (1999 est.) Labor force - by occupation: agriculture 5%, industry 40%, services 55% (2000 est.)
Unemployment rate: 8.5% (2001 est.)
Budget: revenues: $16.7 billion expenditures: $18 billion, including capital expenditures of $NA (2001 est.)
Industries: metallurgy, machinery and equipment, motor vehicles, glass, armaments Industrial production growth rate: 7.2% (2001) Electricity - production: 69.589 billion kWh (2000) Electricity - production by source: fossil fuel: 77.75% hydro: 2.5% other: 1.2% (2000) nuclear: 18.55% Electricity - consumption: 54.701 billion kWh (2000)
Electricity - exports: 18.74 billion kWh (2000)
Electricity - imports: 8.725 billion kWh (2000)
Agriculture - products: wheat, potatoes, sugar beets, hops, fruit; pigs, poultry
Exports: $32.7 billion (f.o.b., 2000)
Exports - commodities: machinery and transport equipment 44%, intermediate manufactures 25%, chemicals 7%, raw materials and fuel 7% (2000)
Exports - partners: Germany 40.4%, Slovakia 7.7%, Austria 6.0%, Poland 5.4%, UK 4.3% (2000)
Imports: $37.4 billion (f.o.b., 2000)
Imports - commodities: machinery and transport equipment 40%, intermediate manufactures 21%, raw materials and fuels 13%, chemicals 11% (2000)
Imports - partners: Germany 26.7%, Russia 6.4%, Slovakia 6.0%, Italy 5.2%, Austria 4.9% (2000)
Debt - external: $24.6 billion (2001) Economic aid - recipient: $NA
Currency: Czech koruna (CZK)
Currency code: CZK
Exchange rates: koruny per US dollar - 36.325 (January 2002), 38.035 (2001), 38.598 (2000), 34.569 (1999), 32.281 (1998), 31.698 (1997)
Fiscal year: calendar year Communications Czech Republic - Telephones - main lines in use: 3.869 million (2000) Telephones - mobile cellular: 4.346 million (2000)
Telephone system: general assessment: privatization and modernization of the Czech telecommunication system got a late start but is advancing steadily; growth in the use of mobile cellular telephones is particularly vigorous domestic: 86% of exchanges now digital; existing copper subscriber systems now being enhanced with Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL) equipment to accommodate Internet and other digital signals; trunk systems include fiber-optic cable and microwave radio relay international: satellite earth stations - 2 Intersputnik (Atlantic and Indian Ocean regions), 1 Intelsat, 1 Eutelsat, 1 Inmarsat, 1 Globalstar Radio broadcast stations: AM 31, FM 304, shortwave 17 (2000)
Radios: 3,159,134 (December 2000) Television broadcast stations: 150 (plus 1,434 repeaters) (2000)
Televisions: 3,405,834 (December 2000)
Internet country code: .cz Internet Service Providers (ISPs): more than 300 (2000)
Internet users: 1.1 million (2001) Transportation Czech Republic -
Railways: total: 9,444 km standard gauge: 9,350 km 1.435- m gauge (2,843 km electrified; 1,929 km double-track) narrow gauge: 94 km 0.760-m gauge (2000 est.)
Highways: total: 55,432 km paved: 55,432 km (including 499 km of expressways) unpaved: 0 km (2000)
Waterways: 303 km note: (the Labe (Elbe) is the principal river) (2000)
Pipelines: natural gas 3,550 km (2000)
Ports and harbors: Decin, Prague, Usti nad Labem
Airports: 121 (2001) Airports - with paved runways: total: 44 over 3,047 m: 2 2,438 to 3,047 m: 10 914 to 1,523 m: 2 under 914 m: 17 (2001) 1,524 to 2,437 m: 13 Airports - with unpaved runways: total: 77 1,524 to 2,437 m: 1 914 to 1,523 m: 28 under 914 m: 48 (2001)
Heliports: 1 (2001) Military Czech Republic -
Military branches: Army, Air and Air Defense Forces, Territorial Defense Force Military manpower - military age: 18 years of age (2002 est.) Military manpower - availability: males age 15-49: 2,637,128 (2002 est.) Military manpower - fit for military males age 15-49: 2,012,779 (2002
service: est.) Military manpower - reaching military males: 69,393 (2002 est.)
age annually: Military expenditures - dollar $1,190.2 million (FY01)
figure: Military expenditures - percent of 2.1% (FY01)
GDP: Transnational Issues Czech Republic - Disputes - international: Liechtenstein's royal family claims restitution for 1,600 sq km of land in the Czech Republic confiscated in 1918; individual Sudeten German claims for restitution of property confiscated in connection with their expulsion after World War II; Austria has minor dispute with Czech Republic over the Temelin nuclear power plant and post-World War II treatment of German-speaking minorities
Illicit drugs: transshipment point for Southwest Asian heroin and minor transit point for Latin American cocaine to Western Europe; producer of synthetic drugs for local and regional markets

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formerly (1918–92, with Slovakia) Czechoslovakia

Country, central Europe.

Area: 30,450 sq mi (78,866 sq km). Population (2002 est.): 10,210,000. Capital: Prague. Czechs make up nine-tenths of the population; Slovaks are the largest minority. Language: Czech (official). Religions: Roman Catholicism, Protestantism. Currency: koruna. The landlocked country is dominated by the Bohemian Massif, a ring of mountains rising to 3,000 ft (900 m) to encircle the Bohemian Plateau. The Morava River valley, known as the Moravian Corridor, separates the Bohemian Massif from the Carpathian Mountains. Woodlands are a characteristic feature of the Czech landscape; most regions have a moderate oceanic climate. The economy has been privatized since the collapse of communism and is now largely market-oriented. The Czech Republic is a multiparty republic with two legislative houses; its head of state is the president, and the head of government is the prime minister. Until 1918 its history was largely that of Bohemia. In that year the independent republic of Czechoslovakia was born through the union of Bohemia and Moravia with Slovakia. Czechoslovakia came under the domination of the Soviet Union after World War II, and from 1948 to 1989 it was ruled by a communist government. Its growing political liberalization was suppressed by a Soviet invasion in 1968 (see Prague Spring). After communist rule collapsed in 1989–90, separatist sentiments emerged among the Slovaks, and in 1992 the Czechs and Slovaks agreed to break up their federated state. On Jan. 1, 1993, Czechoslovakia was peacefully dissolved and replaced by two new countries, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, with the region of Moravia remaining in the former. In the late 1990s the Czech Republic started membership talks with the European Union, and in 1999 it entered NATO.

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▪ 2009

Area:
78,866 sq km (30,450 sq mi)
Population
(2008 est.): 10,408,000
Capital:
Prague
Chief of state:
President Vaclav Klaus
Head of government:
Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek

      In 2008 the Czech Republic experienced rising uncertainty as the government's position weakened and the economy slowed. After six inconclusive rounds of voting, in February the parliament reelected Vaclav Klaus as president by the narrowest possible margin. Support from the senior ruling Civic Democratic Party (ODS) alone was insufficient, and Klaus scoured the entire political scene for additional backing. The junior ruling Green Party (SZ) and the opposition Czech Social Democratic Party (CSSD) supported Klaus's challenger, U.S.-based economist Jan Svejnar, who was pro- European Union (EU) and favoured more attention to the environment.

      While Svejnar's presidential victory would likely have triggered the government's collapse, Klaus's success failed to bring harmony. Indeed, maintaining political stability while pushing forward with further reforms proved difficult for Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek. Following its formation in early 2007, the cabinet lacked a formal parliamentary majority and depended on defectors from the CSSD. Although four deputies had left the CSSD by June 2008, the government remained challenged by disputes within and between the three ruling parties.

      While SZ chairman Martin Bursik was accused of having deviated from the party program, rival Dana Kuchtova failed to unseat him at an extraordinary congress in September. That same month controversy heightened within the ODS as party deputy Jan Morava was caught on hidden camera gathering sensitive information about other politicians. Morava claimed to have been provoked by former finance minister Vlastimil Tlusty (a Topolanek rival), and several Tlusty allies subsequently quit the ODS parliamentary caucus. The third ruling party, the Christian and Democratic Union–Czech People's Party (KDU-CSL), regained its footing after chairman Jiri Cunek was cleared of corruption charges and thus was allowed to return to the government in April. Some Green representatives remained skeptical of Cunek, however.

      Given the country's aging population, pension and health care reforms ranked among the greatest legislative challenges. Although the ruling parties approved an outline in April for health care reforms, internal conflict persisted over several key issues, including health care fees, which were introduced at the start of 2008. In June the parliament backed the first step in pension reform, gradually raising the retirement age to 65 by 2030. The bill was approved despite criticism from the opposition and trade unions, which organized a one-hour general strike before the vote. Topolanek vowed that the government would not set a target date for the adoption of the euro without further pension and health care reforms.

      During the second half of October, the Czech Republic held elections to the Senate and regional assemblies, which resulted in a landslide CSSD victory. With 27 of the 81 seats being contested in the Senate elections, the CSSD won 23, compared with just 3 for the ODS, which lost its majority in the Senate. Following a failed attempt to unseat the government in April, the CSSD held another unsuccessful parliamentary no-confidence vote in late October (the fourth since 2006).

      Government unity was seen as especially important, since the Czech Republic was scheduled to take over the European Union presidency in the first half of 2009. A potential embarrassment related to the ratification of the EU Reform Treaty also loomed, given the strong contingent of Euroskeptics in the parliament. In late November the Czech Constitutional Court ruled that the treaty was compatible with national law; the parliament was not expected to ratify the document until early 2009, however.

      Elsewhere in foreign relations, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited Prague in July to sign an agreement on the installation of an antimissile shield. In July, Russia cut back on oil supplies to the Czech Republic, ostensibly for technical reasons. Still, many Czechs saw that move as punishment for the government's agreement on the missile deal. Receiving pressure at home, in October Topolanek canceled his trip to Washington, D.C., to discuss the shield.

      On the economic front, the country experienced a moderate weakening during 2008 after record-high growth rates in 2005–07. The economy was negatively affected by the global slowdown and strong koruna. Meanwhile, the fiscal reforms that took effect at the start of 2008 drove up inflation, which was boosted further during the first half of the year by high food and fuel costs. On a positive note, the Czech Republic recorded its fourth consecutive foreign-trade surplus.

Sharon Fisher

▪ 2008

Area:
78,866 sq km (30,450 sq mi)
Population
(2007 est.): 10,302,000
Capital:
Prague
Chief of state:
President Vaclav Klaus
Head of government:
Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek

 Though the year 2007 was challenging for the Czech Republic from a political perspective, the country continued to perform well economically. More than seven months after the June 2006 elections, a new centre-right government finally managed to gain parliamentary approval on Jan. 19, 2007, under the leadership of Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek. Although the three ruling parties—the Civic Democratic Party (ODS), the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL), and the Greens—had a combined total of just 100 seats in the 200-member parliament, the confidence vote was approved after two rebel deputies from the opposition Social Democrats (CSSD) agreed to leave the chamber during the vote, amid claims of political corruption. The ODS was given half of the 18 governmental posts, while the others were divided between its two junior partners. The confidence vote brought temporary relief to the postelection political stalemate, but tensions continued. Pres. Vaclav Klaus, who opposed the formation of a cabinet that depended on backing from opposition rebels, referred to the confidence vote as “the beginning of a path toward early elections.”

      Public finance reform was the most important policy issue during 2007. The government's proposed fiscal package included a shift to a flat tax on personal income, a gradual reduction in corporate tax rates, an increase in the lower rate of value-added tax, and the introduction of fees for health care services. Critics emerged on both ends of the spectrum; while the left argued that the reforms would help only the rich, the right claimed that the measures failed to simplify the taxation system. Both sides questioned whether the fiscal package would reduce the country's deficits, particularly since major changes to the health care and pension systems were delayed. Uncertainty over whether the package would gain approval continued until just before the parliament's vote on August 21. Although the two CSSD rebels promised to vote in favour, internal dissent emerged within both the ODS and the KDU-CSL. The ODS critics finally gave in, but one KDU-CSL MP voted against the bill. Thus, the package was approved by the narrowest possible margin, 101–99.

      Several ministers came under fire in 2007. Early in the year charges were brought against Deputy Prime Minister Jiri Cunek for alleged corruption in 2002, during his term as mayor of a northern Moravian town. Despite pressure from the media, Topolanek refused to fire Cunek, who, as KDU-CSL chairman, could have withdrawn his party from the cabinet. In August the case against Cunek was mysteriously dropped, owing to the alleged unreliability of available witnesses. A new scandal erupted in October with allegations that Cunek had collected social welfare benefits in the late 1990s while amassing millions of koruny in private savings. Cunek finally left his government post in November. In September, Education Minister Dana Kuchtova came under criticism after irregularities in applications for European Union funds were revealed. Kuchtova, who represented the Greens, agreed to leave her post in mid-October.

      The CSSD tried to take advantage of the government's weakness by initiating a vote of no confidence on June 20. The vote was based on the planned public finance reforms, in addition to the corruption case against Cunek. The motion attracted only 97 votes, however, and the cabinet survived. By August most public opinion polls indicated that CSSD support had surpassed that of the ODS for the first time since late 2002.

      On the economic front, Czech GDP continued to rise rapidly in 2007, while unemployment declined and the foreign trade surplus widened. Nonetheless, some structural problems emerged as a growing labour shortage drove up real wages, with worrying implications for inflation.

      From an international perspective, an issue that triggered substantial public debate was the decision by the U.S. to build a radar base in the Czech Republic, an action most Czechs opposed. U.S. Pres. George W. Bush traveled to Prague in early June, however, to discuss plans for the base.

Sharon Fisher

▪ 2007

Area:
78,866 sq km (30,450 sq mi)
Population
(2006 est.): 10,260,000
Capital:
Prague
Chief of state:
President Vaclav Klaus
Head of government:
Prime Ministers Jiri Paroubek and, from September 4, Mirek Topolanek

      The Czech Republic experienced considerable political turmoil in 2006 as the parliamentary elections on June 2–3 ended in a stalemate, with the lower house split evenly between the left and the right. Before the elections the Social Democrats (CSSD) ruled the country in coalition with two junior partners from the centre right: the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL) and the Freedom Union (US-DEU).

      In the lower-house elections, both the CSSD and the right-wing opposition Civic Democratic Party (ODS) won higher-than-expected support. While the ODS emerged as the largest party, with 35.4% of the vote and 81 seats in the 200-member parliament, the CSSD scored a close second, with 32.3% and 74 seats. Only three other parties gained sufficient voter support to enter the parliament: the Communists (with 12.8% of the vote and 26 seats), the KDU-CSL (with 7.2% and 13 seats), and the Greens (with 6.3% and 6 seats). The US-DEU failed to pass the 5% threshold.

      The ODS's election victory was Pyrrhic, and the party had virtually no chance of forming a stable centre-right government. Following the elections Pres. Vaclav Klaus asked ODS leader Mirek Topolanek to form the next government. The party initially tried to form a coalition with the KDU-CSL and the Greens; however, with only 100 seats in the parliament, it soon became apparent that it would not succeed, particularly after the CSSD and Communists repeatedly blocked the appointment of a new parliament chairman. The coalition had fallen apart by early August. Instead, the ODS launched negotiations with the CSSD with the aim of forming an ODS-led minority government that would serve until new parliamentary elections could be held. Nonetheless, talks between the two rivals were complicated, and allegations by top ODS officials that the previous CSSD-led government had used wiretapping against political opponents and journalists contributed to rising political tensions. The two parties even had problems agreeing on a date for the next elections. As expected, Topolanek's government failed to win a confidence vote from the parliament on October 3, with even some KDU-CSL representatives refusing to offer their support.

      After Topolanek's failure, the appointment of a new cabinet was delayed until after the elections to the Senate and local governments, which were held in late October. The ODS scored a victory in the Senate elections, which gave the party an absolute majority in the upper house, while the party also performed very well in the local elections. Both showings strengthened Topolanek's position, and Klaus gave Topolanek another chance to form a cabinet, which was set for appointment in early 2007.

      The most important bill requiring parliamentary approval following the June elections was the state-budget draft for 2007, and the ODS needed the backing from at least part of the CSSD to push the bill through. After CSSD support was secured, the parliament approved the budget bill in its first reading during the last week of October, with the final vote held in mid-December. The bill passed by a vote of 149 to 30, with the Greens and the Communists opposing it, and Klaus subsequently signed it.

      Local economists strongly criticized the budget draft for 2007, because the public-finance deficit was scheduled to rise to 4% of GDP, far above the Maastricht limit for entry to the euro zone. By September 2006 the difficult fiscal situation had led politicians and economists from across the spectrum to admit that the Czech Republic's adoption of the euro would be delayed well beyond the target date of January 2010. While budgetary cuts were needed to bring the fiscal deficit under control, the electoral stalemate complicated the approval of any serious reforms. Otherwise, the Czech economic situation was quite good in 2006, with strong growth in GDP, declining unemployment, and a foreign-trade surplus.

Sharon Fisher

▪ 2006

Area:
78,866 sq km (30,450 sq mi)
Population
(2005 est.): 10,235,000
Capital:
Prague
Chief of state:
President Vaclav Klaus
Head of government:
Prime Ministers Stanislav Gross and, from April 25, Jiri Paroubek

      The year 2005 in the Czech Republic was characterized by political conflicts and an unexpectedly strong economy. Having taken over as prime minister in August 2004, Stanislav Gross was struck by a scandal in January 2005 in connection with the uncertain provenance of property held by him and his wife. Gross's defenders argued that the scandal's emergence was part of a political campaign designed to weaken his position prior to the Social Democrats' (CSSD's) party congress, held on March 25–27. Gross's only competitor for the CSSD chairmanship was Labour and Social Affairs Minister Zdenek Skromach, who wanted to see the party shift to the left. In contrast, Gross backed a more centrist approach. Gross was elected chairman even though it was clear before the congress that one of the CSSD's two junior partners, the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL), would likely leave a Gross-led cabinet.

 In a parliamentary vote of confidence on April 1, the KDU-CSL joined the opposition Civic Democrats (ODS) in voting against the Gross cabinet, which survived only thanks to the abstention of deputies from the opposition Communists. Just as the country appeared to be on the verge of early elections, the CSSD managed to make a new deal with the KDU-CSL and its other junior partner, the Freedom Union (US-DEU), by putting forward a new candidate for the post of prime minister. Thus, Gross resigned and was replaced by Jiri Paroubek on April 25, with only a few minor changes in the government lineup. Gross decided to leave politics altogether in September after his name was raised in connection with a privatization scandal.

      A relative political unknown who had served as local development minister, Paroubek demonstrated surprising agility in political maneuvering, having convinced his party's junior coalition partners to remain in the government, forged agreement on a new policy statement, and persuaded left-wing CSSD rebels to vote in favour of the new cabinet. Paroubek's government won a vote of confidence on May 13, receiving the support of 101 of 200 parliamentary deputies who represented the CSSD and its two junior partners. After Paroubek assumed the post of prime minister, his popularity grew rapidly, putting him in first place in the CSSD in public opinion polls. He also helped the party improve its standing.

      In the latter part of 2005, Czech politics became increasingly focused on the next parliamentary elections, scheduled for June 2006. Under Paroubek, the CSSD shifted back toward the left, and in September the party joined forces with the opposition Communists to approve several key bills, which angered the KDU-CSL. Desperate to raise public support before the elections, the CSSD was reluctant to approve any major economic reforms.

      The economy performed much better than expected in 2005. Many indicators reached their best levels since the mid-1990s, which demonstrated the benefits of the Czech Republic's membership in the European Union. GDP reached its highest growth rate since 1996, while the country's trade balance recorded the first surplus since 1993. Moreover, the Czech Republic attracted record inflows of direct foreign investment, partly thanks to the privatization of several key firms. That investment helped to bring down unemployment rates after 2004's record highs. Interest rates were cut to a historic low in April, 25 basis points below those of the European Central Bank. Despite those cuts, the Czech koruna strengthened substantially against the euro, helping to keep inflation down, despite surging energy prices. The country's fiscal results were also better than expected as strong economic growth helped to boost revenues.

Sharon Fisher

▪ 2005

Area:
78,866 sq km (30,450 sq mi)
Population
(2004 est.): 10,212,000
Capital:
Prague
Chief of state:
President Vaclav Klaus
Head of government:
Prime Ministers Vladimir Spidla and, from July 26, Stanislav Gross

      The year 2004 was marked by political upheaval and an economic upturn as the Czech Republic finally “rejoined Europe.” Like its counterparts in Poland and Hungary, the left-leaning Czech government collapsed after the country's accession to the European Union on May 1, with Vladimir Spidla resigning as prime minister in July and handing over the reigns to the youthful Stanislav Gross. After weeks of uncertainty and tension, Gross's new cabinet narrowly won a parliamentary vote of confidence on August 24. Nonetheless, the new government consisted of all the same parties and most of the same ministers as the previous cabinet. Moreover, it faced all of the same problems, particularly those relating to public finance reform. The political situation was complicated further by the ruling coalition's razor-thin majority of just 101 seats in the 200-member lower house of the parliament.

      The collapse of Spidla's cabinet was triggered by the humiliating defeat of the Social Democrats (CSSD) in the elections to the European Parliament (EP) that were held in the Czech Republic on June 11–12. Prior to the elections, the CSSD's popularity had been falling sharply. While some attributed that decline to the difficult impact of the first round of public finance reforms that had been approved in late 2003, others blamed it on Spidla's lacklustre leadership. In the end the three ruling parties combined won just 4 of 24 seats in the EP. While the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL) finished in fourth place, with 9.5% of the vote, the CSSD placed fifth, winning just 8.8%, with each of the two parties gaining two seats. As expected, support for the third coalition partner, the Freedom Union (US-DEU), came in far below the 5% threshold needed to enter the parliament. In contrast, the Euroskeptic opposition Civic Democrats (ODS) and the Communists won a combined 50.3% of the vote and 15 seats, while independents picked up the remaining five mandates. Voter turnout reached just 28.3%.

      Personnel changes in the Gross government did not go as far as expected. Of the 18 posts, only 6 were filled with individuals who had not served in the previous cabinet. There was some reshuffling among the various positions, and the cabinet added one member. The CSSD now held 12 of the 18 cabinet posts, up from the previous 11, with 3 of those going to nonparty members. While the KDU-CSL made no changes to its lineup, the US-DEU swapped some posts with the CSSD. The cabinet's policy statement was widely criticized as vague and lacking in new ideas.

      Despite the lack of real change, public support for the CSSD and the government in general initially rose somewhat after the cabinet shake-up. That improvement could be attributed to the leadership of Gross, who had long been one of the most popular politicians in the country. According to polls by the STEM agency, Spidla's popularity had fallen from 77% in September 2002 to just 27% in July, while support for Gross dropped much less dramatically, from 85% to 56% in the two respective periods. Meanwhile, the ODS's image was damaged somewhat by allegations that the party had tried to bribe a US-DEU deputy in an effort to persuade him to help bring down the new government.

      Nonetheless, Gross did not have much time to renew the CSSD's support, given the upcoming elections to the Senate and the regional administration, both of which took place on November 5–6. With a voter turnout at an all-time low, the ODS managed to pull off an overwhelming victory in both elections, gaining majorities in 12 of the 13 regions and winning 18 of the 27 Senate seats that were up for grabs. Embarrassingly, the CSSD failed to gain a single seat in the Senate.

      The economy fared better than expected in 2004, although rising inflation cut back on real wage growth and led to more caution on the part of Czech consumers. Given the country's large public finance deficit, the Czech Republic was not expected to join the euro zone before 2010, well after most of the other new EU accession countries. Even that date would be a challenge for the government. Although the Finance Ministry was expected to come up with another round of fiscal reforms, the government's ability to push through legislation was challenged by the strong right-wing slant of the Senate, regional assemblies, and presidency.

Sharon Fisher

▪ 2004

Area:
78,866 sq km (30,450 sq mi)
Population
(2003 est.): 10,202,000
Capital:
Prague
Chief of state:
Presidents Vaclav Havel, Vladimir Spidla (acting) from February 2, and, from March 7, Vaclav Klaus
Head of government:
Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla

      The Czech Republic slipped backward somewhat in 2003 amid political uncertainty and economic sluggishness. The key political events for the Czechs in 2003 were the parliament's election of the new president in February and the referendum on European Union membership, held on June 13–14. The presidential elections were considered the first major failure for the government—the ruling parties' candidate lost. Meanwhile, the EU referendum was a key success; a total of 55.2% of the Czech electorate participated in the country's first-ever referendum, with 77.3% voting in favour of joining the EU. The country was scheduled to join the EU on May 1, 2004.

      The conclusion of Pres. Vaclav Havel's final term in office in February (he was ineligible to run for another term) represented the end of an era for the Czechs. That was particularly true, given that his successor was Vaclav Klaus, who in many ways represented the antithesis of Havel. Klaus, the former chairman of the opposition Civic Democratic Party (ODS), won the presidency despite the fact that the three ruling parties had vowed to support an alternative candidate, former dissident Jan Sokol. From the start, Klaus's victory promised to be a thorn in the side of the ruling coalition, since he was a self-proclaimed “Thatcherite” and an outspoken conservative and Euroskeptic. In contrast, the Social Democrats (CSSD), the biggest party in the ruling coalition, leaned to the left and was strongly pro-EU.

      The presidential vote revealed growing tensions within the CSSD, as some party representatives reportedly voted for Klaus rather than Sokol. From the start, maintenance of the new government was expected to be difficult, since the ruling parties had won just 101 seats in the 200-member parliament in the June 2002 elections, barely enough for a majority. Initially it was expected that the CSSD's two centre-right junior coalition partners, rather than the CSSD itself, would provide the impetus to provoke instability within the cabinet. Following Klaus's election as president, Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla called a vote of confidence in his government for March 11, and the measure passed by the narrowest-possible majority. Nonetheless, internal strife within the CSSD continued. The cabinet suffered a major blow on July 22 when it lost its parliamentary majority owing to the resignation of Josef Hojdar from the CSSD's parliamentary caucus. Although CSSD representatives played down the importance of his departure, Hojdar's support was particularly important, given the need for an absolute majority of all deputies (101 votes) to override a veto by the president or the Senate, where the ruling coalition also lacked a majority.

      In late September political tensions heated up considerably as the parliament discussed a package of 11 bills related to public finance reform and the opposition called a no-confidence vote in the cabinet. Many observers believed the fiscal-reform legislation would fail to gain approval after Hojdar's departure, especially given the complaints of many other CSSD representatives that the bills ran contrary to party principles. Nonetheless, all 11 of the bills were approved, while the government won the confidence vote by a narrow margin of 100–98, with Hojdar abstaining. Despite those successes, the government's position remained unstable, as the reform measures still needed to be approved by the Senate and signed by President Klaus. If rejected by either the Senate or the president, the bills would return to the parliament, where they would require the support of 101 of the 200 deputies. The Senate was expected to discuss the remaining finance-reform bills at a later time.

      The Czech economic performance was somewhat disappointing in 2003; GDP growth was sluggish, and the unemployment rate rose above 10% for the first time. Exports recorded a recovery despite the difficult external situation, and industry performed well. Imports also rose steadily as strong wage growth and disinflation contributed to a rise in household consumption. The government's biggest economic challenge in 2003 was to put the country's fiscal house in order. Although the cabinet's reform bills would move the Czech Republic partly in that direction, the changes were generally seen as haphazard and insufficient.

Sharon Fisher

▪ 2003

Area:
78,866 sq km (30,450 sq mi)
Population
(2002 est.): 10,210,000
Capital:
Prague
Chief of state:
President Vaclav Havel
Head of government:
Prime Ministers Milos Zeman and, from July 12, Vladimir Spidla

      The year 2002 was a difficult one for the Czech Republic, as massive floods in August wreaked havoc on Prague and other important centres of tourism and industry. The flooding inflicted tremendous damage on the country and complicated the already strained fiscal situation.

      The political left scored a victory in 2002, winning a parliamentary majority for the first time since the fall of communism in 1989. The Czech Social Democratic Party (CSSD), which had ruled since 1998 in a power-sharing opposition agreement with the right-wing Civic Democratic Party (ODS), emerged victorious in the lower-house elections on June 14–15, winning 30.2% of the vote and 70 seats in the 200-member parliament. The ODS finished a somewhat distant second, and the only other groups that surpassed the 5% threshold needed for entry into the parliament were the Communists and the Coalition. Voter turnout was disappointingly low.

      The CSSD would have had considerable leeway in forming leftist-oriented policy had it created a minority government with tacit support from the Communists, particularly given the two parties' relatively strong parliamentary majority. The ongoing negotiations on accession to the European Union and the EU's upcoming decision on enlargement, however, led the CSSD to choose instead the centre-right Coalition, which later broke down into its separate parts: the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL) and the Freedom Union. Pres. Vaclav Havel appointed CSSD Chairman Vladimir Spidla prime minister on July 12, and the rest of the cabinet was installed on July 15. The ruling coalition had a parliamentary majority of just one seat.

      The KDU-CSL and the Freedom Union had little influence on policy making, with the CSSD filling 11 of the 17 cabinet positions, including most of the important ones. In entering the new cabinet, the KDU-CSL and the Freedom Union wanted both to confirm their reliability as negotiating partners and to prevent other alternatives that could damage the country's interests. Nonetheless, the situation remained precarious, as demonstrated most notably on September 13, when the parliament narrowly defeated the government's proposed tax measures that were designed to funnel new revenues toward flood relief in 2003 and 2004. The bill failed when former Freedom Union chairwoman Hana Marvanova voted with the opposition forces, throwing the government into a crisis. A government collapse was averted five days later when the leaders of the three ruling parties signed an addendum to the coalition agreement guaranteeing that their parliamentary deputies would unanimously back key government legislation. The addendum also stated that if the Freedom Union failed to garner the support of all its deputies, it agreed voluntarily to leave the government but at the same time would refrain from backing a vote of no confidence in the cabinet. In Senate elections in November, the CSSD lost 10 seats, reducing its total number in the 81-seat chamber to 36; the ODS picked up 4 seats to raise its total to 26.

      The biggest economic concerns in 2002 related to fiscal and exchange-rate policy. The country's budget deficit was mounting owing to the high cost of bank restructuring and increasing mandatory payments for pensions and social benefits. The CSSD was reluctant to heed calls for reforms. The new coalition parties vowed that the public finance deficit would not surpass 4.9–5.4% of gross domestic product by the end of their term in 2006. That was far above the 3% limit set in the Maastricht criteria for accession to the European Monetary Union and meant that the Czech Republic's entry into the euro zone would likely be delayed, possibly until as late as 2010. Currency traders were undeterred by the government's lack of fiscal responsibility, and the Czech koruna reached new heights against the euro in 2002. With exporters expressing anxiety that the stronger currency was hindering sales abroad, the Czech National Bank cut interest rates several times and intervened against the koruna in an effort to halt its appreciation.

      Foreign affairs were somewhat steamy for the Czechs in 2002, particularly in the months prior to the parliamentary elections. The post-World War II Benes decrees that led to the expulsion of ethnic Germans from Czechoslovakia were the subject of considerable debate with Germany and Austria, and some argued that the Czech Republic should be kept out of the EU unless the decrees were canceled.

Sharon Fisher

▪ 2002

Area:
78,866 sq km (30,450 sq mi)
Population
(2001 est.): 10,269,000
Capital:
Prague
Chief of state:
President Vaclav Havel
Head of government:
Prime Minister Milos Zeman

      Czech political life was not without conflict but was relatively stable in 2001, while the economy improved considerably. The country continued to be ruled by a minority Czech Social Democratic Party (CSSD) government, which had been in power since the June 1998 elections, thanks to that party's power-sharing “opposition agreement” with its rival, the Civic Democratic Party (ODS). The CSSD and ODS frequently bickered in public, but they often managed to agree in private.

      Two government ministers left office in 2001; Finance Minister Pavel Mertlik was replaced by Jiri Rusnok in April, while Jaroslav Tvrdik took over from Vladimir Vetchy as defense minister in May. Mertlik resigned over his frustration at having failed to persuade the government to carry out his privatization and fiscal-reform plans. Vetchy was replaced because of alleged financial mismanagement, and Tvrdik set out to professionalize the army and abolish compulsory military service. Leadership changes also took place within several key parties. As expected, Vladimir Spidla was chosen CSSD chairman at the party's congress in early April, taking over from Prime Minister Milos Zeman. Changes also took place in the leadership of the opposition Quad Coalition (4K) as well as of the two major parties within that group, the Christian Democrat Union–Czech People's Party (KDU-CSL) and the Freedom Union (US). Cyril Svoboda was elected KDU-CSL chairman in May, while Hana Marvanova was chosen US leader in June, becoming the first woman to head a Czech parliamentary party.

      In late January the Constitutional Court struck down elements of a controversial electoral reform bill that the CSSD and ODS had hoped would push small parties out of the parliament by raising the threshold. The court upheld a provision obliging coalitions to obtain at least 5% of the vote for each of its member parties, a requirement apparently aimed at the 4K. As a result, the extraparliamentary Democratic Union decided in early December to merge with the US as of January 1, 2002, thereby reducing the coalition's required vote from 20% to 15%.

      The ruling parties started the year in a poor position as a wave of public protests continued over the appointment of Jiri Hodac as head of the state-owned Czech Television in December 2000. The resulting drop in support was especially apparent in the case of the ODS, the party with which Hodac was associated. Although the 4K topped popularity polls in the first months of 2001, internal squabbling over personnel and the coalition's future direction sent its public support down. Many polls later in the year put the 4K, CSSD, and ODS at approximately equal levels, with the Communists farther behind.

      An issue that drew considerable attention in 2001 was the decision of British immigration officials in July to check passengers at Prague's Ruzyne airport before they boarded flights to London. That step was taken because Great Britain had faced an increasing inflow of Czech Roma (Gypsies) seeking asylum, and the CSSD viewed the immigration checks as preferable to the imposition of visas for Czech citizens. Critics argued that the Czech government was caving in to British demands and failing to defend the right of Czech citizens to travel abroad.

      The biggest economic problem faced by the Czech Republic in 2001 related to fiscal reform, and the CSSD appeared unconcerned about the rising budget deficit and soaring public debt. Following Mertlik's departure, economic policy took a more leftist direction, led by Rusnok and Industry and Trade Minister Miroslav Gregr, who replaced Mertlik as deputy prime minister for economy. In July the cabinet approved a scaled-down version of Gregr's “big bang” plan, devoting more than $4 billion over two years to bail out of struggling industries and support transport and housing construction.

      By early December the Czech Republic had closed 22 of 31 chapters of the acquis communautaire, the body of legislation needed for membership in the European Union. The country hoped to become a full EU member by early 2004. The Czechs were forced to compromise on the free movement of people chapter after Germany and Austria proposed a seven-year moratorium for new EU members, a move perceived by Czechs as an attempt to make their country a second-class EU member. Tensions also mounted between the Czech Republic and Austria over the Temelin nuclear power plant; however, the two countries reached a historic agreement on November 29. While Prague vowed to introduce stricter safety measures, Vienna promised not to block Czech negotiations with the EU on the energy chapter of the acquis communautaire.

Sharon Fisher

▪ 2001

Area:
78,866 sq km (30,450 sq mi)
Population
(2000 est.): 10,273,000
Capital:
Prague
Chief of state:
President Vaclav Havel
Head of government:
Prime Minister Milos Zeman

      Although the year 2000 brought some improvement, the Czech political and economic situation continued to be rather shaky. On January 26 the ruling Social Democrats (CSSD) and opposition Civic Democratic Party (ODS) agreed to strengthen their “opposition agreement” that had come into force after the June 1998 parliamentary elections and the changes provided for increased cooperation on the state budget, electoral reform, and preparations for accession to the European Union (EU). The international community welcomed the pact, since it ensured more political stability and ended the threat that the CSSD minority government would fall, but it drew criticism from other opposition parties, from Pres. Vaclav Havel, and from within the CSSD itself.

      After two failed attempts, the 2000 state budget was finally approved in early March. ODS support, however, was conditional on a cabinet reshuffle. In February Bohumil Fiser was named health minister, taking over from temporary caretaker Vladimir Spidla, a deputy prime minister. Four more ministers lost their posts after the approval of the budget; Transport and Communications Minister Antonin Peltram was replaced with Jaromir Schling, Local Development Minister Jaromir Cisar with Petr Lachnit, Interior Minister Vaclav Grulich with Stanislav Gross, and Minister Without Portfolio Jaroslav Basta with Karel Brezina. Trust in the cabinet began to grow after the reshuffle, and an opinion poll released in September showed that the CSSD was back on top for the first time since April 1999.

      The strengthened “opposition agreement” also led the parliament to alter the electoral law and to approve constitutional changes to reduce presidential powers. The new electoral legislation introduced elements of the “first-past-the-post” system and was thought to favour the CSSD and ODS. After a presidential veto of the law was overridden in July, Havel filed a complaint with the Constitutional Court. In any case, some opinion polls showed that four smaller centre-right opposition parties, which in late September signed an agreement to run as a coalition in 2002, would win elections even under the new electoral law.

      The ODS and the CSSD also tried to change the law on the Czech National Bank (CNB), and critics argued that the legislation would allow for political interference. Havel vetoed the bill in late October, and the bank's governor, Josef Tosovsky, resigned the following day. In late November a crisis emerged between Havel and the government when the president appointed Zdenek Tuma as the CNB's new governor without getting Zeman's countersignature.

      The country's new administrative setup came into force in January, and the 13 regional assemblies were chosen in elections on November 12. Senate elections also took place that day, and the CSSD experienced a bitter defeat in both polls. In fact, the CSSD and ODS lost their majority status in the Senate, calling into question the future of the “opposition agreement.”

      In other political news, in late February Karel Kuhnl was elected chairman of the Freedom Union, one of the key partners in the four-party opposition coalition. In March the leadership of the secret services was taken over by Prime Minister Milos Zeman and two cabinet ministers. In late May the parliament approved a law to restore Jewish property confiscated after the Nazi occupation.

      On the economic front, the Czech Republic finally emerged from two years of recession, and growth in gross domestic product was expected to reach 2–2.7% despite a summer drought that damaged the country's agricultural production. Unemployment was expected to grow to 9.2% by year's end, while annual inflation was predicted at 3.3–3.8%.

      Throughout the year the Czech banking sector was the most problematic area of the economy. In February the government announced plans to bail out the troubled Komercni Banka, the country's biggest bank, and a majority share of Ceska Sporitelna was sold to Austria's Erste Bank. In mid-June the ailing IPB bank was placed under forced administration as masked police officers occupied its Prague headquarters, an act that triggered criticism from the Japanese firm Nomura International PLC, which had purchased the bank in 1997.

      In September an International Monetary Fund/World Bank annual meeting was held in Prague, and the city became the site of major environmentalist and antiglobalization protests. (See Economic Affairs: Sidebar (Globalization-Why All the Fuss? ).)

      Tensions with Austria heated up when the Czech Republic's Temelin nuclear power plant approached completion and underwent test runs in October. The plant, built according to a 1987 Soviet design, was situated only 50 km (30 mi) from the border with Austria, a nuclear-free country since 1978. At one point the Austrians had threatened to obstruct the accession of the Czech Republic into the European Union (EU) if it persisted with the plant. In December the Czechs agreed to have an EU team inspect the facility before it went operational.

Sharon Fisher

▪ 2000

Area:
78,866 sq km (30,450 sq mi)
Population
(1999 est.): 10,290,000
Capital:
Prague
Chief of state:
President Vaclav Havel
Head of government:
Prime Minister Milos Zeman

      In the Czech Republic 1999 was marked by political controversy and continued economic downturn. The country's accession into NATO on March 12 symbolized its entry into the West but got off to a bumpy start because of many politicians' lack of support for NATO air strikes in Kosovo. The Czechs were also criticized by other NATO members after the Czech and Greek foreign ministers signed a joint initiative in May on the resolution of the Kosovo crisis that was viewed as a sign of NATO disunity. Likewise, the Czechs were repeatedly criticized for moving too slowly in adopting European Union (EU) legislation, a prerequisite to their joining that group.

      Lacking a parliamentary majority, the ruling Social Democrats (CSSD) continued to have difficulties passing legislation. After considerable delay, the 1999 budget was approved in January, thanks to support from the opposition Communists and Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL). The Cabinet's priorities for the year included promoting economic growth and fighting corruption. There were repeated calls for the creation of a majority Cabinet to handle the deepening recession and cope with the EU membership requirements, but no workable combination of parties could be found.

      The CSSD and the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) continued in their “opposition agreement,” whereby the ODS tolerated the CSSD government and agreed not to support a vote of no confidence in the Cabinet, while the ODS took no responsibility for CSSD policies. The two parties planned controversial election law changes that would put their smaller competitors at a disadvantage. A loose coalition of four small and medium centre-right parties (including the parliamentary KDU-CSL and Freedom Union) continued to collaborate in an effort to block their two bigger rivals. With the victory of independent businessman Vaclav Fischer in a by-election on August 28, the CSSD and ODS lost their constitutional majority in the Senate.

      Several ministers came under fire in 1999, but only Finance Minister Ivo Svoboda was forced out of office. He was replaced in July by Deputy Prime Minister for Economy Pavel Mertlik. In January the director of BIS, the Czech secret service, was dismissed. As the year progressed, trust in the government and in the CSSD fell considerably. Support for the ODS surpassed that for the CSSD by April, and one poll in July put the CSSD in third place, behind both the ODS and the Communists. In December thousands of Czechs, who blamed the country's economic and political woes on Prime Minister Milos Zeman and parliamentary speaker Vaclav Klaus, staged a protest in Wenceslas Square and demanded that the two resign.

      In the legislative arena, the parliament approved laws permitting Czechs to hold dual citizenship and allowing Czechs living in exile abroad to reclaim their citizenship. On July 23 a group of Czech intellectuals published an appeal entitled “Impulse 99,” calling for more public discussion of issues.

      Annual inflation was forecast at 3.6–5%, and gross domestic product was expected to drop 0.2–0.8%. The unemployment rate grew steadily throughout 1999 and was predicted to top 10% by year's end, and the budget deficit was expected to surpass initial projections by far. The Cabinet attempted to put the blame for the economic decline on its predecessors.

      In June the state's 66% share of Ceskoslovenska Obchodni Banka, the country's fourth largest bank, was sold to the Belgian bank KBC in the biggest sale in the history of Czech privatization. The government also made plans to privatize the two other banks that remained in state hands. In an effort to save the country's largest ailing firms, the Cabinet approved a revitalization program in April. After considerable deliberation, it was decided in mid-May to complete construction of the Temelin nuclear power plant, despite a resolution approved by the European Parliament criticizing the project. In a negative signal for foreign investors, in August the Bermuda-based Central European Media Enterprises began proceedings against the Czech Republic under the Bilateral Investment Treaty because of a controversy over TV Nova, the country's most popular station.

      Tensions continued to exist between Czechs and Roma (Gypsies), and the construction of a wall separating a Romany community from a residential area in Usti nad Labem was especially controversial. Church-state relations were also problematic as the government questioned the Catholic Church's right to restitution of its property.

      With social democratic governments in power in both countries, Czech-German relations warmed, and the year was marked by a series of high-level bilateral visits. Ties with Slovakia also strengthened considerably.

Sharon Fisher

▪ 1999

      Area: 78,866 sq km (30,450 sq mi)

      Population (1998 est.): 10,302,000

      Capital: Prague

      Chief of state: President Vaclav Havel

      Head of government: Prime Ministers Josef Tosovsky and, from July 17, Milos Zeman

      In the Czech Republic 1998 brought political change and continued economic difficulty. Parliamentary elections, held two years ahead of schedule on June 19-20, brought a left-wing government to power for the first time since communism's collapse in 1989. Before the elections the country was plagued by political uncertainty, with several major parties discredited by funding scandals. Josef Tosovsky's caretaker government, which took office in January, tried to address pressing economic problems, including the deregulation of rents and energy prices. Attention was also focused on firm restructuring and privatization, most notably with the sale in March of a 36% stake in IPB (Investicni a Postovni Banka) to the Japanese firm Nomura Securities. Meanwhile, political uncertainty was further aggravated by the poor health of Pres. Vaclav Havel. Although Havel was narrowly reelected on January 20 for a second five-year term, he underwent several serious operations and was bedridden much of the year. Christian Democratic Union (KDU-CSL) Chairman Josef Lux announced his departure from politics for medical reasons in September.

      The centre-left Czech Social Democratic Party (CSSD) emerged the winner in the June elections with 32.3% of the vote and 74 of 200 parliamentary seats, followed by its long-term rival, the Civic Democratic Party (ODS), with 27.7% and 63 seats. In order to form a majority government, both the CSSD and the ODS would have to approve the cooperation of at least two of the three smaller parliamentary parties: the KDU-CSL, Freedom Union, and the Communists, with the latter not seen as a real option. After both parties' talks with the KDU-CSL and Freedom Union fell apart, CSSD Chairman Milos Zeman and his ODS counterpart, Vaclav Klaus, forged a controversial "opposition agreement" whereby the ODS agreed to tolerate a solidly CSSD minority government. In return Klaus was elected parliament chairman, and the two parties discussed instituting a majority electoral system, probably to decrease the influence of small parties.

      With local and Senate elections scheduled for November 13-14, Freedom Union and the KDU-CSL formed a coalition with two nonparliamentary parties in an attempt to ensure sufficient representation to block absolute control by the two big parties.

      The new CSSD government announced that it would focus on such issues as fighting corruption and economic crime, speeding up economic growth, and improving capital market transparency. It also planned to raise the minimum wage and to halt church restitution, the return to the church of property that had been confiscated by the government. There was also talk of decreasing the independence of the Czech National Bank. Although the ODS attacked the CSSD program as "populist," ODS deputies ensured its passage by leaving the chamber during the vote. Still, the ODS set up a shadow Cabinet in late September to distinguish itself from the CSSD government and prepare for future elections.

      Despite the CSSD's leftist rhetoric the new Cabinet had limited room to maneuver because of the troublesome economic situation, which was characterized by budgetary difficulties, a widening foreign-trade deficit, and growing unemployment. The state budget deficit totaled more than 26 billion koruny (31.68 koruny = U.S. $1) in 1998. In the second quarter of 1998, gross domestic product dropped 2.4% compared with the same period the previous year, and it was expected to fall 1% for the year as a whole. Annual inflation rose 11.5% in August, whereas real wages grew at an annual rate of 1.7% and unemployment reached an all-time high of 6.4%. The foreign-trade deficit was expected to reach 85 billion koruny-100 billion koruny for the year as a whole.

      Aside from economic difficulties, the government was also restrained by its reliance on right-wing opposition parties to approve legislation. The question of the 1999 budget draft was especially problematic. Although the CSSD knew that passage of the draft bill would encounter opposition if the budget was not balanced, the government's draft included a deficit of 26.8 billion koruny. The centre-right opposition parties were strongly critical of the budget plans, and the ODS decided it would not vote for the draft.

      In its foreign policy the new government reaffirmed the Czech Republic's commitment to NATO and European Union integration as well as to strengthening ties with neighbouring countries. Zeman's first foreign visit was to neighbouring Austria, which at the time held the EU chairmanship. During the summer Zeman had a quarrel with German officials after he compared Sudeten Germans with Czech political extremists, but bilateral relations improved after the Social Democrats won the German elections in September. Czech-Slovak relations were also expected to improve after a new government was formed in Slovakia.

SHARON FISHER

▪ 1998

      Area: 78,866 sq km (30,450 sq mi)

      Population (1997 est.): 10,307,000

      Capital: Prague

      Chief of state: President Vaclav Havel

      Head of government: Prime Ministers Vaclav Klaus until November 30 and, from December 16, Josef Tosovsky

      For the Czech Republic, 1997 was a year of foreign policy success and economic disappointment. It was the year the country "returned to Europe," being offered membership in NATO on July 8 and being invited on July 16 to start membership talks with the European Union (EU). These long-awaited developments, however, were overshadowed by the economic and political crisis that emerged in the spring. Although Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus had claimed as early as January 1994 that the Czech economic transition was over, in the first months of 1997 it became apparent that much work remained. Many problems were caused by the government's failure to ensure adequate firm restructuring and to create transparent financial market regulations. The Cabinet's delay in dealing with health care, energy, transportation, education, and housing reform was also criticized.

      Another problem was the government's inability to communicate effectively with the opposition or with the country's population in general. The public's frustration was already apparent a year earlier, in the May-June 1996 elections, when the three parties supporting Klaus won just 99 of 200 parliamentary seats. By late March 1997, however, Klaus's minority government had gained a parliamentary majority, thanks to support from two deputies who had been expelled from the opposition Czech Social Democratic Party (CSSD).

      On April 16 the government announced a package of austerity measures to address the rising trade and budget deficits and growing public-sector wages. Most controversial was the introduction of a 20% import deposit, which was canceled in August following criticism from the EU. With opinion polls showing a steady fall in the public's confidence in the government, Pres. Vaclav Havel began calls for the Cabinet's resignation.

      The economic crisis reached a climax in the last two weeks of May when the Czech National Bank drove up interest rates and spent approximately $3 billion to defend the koruna, which was under continuing pressure from speculators. On May 26 the bank abolished the 15% trading band in which the exchange rate was allowed to fluctuate. The next day the koruna lost 10% of its value against the dollar, and seven years of currency stability ended.

      The chairmen of the three ruling coalition parties announced radical measures aimed at resolving the economic crisis, and Klaus was forced to admit to economic policy errors. The government was also reshuffled, with Industry and Trade Minister Vladimir Dlouhy and Finance Minister Ivan Kocarnik resigning on May 23 and May 24, respectively. Other Cabinet changes included the replacement of Deputy Prime Minister Jan Kalvoda and Minister of Local Development Jaromir Schneider. Kalvoda's exit from politics brought in the more popular Michael Zantovsky to replace him in March as Civic Democratic Alliance chairman.

      On June 10 the government barely survived a parliamentary vote of confidence, called for by Klaus and used for the first time in Czech history. The two former CSSD deputies helped bring the government a 101-99 victory. The two junior coalition parties finally abandoned Klaus, however, as the Christian Democratic Union caused controversies over his economic and defense policies. Klaus resigned on November 30. Two weeks later Havel appointed a nonparty figure, National Bank Director Josef Tosovsky, to form a caretaker government.

      The economic crisis had a strong impact on the economy, bringing annual gross domestic product growth down to just 1.2% in the second quarter. The economy was also adversely affected by a five-day railroad workers strike in February and by severe flooding in July. The floods, the worst of the century, caused at least 47 deaths and an estimated 50 billion koruny in damage. The strike cost the country an estimated 1 billion koruny and was the most serious case of labour unrest since November 1989. Meanwhile, the koruna's collapse contributed to the failure of at least 10 travel agencies during the summer, and troubles in the banking sector continued to surface.

      In foreign affairs a long-awaited Czech-German declaration aimed at improving bilateral ties was ratified by the two countries' parliaments by early March. Relations with Slovakia reached a low point, and Slovakia temporarily recalled its ambassador to the Czech Republic on April 9. On the other hand, the issue of the common state border was definitively settled on July 25 with the swap of two villages and other borderland. Czech-Canadian ties were complicated after an August 7 TV report that depicted Czech Roma (Gypsies) living well in Canada led some 1,000 Roma to request refugee status in that country by late September.

SHARON FISHER

      This article updates Czech Republic, history of (Czech Republic).

▪ 1997

      The Czech Republic is a landlocked state of central Europe. Area: 78,864 sq km (30,450 sq mi). Pop. (1996 est.): 10,316,000. Cap.: Prague. Monetary unit: koruna, with (Oct. 11, 1996) a free rate of 27.18 koruny to U.S. $1 (42.81 koruny = £ 1 sterling). President in 1996, Vaclav Havel; prime minister, Vaclav Klaus.

      The top political story of 1996 was the general election of May 31-June 1, the first in the Czech Republic since the breakup of Czechoslovakia in 1993. The ruling centre-right coalition, led by Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus and his Civic Democratic Party, was expected to win an easy victory derived from a strong and well-managed economy and the government's generally popular push to integrate the country politically and economically with the rest of Europe. In the event, however, Klaus's coalition lost a total of 13 seats in the Chamber of Deputies (parliament) and lacked a majority by two seats. The big winner was the Czech Social Democratic Party (CSSD), with its program of free-market economic reforms and concern for social and environmental issues. (For a detailed breakdown, see Political Parties, above.)

      Pres. Vaclav Havel asked Klaus to form a minority government from the three coalition parties. By agreeing to have CSSD leader Milos Zeman elected parliament chairman, Klaus gained the support of the Social Democrats, and his new government was approved in the Chamber of Deputies on July 25 by a vote of 98-40. Klaus's party fared much better in the November elections to the Senate—a new body with very little power that was being created largely because it was called for in the constitution rather than for any clear political or legislative need. Of the 81 Senate seats, the ODS won 32 and the CSSD took 25.

      Stanislav Devaty, the head of the secret service, resigned in November after being accused by Deputy Prime Minister Jozef Lux of spying on officials of the government. Incidents of anti-Roma (anti-Gypsy) feelings were reported, notably a savagely racist outbreak in the parliament by Miroslav Sladek, a Republican Party deputy, in July. In November the Czech Ministry of Defense announced that it had ordered an investigation to determine if Czech troops in the 1991 Persian Gulf War had been provided adequate protection against chemical weapons and to examine their health claims.

      A milestone in the postcommunist economic development of Central Europe was passed on July 1, 1996, with the closing of the Czech Privatization Ministry, its work virtually complete. Working mainly through a system of coupons, some 4,700 large state enterprises were privatized during the five-year life of the program. By 1996 an estimated 70% of the gross national product of the Czech Republic was produced by private enterprises. A crisis emerged in the heavily state-controlled banking industry, however, with the collapse in August of Kreditni Banka Plzen (the sixth largest bank in the country) and the subsequent arrest on fraud charges of five top financial officials followed by the government takeover of Agrobanka Praha (the largest privately owned bank and fifth largest overall) in September. (See Banking (Economic Affairs ).)

      The most important foreign policy accomplishment during the year was the signing, late in December, of a document of reconciliation in which Germany expressed regret for the deeds of the Nazi regime, while the Czech Republic expressed regret for the expulsion by the former Czechoslovak state of some three million ethnic Germans from the Sudeten region of Czechoslovakia after World War II.

      President Havel underwent surgery to remove a malignant tumour in his lung in early December; recuperation was complicated first by breathing problems requiring an emergency tracheotomy and later by pneumonia. (EDITORS)

      This article updates Czech Republic, history of (Czech Republic).

▪ 1996

      The Czech Republic is a landlocked state of central Europe. Area: 78,864 sq km (30,450 sq mi). Pop. (1995 est.): 10,346,000. Cap.: Prague. Monetary unit: koruna, with (Oct. 6, 1995) a free rate of 26.31 koruny to U.S. $1 (41.60 koruny = £ 1 sterling). President in 1995, Vaclav Havel; prime minister, Vaclav Klaus.

      For the Czech Republic, 1995 passed relatively uneventfully, and the patterns established in the years since the separation from Slovakia were maintained. Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus's Civic Democratic Party (ODS) recovered much of the popular support it had lost. While in the summer the gap between the ODS and the opposition Social Democrats was negligible, by the autumn the ODS had reestablished a commanding lead of around 12% and kept it. This augured well for the stability of the political scene before the 1996 general elections.

      The few political setbacks suffered by Klaus, however, could be seen as symptomatic of a certain impatience with the need for compromise that all democratic systems demand. Thus, Klaus sought to introduce fees for university students, a move that was eventually thrown out by Parliament. More significant than anything else was that this initiative was announced without much attempt to build a political consensus. The popular protests against this move could be interpreted as evidence of the survival of a dependency culture inherited from communism that was incompatible with the individualism that underpins democracy.

      Something similar to this was the decision—finally—to make provision for the election of a Senate, a second chamber. The Czech constitution had intended for there to be a Senate, but the Klaus government had simply ignored this requirement. In the end, the law to elect a Senate—after three drafts had been rejected—was enacted in the autumn, but even then there was conflict. Klaus wanted the Senate elected at the same time as the Chamber of Deputies, but no one else did. This crisis simmered on, and in December he finally gave in.

      There were a few more troublesome problems. The country's banking system was at one stage flooded by so much money, more than a little of it from very dubious sources, that it was threatening the stability of the currency, not to mention prompting raised eyebrows elsewhere about what the Czechs were up to. In October the government took action and announced legislation that would require the notification of all deposits of sums in excess of $20,000. This was intended as a way of cutting back on illegal transfers. In addition, there was the trial of the former head of the privatization agency, Jaroslav Lizner, who had been arrested in 1994 on charges of having accepted bribes in complicated share deals; indeed, he was carrying 8.3 million koruny in cash when he was picked up. He was given a seven-year prison sentence.

      Far more disturbing was the persistence of very powerful anti-Roma (anti-Gypsy) sentiment. This expressed itself in constant attacks on individual Roma, agitation, discrimination—the mayor of one town was obliged to deny that he had banned Roma from using the local public baths on the grounds that they were "dirty"—and the occasional pogrom. The minister of the interior warned that attacks on Roma were becoming more violent and that the public generally sympathized with the attackers; on the other hand, the number of such attacks was still comparatively small. At a deeper level, however, dislike of Roma could be interpreted as evidence of something else—the difficulty the populace had in coming to terms with diversity.

      Coming to terms with the communist past was another problem area. First, the leaders of the Communist Party who had invited the Soviet intervention in 1968 were charged with treason and, second, the screening law that banned from public office anyone who had worked for the secret police or held senior party office was extended by Parliament to 2000, despite a veto by Pres. Vaclav Havel. The veto was overridden by a second vote.

      The economy, as in previous years, performed well, with an increase in gross domestic product of around 4-4.5%; unemployment was low, though it would rise in the future; the Czech koruna became convertible; and the country was accepted as the first postcommunist member of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. This solid economic performance was the key to Klaus's popularity and to the stability of the country.

      (GEORGE SCHÖPFLIN)

      This updates the article Czech Republic, history of (Czech Republic).

▪ 1995

      The Czech Republic is a landlocked state of central Europe. Area: 78,864 sq km (30,450 sq mi). Pop. (1994 est.): 10,345,000. Cap.: Prague. Monetary unit: koruna, with (Oct. 7, 1994) a free rate of 27.80 koruny to U.S. $1 (44.22 koruny = £ 1 sterling). President in 1994, Vaclav Havel; prime minister, Vaclav Klaus.

      By 1994 the Czech Republic's political system had settled down and appeared to be solidly based. The prime minister, Vaclav Klaus, commanded a clear majority in the legislature, and his popularity in the country was unchallenged. The opposition appeared cowed and proved rather ineffectual. The most important alternative voice was that of the country's president, Vaclav Havel, who continued to maintain that Czech politics had to include a moral component and that the country's democratic system had to be infused with the ethical values of individual responsibility. In terms of hard politics, however, Havel was not particularly influential, though he did enjoy considerable respect.

      The system that Klaus built, for it was very much his system, consisted of his own dominance, which was highly personal, and a set of policies that looked contradictory at first sight but in reality appeared to be working well. The essence of this policy was that the privatization of large areas of the economy would go ahead except when it might bring into question the existence of outdated and inefficient industries.

      In other postcommunist countries this formula had failed, but the Czech Republic possessed three assets on which Klaus's strategy was ultimately founded. First, there was the country's geographic proximity to Western Europe. This gave the Czech Republic a significant advantage over other Eastern European nations with a similar level of development. Second, unlike virtually all other postcommunist states, the Czech Republic had a low level of foreign indebtedness. It had avoided taking on foreign loans in the 1980s and was reaping the benefits in the 1990s. The level of foreign investment in the republic continued at a fairly healthy rate, as investors appreciated the climate of political and economic security provided by Klaus. Not even the relatively primitive level of the economic infrastructure, especially in regard to banking and telecommunications, could act as a major deterrent in this respect.

      This factor put the spotlight on the third asset—Prague. The city had quickly become one of the most popular tourist centres in Europe and thus became the goose that laid the golden eggs for the economy. There was virtually no unemployment in Prague, as any surplus labour was rapidly absorbed by the burgeoning service industry that grew up to supply tourists and the sizable international community that had moved there.

      There were potential dangers lurking behind this seemingly successful strategy, however. In the first place, when viewed from a longer-term perspective, the absence of unemployment was a negative sign because it indicated that the problem of industrial restructuring had still to begin. In the parts of Prague not visited by tourists and elsewhere in the nation, there were the relics of communist-style massive industrial enterprises that could never be made profitable but could not be allowed to go bankrupt for fear of the social dislocation that would ensue. Indeed, in the spring a demonstration organized by the labour unions protesting against the erosion of the workers' standard of living was a signal that Klaus had much less leeway in this area than outsiders might have assumed. The level of unemployment in the republic was about 3.5%, most of it in the rundown industrial areas of northern Bohemia.

      Although privatization had taken place and much of Czech industry was technically owned by private investors rather than the government, in reality the control of economic strategy was in the hands of investment funds, and those running the funds had yet to begin the process of reducing employment that was needed to make the enterprises profitable. The indirect influence of the government could not be discounted in this field. It was evident that the restructuring of the republic's heavy industry, a difficult and painful process for any country, would take many years, but for the time being the semblance of private ownership was sufficient to satisfy Czech public opinion.

      The Czech Republic's foreign policy was similar to that of the other postcommunist countries—waiting for the West to begin the process of economic and political integration with Eastern Europe. For domestic consumption Klaus from time to time would insist that the Czech Republic had nothing in common with other postcommunist states and that it would be a member of the European Union within a few years, but as of the end of 1994 this seemed unlikely.

      (GEORGE SCHÖPFLIN)

      This updates the article Czech Republic, history of (Czech Republic).

▪ 1994

      The Czech Republic is a landlocked state of central Europe. Area: 78,864 sq km (30,450 sq mi). Pop. (1993 est.): 10,332,000. Cap.: Prague. Monetary unit: koruna, with (Oct. 4, 1993) a free rate of 28.75 koruny to U.S. $1 (43.56 koruny = £ 1 sterling). President from Feb. 2, 1993, Vaclav Havel; prime minister, Vaclav Klaus.

      The Czech Republic began its first year of existence without Slovakia with high hopes that, having left behind what it saw as a burden, it would be able to integrate into Europe at a very early stage. Indeed, the prime minister, Vaclav Klaus, hinted that the Czech Republic might be able to join the European Community (EC) within a few years, an idea that was completely unrealistic. The Czech Republic was rapidly given membership in all the international organizations of which Czechoslovakia had been a member, but that did not in itself take it any closer to the cherished goal of full membership in the EC and NATO.

      Domestically, Klaus was unassailable. Although he commanded only just over a third of the votes in the 1992 election, he dominated the political scene, and the opposition seemed quite incapable of exercising effective criticism of him and his policies. He successfully constructed a conservative four-party coalition in the parliament with an absolute majority. This consisted of Klaus's own party, the Civic Democratic Party, plus the Civic Democratic Alliance, the Christian and Democratic Union-Czech People's Party, and the Christian Democratic Party. Despite expectations of fragility within the coalition, it held together reasonably effectively and was unimpressed by the weak showing of the opposition. The coalition was largely united on a policy of rapid movement toward the creation of a market through privatization and, of course, integration into Europe.

      The economic strategy was not quite as successful as it appeared, however. Economic conditions remained favourable in the Czech Republic during the year. Unemployment was very low at about 3.5%; inflation was under control; and the overall performance of the economy was fairly solid. This was achieved, however, at the cost of delaying major structural reform.

      The Czech Republic had inherited a fully industrialized economy from communism, but one that was seriously obsolete in many branches. Launching a reequipment program would require massive inputs of capital; many uneconomic factories would have to be closed and resulting unemployment dealt with. When viewed from this perspective, the low level of unemployment indicated that serious reform of the economy had still to begin. In the interim the Czech Republic was ready to exploit its great natural advantage in tourism—the attractiveness of Prague—and to switch to a service-based economy.

      Restructuring seemed to be a move that Klaus was not ready to contemplate, despite his high-profile free-market and monetarist rhetoric. Presumably, he reasoned that public opinion would not tolerate the social fallout from rapid restructuring of the kind that had been pursued by Poland. This left the Czech Republic in the odd position of proclaiming one economic strategy, that of marketization, and actually pursuing another, that of continued state subsidies for ailing industries.

      For the time being, the opposition was divided and incapable of putting together a shared platform. The former communists, indeed, were themselves split on whether to move toward full acceptance of democratic norms or to adhere to traditional communist principles.

      Klaus's dominance of the political scene even exceeded that of Vaclav Havel, who was much better known internationally. Havel, having been president of Czechoslovakia until July 1992, was elected president of the Czech Republic in January 1993. He was known to be unhappy with the division of Czechoslovakia, and he reemerged into the political limelight only after the split had taken place. His role in Czech politics, however, was one of influence rather than power. (GEORGE SCHÖPFLIN)

      This updates the article Czech Republic, history of (Czech Republic).

* * *

Introduction
Czech Republic, flag of the   country located in central Europe. It comprises the historical provinces of Bohemia and Moravia along with the southern tip of Silesia, collectively often called the Czech Lands. Despite its landlocked location, there were brief periods in the Middle Ages during which Bohemia had access to the Baltic and Adriatic seacoasts—which no doubt was on William Shakespeare's mind when he set much of his play The Winter's Tale (Winter's Tale, The) there. A region of rolling hills and mountains, Bohemia is dominated by the national capital, Prague. Set on the Vltava River, this picturesque city of bridges and spires is the unique work of generations of artists brought in by the rulers of Bohemia. Perhaps only the French are as focused on their capital, Paris, as the Czechs are on theirs; of the two, Prague has a more magical quality for many. Called “the handsomest city of Europe” since the 18th century, it has intoxicated writers, poets, and musicians alike. While Prague was the birthplace of the writer Franz Kafka (Kafka, Franz) and the poet Rainer Maria Rilke (Rilke, Rainer Maria), Brno, Moravia's largest city, was the site of Gregor Mendel (Mendel, Gregor)'s groundbreaking genetic experiments in the 19th century and the birthplace of contemporary novelist Milan Kundera (Kundera, Milan). Moravians are as proud of their vineyards and wine as Bohemians are of their breweries and the Pilsner beer that originated in the town of Plzeň (Pilsen), which is also noted as the site of the Škoda Works—a heavy industrial complex that originated with the Habsburg monarchy. Moravia was equally endowed with skilled labour, which helped make Brno into one of the leading industrial towns in textiles and engineering during the 19th century and Ostrava, in the north, into a major coal-mining region, thanks to the vast fossil fuel deposits stretching over from Silesia.

      History is always close at hand in the Czech Republic, where stunning castles such as Karlštejn (former keep of the royal crown of St. Wenceslas) and manor houses dot the landscape and medieval town centres abound. During its 1,000-year history, the country has changed shape and reshuffled its population. As the kingdom of Bohemia, it reached its zenith of wealth and power during the 13th and 14th centuries. Through a multitude of cultural, economic, ecclesiastical, and dynastic links, Bohemian kings became directly involved in the affairs of the German rulers of the Holy Roman Empire and opened the country to German colonization, which brought prosperity through silver mining and rapid urbanization. Prague, with the oldest university north of the Alps ( Charles University, 1348), functioned as a royal and imperial capital. However, German colonization, which soon accounted for one-third of the total population and disadvantaged the majority Czechs, brought the seeds of discontent, resulting in an ugly, insolvable conflict in the 20th century. In the early 15th century Bohemia witnessed the Hussite revolution, a pre-Reformation movement named for Jan Hus (Hus, Jan), a follower of the English theologian and reformer John Wycliffe (Wycliffe, John). Religious antagonism prevailed over ethnic tensions when Czechs and Germans jointly led the Protestant uprising that started the Thirty Years' War (1618–48) against the Catholic Habsburgs (Habsburg, House of), the Austro-German dynasty that ruled Bohemia from 1526 to 1918. After the Habsburg victory, the German language replaced Czech for almost two centuries—until the Czechs experienced an extraordinary linguistic and cultural revival that coincided with the revolutions of 1848 and the spread of industrialization. In historian František Palacký (Palacký, František) and composers such as Bedřich Smetana (Smetana, Bedřich) and Antonín Dvořák (Dvořák, Antonín), Czech nationalism found its ideal spokesmen.

      The collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire at the end of World War I brought the Czechs and Slovaks together for the first time as “Czechoslovaks.” The Czechs became the ruling ethnic group in Czechoslovakia, a new state in which Germans and Hungarians lived as unwilling citizens, bound to become disloyal minorities bent on undermining the democratic constitution engendered by the country's founders, Tomáš G. Masaryk (Masaryk, Tomáš (Garrigue)) and Edvard Beneš (Beneš, Edvard). Many among this German population turned into Nazi (Nazi Party) sympathizers with the ascent to power of Adolf Hitler (Hitler, Adolf) in Germany, whose design on the German-speaking border region of Czechoslovakia was appeased by England and France in the Munich agreement of September 1938. Emasculated, Czechoslovakia succumbed to direct German invasion six months later. Bohemia and Moravia became a protectorate of the “Greater German Empire,” while Slovakia—whose Hungarian districts were ceded to Hungary—was induced by Hitler to proclaim its independence.

      After six years of brutal Nazi occupation (with its legacy of the Holocaust and the postwar mass expulsion of some three million Bohemian and Slovak [Carpathian] Germans), Czechoslovakia was reconstituted, this time without Ruthenia (Transcarpathian Ukraine), which was annexed by the Soviet Union. A communist coup in February 1948 sealed Czechoslovakia's fate as a member of the Soviet bloc for the entire Cold War; though briefly, in the Prague Spring of 1968, a reform movement took over, only to be crushed by Soviet military invasion in August of that year. Still, that experience of freedom produced an underground dissident movement, later called Charter 77, whose leader, playwright Václav Havel (Havel, Václav), was propelled from prison to the royal castle, becoming the first president of postcommunist Czechoslovakia with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

      The last modification of the modern Czech nation-state was inaugurated on Jan. 1, 1993, when the union with Slovakia was dissolved. As the Czech Republic, the new country joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1999 and the European Union (EU) in 2004.

Land

Relief
  The country is bordered by Poland to the north and northeast, Slovakia to the east, Austria to the south, and Germany to the west and northwest. The Bohemian Massif occupies the major portion of the Czech Republic. It consists of a large, roughly ovoid elevated basin (the Bohemian Plateau) encircled by mountains divided into six major groups. In the southwest are the Šumava Mountains, which include the Bohemian Forest (Böhmerwald). In the west are the Berounka River highlands. In the northwest, the Ore Mountains (Czech: Krušné hory; German: Erzgebirge (Ore Mountains)) form the frontier with Germany. The point at which the Elbe (Labe) River (Elbe River) breaches this range is the lowest in the country, with an elevation of 384 feet (117 metres). The so-called Sudeten system of mountains (a name never applied in the Czech language) in the northeast forms most of the border with Poland west of the city of Ostrava. The highest point in the Czech Republic, Mount Sněžka, with an elevation of 5,256 feet (1,602 metres), is found in the major segment of this system, the Giant Mountains (Czech: Krkonoše; German: Riesengebirge). Farther to the east is the Oder (Odra) River (Oder River) lowland, a small fringe along the Polish border. Finally, southeast of the Bohemian Plateau are the Bohemian-Moravian Highlands, which include the spectacular Moravian Karst.

      In the east the Outer Carpathian Depressions, known to geographers as the Moravian-Silesian Beskids, include the valleys of the upper Oder and Morava (Morava River) rivers and the headstreams of the Dyje. Along the Czech-Slovak border rise the Little Carpathian (Carpathian Mountains) (Bílé Karpaty) and Javorníky ranges, the westernmost of the Western Carpathian Mountains that dominate Slovakia.

Drainage and soils
 The Czech Republic lies in the headwater area of the central European watershed. The Elbe River rises near the Czech-Polish border and sweeps southwestward across Bohemia, receiving the Jizera (Jizera River), Vltava (Vltava River), and Ohře (Ohře River) rivers before flowing northward into Germany. The Vltava is navigable from Prague to Mělník, where it empties into the Elbe. From that point onward river traffic can travel all the way to Hamburg. The Morava River, flowing south toward the Danube (Danube River) (Dunaj) River, drains most of Moravia in the east. The Oder River rises in the northeastern Czech Republic and flows northward into Poland. There also are many smaller rivers of little economic importance. Larger rivers such as the Vltava are sources of hydroelectric power. The country is rich in mineral springs, and groundwater reserves are extensively used.

      The soil profile of the Czech Republic consists of some rich, black chernozems and good-quality brown soils in the drier and lower areas. Podzols are found in the wet districts, and stony mountain soils are typical at high elevations. Alluvial soils occur in the river basins, and heavy clay soils are found in the eastern ridges.

Climate
      The Czech climate is mixed. Continental influences are marked by large fluctuations in both temperature and precipitation, while moderating oceanic influences diminish from west to east. In general, temperatures decrease with increasing elevation but are relatively uniform across the lower portions of the country. The mean annual temperature at Cheb in the extreme west is 45 F (7 °C) and rises to only 48 °F (9 °C) at Brno in southern Moravia. High temperatures can exceed 90 °F (32 °C) in Prague during July, and low temperatures may drop as low as 0 °F (−17 °C) in Cheb during February. The growing season is about 200 days in the south but less than half that in the mountains.

      Annual precipitation ranges from 18 inches (450 mm) in the central Bohemian basins to more than 60 inches (1500 mm) on windward slopes of the Krkonoše Mountains of the north. Maximum precipitation falls during July, while the minimum occurs in February. There are no recognizable climatic zones but rather a succession of small and varied districts; climate thus follows the topography in contributing to the diversity of the natural environment.

Plant and animal life
      Although large areas of the original forest cover have been cleared for cultivation and for timber, woodlands remain a characteristic feature of the Czech landscape. Oak, beech, and spruce dominate the forest zones in ascending order of elevation. In the highest reaches can be found taiga and tundra vegetation characteristic of more-northerly or more-elevated regions elsewhere in Europe. The timberline runs at about 4,500 feet (1,400 metres) above sea level. At these higher elevations, as in the Giant Mountains, the tree cover below the timberline consists of little more than dwarf pine. The Alpine zone supports grasses and low-growing bushes.

      The country's wildlife is extensive and varied. Large mammals include bears, wolves, lynx, and wildcats (Felis sylvestris). Smaller mammals, such as marmots, otters, martens, and minks, also inhabit the forests and wetlands. Game birds, especially pheasants, partridges, wild geese, and ducks, are common. Rarer species, such as eagles, vultures, ospreys, storks, eagle owls, bustards, and capercaillies, generally are protected.

      The preservation of the natural heritage is an important goal of the Czech government. Rare or endangered species such as the mouflon (a mountain sheep) are bred in game reserves, and nature reserves have been created to preserve especially important landscapes, notably the Šumava Forest, Moravian Karst, and Jizera Mountains. Tourists are given controlled access to the reserve areas. Krkonoše National Park, established in 1963, protects glacial landscapes and Alpine vegetation as well as some relict boreal-Arctic species, such as the Alpine shrew (Sorex alpinus); despite these preservation efforts, however, the park has been extensively developed as a ski resort.

People

Ethnic groups
 Czechs (Czech Republic) make up roughly nine-tenths of the population. The Moravians consider themselves to be a distinct group within this majority. A small Slovak minority remains from the Czechoslovakian federal period. An even smaller Polish population exists in northeastern Moravia, and some Germans still live in northwestern Bohemia. Roma (Rom) (Gypsies) constitute a still smaller but distinct minority, having resisted assimilation for the most part.

Languages
      Czech is the official state language and as a literary language dates to the late 13th century. The majority of the population speaks Czech (Czech language) as their first language. Czech and Slovak (Slovak language) are mutually intelligible languages belonging to the West Slavic language (Slavic languages) group, which uses the Latin (Latin alphabet) (Roman) rather than the Cyrillic alphabet. Among the other languages spoken by minorities in the Czech Republic are Romani, German, and Polish.

Religion
      During the communist era, no official statistics were kept on religion, though the activities of churches were financed by the government following the nationalization of all church property by 1949. atheism was the official policy of the communist government, and the churches' role was largely restricted to religious rites. Religious freedom was restored in 1989, however, and by the early 21st century more than three-fifths of Czechs claimed a religious affiliation. A visit to Czechoslovakia by Pope John Paul II in April 1990 celebrated the resurgence of Roman Catholicism, which counts about two-fifths of the population as adherents. There are also Eastern Orthodox (Eastern Orthodoxy) congregations and various small Protestant sects, of which the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren is one of the most important. A significant number of Czechs are members of the national Czech church, which was founded in 1920 and took the name Czechoslovak Hussite Church in 1972. Almost one-third of the population claims no religious affiliation.

Settlement patterns
      Industrialization and urbanization have changed the face of the Czech traditional regions, although Bohemia and, to a lesser extent, Moravia are still recognizable entities, reflecting different national and cultural heritages. Southern Bohemia and southeastern Moravia preserve local traditions of cuisine, and residents wear folk costumes on special occasions. Traditional wooden architecture is a distinctive feature of some rural areas.

      Population density in the Czech Republic is high; in general, communities are only a few miles apart. A notable exception are some frontier areas—the low densities of which reflect the induced emigration of minorities, such as the three million Sudeten (Sudetenland) Germans who were expelled after World War II. Rural settlements are characteristically compact, but in the mountainous regions, colonized during the 13th and 14th centuries, villages straggling along narrow valleys are common. The collectivization of farmland that took place in the decades following World War II resulted in a pattern of large, regularly shaped fields, replacing the centuries-old division of land into small, irregular, privately owned plots.

 Urbanization in the Czech Republic is not particularly high for an industrialized country, with about three-fourths of the population being urban. Even the smallest urban centres, however, usually contain some manufacturing industry. Prague, the national capital, has historically occupied a predominant role. Brno is the chief industrial and cultural city of Moravia. Other large cities include Ostrava, the leading coal-mining and steel centre, and Plzeň, with old, established engineering and brewing industries.

      New towns were founded both before and after World War II. Notable among prewar settlements is the Moravian valley town of Zlín, founded in 1923. The towns of Havířov, in the Ostrava region, and Ostrov, near Karlovy Vary in the west, were built since World War II.

Demographic trends
      During the 19th and early 20th centuries, population growth was mitigated by emigration to the urban centres of Austria-Hungary and overseas, especially to the United States. In general, the outstanding feature of the years of federation was stable population growth. This rather slow rate of growth was attributable in part to changes in lifestyle associated with urbanization and with the increased employment of women outside the home. Since the mid-1990s, however, the population of the Czech Republic has been declining. Moreover, by the early 21st century a decrease in the birth rate and increase in the average life span resulted in a generally older Czech population.

Miroslav Blazek Richard Horsley Osborne Francis William Carter Milan Hauner

Economy
 With the so-called Velvet Revolution of 1989, Czechoslovakia freed itself of communist control and set out to adapt its command economy to the free market. The government introduced a program based on policies of price liberalization, the opening of markets to foreign trade and investment, internal convertibility of the country's currency, privatization of state-owned enterprises, and tax reform. While the Czech Republic and Slovakia both were successors to the federal state, long-standing inequities in economic development gave the Czechs a decided advantage over the Slovaks. Rigid economic compartmentalization under Comecon (Council on Mutual Economic Assistance) made Slovakia, with its mineral resources and hydroelectric potential, a major producer of armaments for the former communist countries of eastern Europe. The economy of the Czech Republic, on the other hand, was relatively diversified and stable, reflecting both a more amenable geography and the historic predominance of Czechs in the federal administration.

      Once the political breach appeared inevitable, Czechs and Slovaks faced the unprecedented challenges of dividing Czechoslovakia's economy and assets. The historical imbalance in government assets between the two and the problems it posed for fair apportionment were particularly pronounced in the case of military installations and equipment, of which the Czech Republic held the great majority. The bulk of Slovakia's military-industrial component, by contrast, consisted of its armament manufacture, which declined precipitously with the collapse of its communist markets.

      Based on its inherent advantages—a well-educated and skilled labour force, proximity to western Europe, and a low level of foreign debt—the Czech Republic experienced fairly low unemployment and respectable economic performance during its first years as a separate entity. The new government, headed by Pres. Václav Havel (Havel, Václav) and Prime Minister Václav Klaus (Czechoslovakia's former finance minister and a principal architect of postcommunist economic policy), pledged to continue along the path of economic reform, with the goal of large-scale privatization as a priority. Privatization was achieved by means of a voucher system through which Czech citizens purchased shares in state-owned enterprises. Restructuring of the country's antiquated and inefficient manufacturing sector, however, lagged behind. Nevertheless, the Czech Republic's success in keeping down unemployment and inflation while maintaining steady growth resulted in its being singled out as one of the greatest economic successes of postcommunist eastern Europe. In addition, large influxes of visitors fostered the rapid development of the tourism industry and service sector, which provided new employment that helped limit some of the usual hardships of economic restructuring.

      Within a few years, however, it became obvious that the Czech economy was not as healthy as had been believed. The government's failure to proceed with restructuring of key sectors of the economy and to create transparent financial market regulations began to take a toll. Poor management and corruption in the banking industry (much of which had remained largely state controlled) resulted in the failure of eight banks in 1996. In addition, many Czechs who had turned over their privatization vouchers to unregulated private investment funds—in exchange for promises of substantial returns—lost their investments when these dubious funds began to go bankrupt. In 1997 the government responded to the economic crisis by instituting a package of austerity measures and introducing a floating exchange rate, which resulted in a significant depreciation of the koruna, the state currency.

      Despite these economic measures and the establishment of a new securities commission, in the late 1990s the Czech Republic fell into a recession, marked by declines in gross domestic product (GDP) and wages, a growing foreign-trade deficit, and rising unemployment. In the opening years of the 21st century, the economy rebounded, faltered briefly, and then rebounded again; and though the country's public finance deficit grew precipitously, many positive economic indicators surpassed the high levels of the mid-1990s, as the Czech economy became among the fastest-growing in the European Union (EU), which the Czech Republic joined in 2004.

      For the most part, Czechs enjoy a standard of living higher than other former communist countries in eastern Europe. However, employment rates and, consequently, standards of living vary by region. For example, Prague, with its thriving international tourist trade, has had a negligible unemployment rate of less than 1 percent at the same time that some rural regions were experiencing rates as much as 20 times higher. Nationally, by the mid-2000s less than one-tenth of the workforce was unemployed.

Francis William Carter Milan Hauner

Agriculture and forestry
      Czech agriculture is among the most advanced in eastern Europe, with better than average yields. The country does not suffer from a shortage of agricultural land, but its land is used far less efficiently than that in western Europe. With the end of communism, land that had been confiscated after World War II to form large state-controlled farms was gradually restored to its previous owners. Although members of smaller collective farms were entitled to withdraw their land from the collective, small land holders did not necessarily receive their own land back; instead, they often were allotted a plot of comparable worth at another location. The agricultural market is now wholly liberalized, with about one-fourth of farmland cultivated by individuals, one-third by cooperatives, and about two-fifths by corporations.

 Wheat, sugar beets, barley, rye, oats, and potatoes are the most important crops. Pigs, cattle, sheep, and poultry are the dominant livestock. High-quality hops used by the country's breweries are cultivated in Bohemia. Moravia, particularly southern Moravia, is a grape-growing region and is the centre of the Czech Republic's wine industry, though vineyards are also found elsewhere.

      Reforestation efforts of the early 1980s were offset by the effects of acid rain, which prompted cutting beyond the projected rate. By 1989 nearly three-fifths of the republic's forests had been destroyed or seriously damaged. Since then, renewed reforestation efforts have been more effective with deciduous trees than with conifers, resulting in little overall change in the total forest area, which occupies about one-third of the country.

Resources and power
 Although reserves are limited, the Czech Republic produces significant quantities of bituminous, anthracite, and brown coal. Most of the bituminous coal is derived from the Ostrava-Karviná coalfield in the northeast, although it is also mined near Kladno in the Plzeň basin, as well as near Trutnov and Brno. A high proportion of the bituminous coal is of coking quality. Production of brown coal increased rapidly up to the mid-20th century and remained fairly static until the 1990s, when production declined as the industry faced restructuring and privatization. The main areas of brown-coal mining are in the extreme west around Chomutov, Most, Teplice, and Sokolov. Brown coal is used in thermal power stations, as fuel in the home, and as raw material in the chemical industry. Small quantities of petroleum and natural gas are produced near Hodonín on the Slovak border. Pipelines import Russian oil and natural gas, the latter supplementing existing coal gas supplies. The completion in the late 1990s of an oil pipeline that transports oil from the port of Trieste, Italy, allowed the Czech Republic to be less reliant on Russian oil sources. Nuclear power plants located in Dukovany and Temelín, as well as nuclear power from Slovakia, have reduced the country's dependence on coal only slightly; about three-fourths of the Czech Republic's electricity is derived from fossil fuels.

      The Czech Republic has limited deposits of metallic ores. Lead and zinc ores are mined near Kutná Hora and Příbram in Bohemia and in the Hrubý Jeseník Mountains in the northeast. Uranium is mined near Příbram and around Hamr in northern Bohemia. There is a significant gold deposit at Mokrsko, in central Bohemia, south of Prague. The Ore Mountains of Bohemia yield small quantities of tin. Other mineral resources include graphite near České Budějovice and kaolin near Plzeň and Karlovy Vary.

Manufacturing
      Although much of the industry in the Czech Republic in the early 1990s could be characterized as obsolete by western European standards, some sectors, notably the automobile and electronics industries, are now modern and efficient. Engineering is the largest branch of industry. Also very important are food processing and brewing, as well as the chemical, rubber, cement, textile, footwear, and glass industries. The Czech iron and steel industries have traditionally been among the largest in eastern Europe but rely mainly on imported ores (especially from Ukraine). Steel production is centred on the plants of the Ostrava area (in Moravia), with lesser amounts produced at Kladno, Plzeň, and Chomutov (all in Bohemia). The heavy manufacturing sector produces automobiles, trucks, tractors, buses, airplanes, motorcycles, and diesel and electric locomotives and rail and tram cars.

      The major Czech car manufacturer remains Škoda, eastern Europe's oldest car manufacturer, whose main plant is located in Mladá Boleslav. Taken over in the early 1990s by the German company Volkswagen (Volkswagen AG) and thoroughly modernized, Škoda became the Czech Republic's biggest export earner in the early 2000s, accounting for about one-tenth of the country's overall exports and becoming a source of national pride.

Finance
      On the day of partition, the Czech National Bank and its Slovak counterpart replaced the federal monobank, the State Bank of Czechoslovakia. Initially, however, the federal monetary system remained essentially intact, with each country identifying its currency by applying stamps to it. The rapid economic divergence of the two republics, however, ended this arrangement after only one month, and separate currencies were inaugurated.

      The National Bank oversees all financial institutions in the country. Numerous commercial and joint-venture banks, providing a full range of financial services, came into being after democratization. Improper lending practices and embezzlement contributed to the failure of the Kreditni bank, the sixth largest in the nation, in 1996 and sparked a major crisis in the banking industry that put a serious strain on the state's financial resources. Moreover, continued instability in the banking sector at the end of the 20th century spurred the government to hasten preparations for fuller privatization of the largest banks.

      Since the demise of the command economy, numerous joint ventures have taken place between foreign and Czech firms, and there has been significant foreign direct investment in the country. German banks, firms, and individuals were the first to become leading investors, but investment also has come from the United States, The Netherlands, Switzerland, France, and Austria. The largest proportion of it was made in the communications, transportation and transportation equipment, and consumer goods industries.

Trade
      Czechoslovakia was one of the largest foreign traders in eastern Europe and a member of Comecon until the organization disbanded in 1991. Czech trade patterns shifted during the early 1990s in response to the changes occurring both within the country and throughout eastern Europe. By 2000, four years before the Czech Republic joined the EU, its exports to former Comecon members had declined to about one-fourth of total exports. In the early 21st century, Germany ranked as the chief destination for exports as well as the main source of imports. Other important trading partners included Slovakia and Austria. Machinery and transportation equipment made up the largest share of both exports and imports.

Services
 Prior to 1989 the Czech tourism industry catered largely to visitors from other eastern European countries. Following the demise of the Soviet bloc, an increasing proportion of tourists came from western Europe and the United States. Among the principal attractions are historic Prague, numerous spas and mineral springs, winter resorts, and various cultural festivals. Earnings from tourism increased dramatically throughout the 1990s, contributing significantly to the country's revenues and playing a major role in the development of the service sector, which by the first years of the 21st century accounted for more than half of the country's GDP and employed more than half of all Czech workers.

 The Czech Republic has a wealth of cultural and historic sites that have been designated by UNESCO as World Heritage sites (World Heritage site). Among them are the historic centres of Česky Krumlov, Prague, and Telč (all inscribed in 1992), the Holašovice Historical Village Reservation (1998), Litomyšl Castle (1999), and the Jewish Quarter and St. Procopius's Basilica in Třebíč (2003).

Labour and taxation
      Under the communist regime, trade union activity was very restricted. Nevertheless, a general labour strike in November 1989 was one of the catalysts of the Velvet Revolution. The leading trade organization to arise in the postcommunist era was the Czech-Moravian Confederation of Trade Unions (eskomoravská Konfederace Odborových Svazů), which held its first congress meeting in 1994.

      Personal income tax in the Czech Republic is progressive. The corporate tax rate during this period was roughly one-fourth less than it had been in 1992, in the final year of federation. The country also employs a value-added tax (VAT), with exemptions for certain types of businesses, including postal services, financial institutions, health and welfare services, broadcasting, and nonprofit organizations.

Transportation and telecommunications
      Owing to terrain, settlement patterns, former federal policies, and geographic orientation toward western Europe, the Czech Republic possesses a more extensive transportation system than that of Slovakia. Rail (railroad) lines serve all regions of the country, link the republic with its neighbours, and connect Prague with most major European cities. Urban light-rail serves the major metropolitan areas. Most freight moves along main-line routes, but shorter routes between the larger towns accommodate considerable passenger traffic. However, there has been a steady decline in both passenger and freight operations, in spite of the fact that the railways were modernized at the end of the 20th century. An extensive network of paved roads crisscrosses the Bohemian Plateau, while a superhighway links Prague, Brno, and Bratislava.

      The Elbe and the Vltava are the principal navigable rivers in the Czech Republic, with Děčín and Prague as their chief ports, respectively. The Oder provides access to the Baltic Sea via the Polish port of Szczecin. Prague is a major international air terminus; foreign flights also arrive in Brno, Ostrava, and Karlovy Vary.

      Per capita personal computer availability is greater in the Czech Republic than it is in the rest of central Europe but still lags far behind western European standards. On the other hand, per capita cell phone availability in the country is equal to or greater than that in most western European countries.

Richard Horsley Osborne Francis William Carter Milan Hauner

Government and society

Constitutional framework
      On Dec. 16, 1992, the Czech National Council adopted a new constitution establishing the Czech Republic as a parliamentary democracy. This document reflects the Western liberal tradition of political thought and incorporates many of the principles codified in the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, which was adopted by the former Czechoslovak Federal Assembly in January 1991. The constitution provides for a bicameral Parliament consisting of a Chamber of Deputies (elected on a proportional basis for four-year terms) and a Senate (elected on a district basis for six-year terms).

      Executive power is shared by the prime minister and the president. Elected by a joint session of Parliament to a five-year term, the president, who is also the head of state, appoints a prime minister, who heads the government and advises the president on the appointment of other members of the government.

Local government
      The Czech Republic was formerly divided into 77 okresy (districts). These units are still recognized, but in 2000 the country reestablished 13 kraje (regions) and one hlavní mesto (city) that reflect administrative divisions in place from 1948 to 1960. Local governments have the power to raise local taxes and are responsible for roads, utilities, public health, and schools.

Justice
      The Czech Republic's judicial system consists of the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Administrative Court, and the Supreme Court as well as high, regional, and district courts. Military courts are under the jurisdiction of the department of defense. During the 1990s, the Czech government took steps to modify its legal system (based on pre-1918 Austrian criminal code) to meet standards set by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (Security and Co-operation in Europe, Organization for).

Political process
      The electoral system is one of universal direct suffrage. There are several prominent political parties, including the Civic Democratic Party, the Christian and Democratic Union–Czech People's Party, the Czech Social Democratic Party, the Green Party, and the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia. Some parties that enjoyed significant support in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, such as the Freedom Union and the Civic Democratic Alliance, have lost importance or disbanded.

Security
 The withdrawal of Soviet troops from Czechoslovakia in mid-1991 coincided with the disbanding of the Warsaw Pact. At partition, apportioning military resources was one of the major tasks of the new Czech and Slovak defense ministries. Two-thirds of the matériel went to the Czech military, which includes ground and air forces and frontier guards. The Czech Republic, along with Poland and Hungary, became a member of NATO in 1999. At the end of 2004, the military had transformed itself from an organization dependent on conscription to an all-volunteer force.

Health and welfare
      To restructure the health care system inherited from the communist era, the Czech Republic sought to end state control of health services, create a system that would include privately administered facilities, and introduce a funding structure to underwrite the system. By 1994 privatization had been accomplished and the number of privately administered health care facilities had increased tremendously. Poor economic and organizational handling of the restructuring, however, resulted in spiraling health care costs that initially proved difficult to address. Despite the increased cost of health care, however, Czechs benefited from greater access to advanced medical technologies and procedures and enjoy a level of health care that compares favourably with that of other EU countries. The overall level of social subsidies during the postcommunist era declined, although the government attempted to keep something of the social safety net intact.

Housing
      Beginning in the late 1980s, the shortage of housing in the Czech Republic was a severe problem that was not adequately addressed until the start of the 21st century, when the housing situation, for the most part, stabilized. Although about half of existing housing was constructed between 1950 and 1990—much of it prefabricated high-rise urban apartment buildings known as paneláks, referring to the panel blocks used in construction—the general condition of Czech housing is relatively good in comparison with many other countries of the former Soviet bloc. The growth of building societies within the Czech banking sector has played an important role in the increase in home construction and ownership.

Education
 Children aged 3 to 6 may attend state kindergartens. Compulsory education lasts 10 years, from age 6 to 16. Most students 15 to 18 years of age continue their education either at a general secondary school, which prepares them for college or university studies, a vocational school, or a technical school. Since 1990 many private and religious schools have been established.

      Enrollment in colleges and universities in the Czech Republic is low in comparison with other European countries, such as Poland, Austria, and Germany, which all have university enrollments at least twice as high. The leading institutions of higher education, providing four to five years of intensive study, have long-standing traditions. Charles University (founded 1348) and the Czech Technical University (founded 1707), both in Prague, are among the oldest universities in central Europe. Brno has two universities, and Olomouc has one. Since 1990 a number of teachers' colleges have been redesignated as universities. Research work is carried out at universities and at special research institutions affiliated with the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic.

Miroslav Blazek Richard Horsley Osborne Francis William Carter Milan Hauner

Cultural Life

Cultural milieu
      The territory of the Czech Republic traditionally has been between the German and Slav lands, and Czech cultural traditions are a mixture of both. Influences from farther afield also have been strong. Visually the most striking influences are Italian—in Renaissance and Baroque architecture, for instance—while literature, music, the visual arts, and popular culture also are indebted to a variety of external influences. Most of the Western cultural influences on the Czech Lands have passed through a German filter, and for this reason Czech traditions in popular culture are marked by a strong sense of national identity.

Daily life and social customs
 The seven public, or bank, holidays in the Czech Republic are New Year's Day (January 1; also the Day of Recovery of the Independent Czech State), Liberation Day (May 8), the Day of Slavonic Apostles Cyril and Methodius (July 5), Jan Hus Day (July 6), the Day of Czech Statehood (September 28), Independence Day (October 28), and the Day of Students' Fight for Freedom and Democracy (November 17; also St. Wenceslas Day). In addition, most Czechs, including atheists, celebrate Christian holidays, including Easter and Christmas, which remain the oldest public holidays and were recognized even during the communist period. The main celebration of the Christmas holiday is on Christmas Eve, when part of the family decorates the Christmas tree while the remainder prepares the Christmas meal, traditionally consisting of fish, preferably carp, purchased live from huge wooden tubs, erected in all Czech cities during the Christmas week along with tents selling Christmas trees.

      Staples of the Czech diet include potato and sauerkraut soups (bramborová polévka and zelná polévka, respectively), main dishes made of chicken and pork, bread and potato dumplings (houskové knedlíky and bramborové knedlíky), and, for dessert, fruit-filled dumplings, apple strudel, and honey cake. Bohemia has a brewing tradition that dates to the early 19th century, and Czechs are among the world's most avid beer drinkers. Wine, produced locally in Moravia, is also popular.

Literature
       Czech literature can claim a remote ancestry in the vernacular writing connected with the mission sent to Moravia in AD 863 by the Byzantine emperor Michael III. As Christianity reached the Slavs of Bohemia from the west under the political aegis of the Frankish empire, Prince Rostislav, the ruler of Great Moravia (reigned 846–870), sought help from the east. The mission was led by an experienced scholar and diplomat, Cyril (originally named Constantine), and his brother Methodius (see Saints Cyril and Methodius (Cyril and Methodius, Saints)). The brothers translated the greater part of the Bible and the essential liturgical texts into what must have been a Slavonic literary language of Cyril's devising, based on the Macedonian-Slavonic vernacular of his native Salonika but enriched from other sources, notably Greek and the Slavonic of Moravia.

      The most noteworthy literary monuments of this language (now known as Old Church Slavonic (Old Church Slavonic language)) are the Lives of the two brothers, which were almost certainly written before 900 (though they are preserved only in later copies). Other Old Church Slavonic texts, however, can be assigned to the Czech era, notably the Legends about Wenceslas I (Václav), prince of Bohemia (ruled 921–929), and his grandmother, Saint Ludmila (Ludmila, Saint), probably from the 10th century. The Old Church Slavonic language, used for a while along with Latin, fell out of use after 1097, when the last Slavonic monastery in Bohemia was taken over by Benedictine monks.

Robert Auty Z.A.B. Zeman Milan Hauner
      Writing in the Czech language emerged in the late 13th century, establishing a generally continuous tradition of vernacular literature. Chivalrous romances and chronicles, legends of the saints, love lyrics, satires, translations of the Bible, and religious prose were written in the 14th and 15th centuries. The main repository, however, of highly developed literary Czech was the Kralice Bible, a comprehensive translation of the Bible published between 1579 and 1593 by the Unitas Fratrum (Bohemian Brethren, or Moravian Brethren) scholars and named for the small Moravian town where it was printed. It was mainly thanks to this single book that the Czech literary language was preserved during its suppression for two centuries until it was resuscitated during the national revival. During the Counter-Reformation there was a serious decline in the social and administrative use of Czech, though the Baroque period brought fresh impulses to popular poetry and influenced both Roman Catholic and non-Catholic writers. There was a renewed flowering of Czech literature during the 19th century (commonly referred to as the Czech National Revival) that started as a widespread cultural enterprise, manifested in translations, schools, poetry, newspapers, theatre, novels, and operas. Later, the movement took on distinctly political overtones.

      For the Czechs to become full-fledged members of the 19th-century community of European nations, their history had to be constructed and their language rediscovered, reconstructed, and codified. Josef Dobrovský (Dobrovský, Josef), a Jesuit priest and scholar who wrote in German, published an outstanding systematic grammar of the Czech language. František Palacký (Palacký, František), a historian turned politician, published the first volume of an ambitious history of the Czech nation in German in 1836. After 1848 Palacký continued his history in the Czech language only, though volumes published thereafter appeared in both Czech and German.

      Meanwhile, the Romantic (Romanticism) literary movement of western Europe began to affect the emerging Czech literature. The Czech Romantic school of poetry, dating from the early 19th century, is best represented by Karel Hynek Mácha (Mácha, Karel Hynek) and Karel Jaromír Erben. In Bohemia the Romantic movement gave way in the 1840s to a more descriptive and pragmatic approach to literature. Božena Němcová's novel Babička (1855; The Grandmother, also translated as Granny) became a lasting favourite with Czech readers, while the journalist and poet Karel Havlíček Borovský (Havlíček Borovský, Karel) tried to acquaint the Czechs with some of the stark facts of political life. Jan Neruda, in his poetry and short stories, domesticated literary sophistication within a familiar Prague framework. Toward the end of the 19th century, the historical novels of Alois Jirásek (Jirásek, Alois) began to claim a wide readership, while poetry moved through Parnassian, Symbolist, and Decadent phases.

      The making, and breaking, of the Czechoslovak state between the two world wars was reflected in its literature. Jaroslav Hašek (Hašek, Jaroslav)'s sequence of novels Osudy dobrého vojáka Švejka za světové války (1921–23; The Good Soldier Schweik) made a mockery of authority, especially that of the former Austro-Hungarian army. Karel Čapek (Čapek, Karel) wrote popular plays, novels, and travel books, many of which have been translated into English. Vítězslav Nezval, František Halas, Vladimir Holan, Josef Hora, and Nobel Prize winner Jaroslav Seifert (Seifert, Jaroslav) were among other writers whose poetry came to prominence during the first half of the 20th century. As World War II and German-imposed censorship closed in, poetry became even more popular than in peacetime; the brief life and work of Jiří Orten is an outstanding example of his tragic generation.

      Before the destruction of Czech Jewry by the Nazis and the expulsion of the German minority at the end of the war, Bohemia and Moravia had a strong German literary tradition. About the mid-19th century, Adalbert Stifter (Stifter, Adalbert)'s descriptions of nature and the common people inspired local followers in the borderland between Bavaria and Bohemia. During the first half of the 20th century, the German-Jewish group of writers in Prague—Franz Kafka (Kafka, Franz), Franz Werfel (Werfel, Franz), Rainer Maria Rilke (Rilke, Rainer Maria), and Max Brod (Brod, Max)—achieved international recognition.

      Among the postwar generation of writers, Bohumil Hrabal (Hrabal, Bohumil) became well-known for his haunting short stories. While Hrabal remained largely apolitical, after 1948 the majority of Czech writers became enthusiastic members of the Communist Party. Communism had strong domestic roots and thrived as an ideology among intellectuals as well as organized workers, as communist propagandists successfully integrated strong doses of anti-German hatred with pan-Slavic solidarity and socialist visions of utopia.

      The Stalinist purges of the 1950s and the uprisings of 1956, however, discredited the party and gave birth to a reform movement. Before and after 1968 and the invasion of Czechoslovakia by Warsaw Pact forces, Czech writers were at the forefront of the communist reform movement. They paid a high price for their political commitment: a number of writers, including Milan Kundera (Kundera, Milan) and Josef Škvorecký, were forced to live and work abroad. Ludvík Vaculík and Ivan Klíma (Klíma, Ivan), writers of the same generation and of similar convictions, were among those whose novels were circulated in Prague as underground publications. Since 1989, Czech writers have continued to have a major political influence, perhaps most obviously exemplified by the fact that Czechs elected a prominent dissident playwright, Václav Havel (Havel, Václav), as their first postcommunist president.

Theatre
      The beginnings of modern theatrical tradition are usually connected with the Prague National Theatre, which was completed in 1881 and funded entirely by small private donations. In the 1930s the “liberated theatre” movement—made popular by two comic actors, Jiří Voskovec and Jan Werich, and the musician Jaroslav Ježek—launched a new genre of political satire. Czech stage designers such as František Tröster, Frantisek Muzika, and Josef Svoboda achieved worldwide recognition. Havel's best known and most translated plays are Zahradní slavnost (1963; The Garden Party) and Vyrozumění (1965; The Memorandum).

Music
      During the 18th century, Bohemia produced a number of musicians and composers who greatly influenced musical styles throughout Europe. Composer Johann Stamitz (Stamitz, Johann), the founder of the Mannheim school of symphonists, made key contributions to the development of Classical symphonic form and had a profound influence on Mozart. The Benda family of musicians and composers (see Georg Benda (Benda, Georg)) was also highly influential, as was Josef Myslivecek, whose operas and symphonies were much admired in Italy, where he was known as “il divino Boemo” (“the divine Bohemian”), as well as in his homeland.

      During the 19th century, operatic and symphonic music retained its high place in Czech cultural life. Bedřich Smetana (Smetana, Bedřich) was the first composer to inject a noticeable element of Czech nationalism into his work, most notably in his opera Prodaná nevěsta (The Bartered Bride) and his cycle of symphonic poems Má vlast (My Country). Antonín Dvořák (Dvořák, Antonín), Leoš Janáček (Janáček, Leoš), and Bohuslav Martinů (Martinů, Bohuslav), each of whom drew heavily on folk music for inspiration, achieved international fame, and their works often are played at the annual spring music festival held in Prague. Under the batons of distinguished conductors such as Václav Talich, Karel Ančerl, and Václav Neumann, the Czech Philharmonic has developed into one of the world's leading orchestras.

 Since World War II, Czech musicians have gained notice on the European jazz circuit, and jazz-rock keyboardist Jan Hamr (Jan Hammer) won international acclaim for his television and motion picture sound tracks. Traditional folk music continues to have wide appeal among Czechs.

Film
      Under communism, the medium of film was valued as a propaganda tool, and the state-supported Czechoslovak motion picture industry produced an average of 30 feature films annually. With the withdrawal of state sponsorship during the 1990s, fewer than 20 films appeared each year. Despite the limitations imposed by a small market, Czech films and film directors have made their mark internationally, especially since the 1960s. Many Czech films are conceived on a small scale, with a sharp focus on the everyday, common life of the people. Among the best known are those of the Czech New Wave period (1962–68), including Miloš Forman (Forman, Miloš)'s Lásky jedné plavolvlásky (1965; Loves of a Blonde) and Jiří Menzel's Closely Watched Trains (1967), which won an Academy Award. Jan Svěrák's Kolya (1997) also received international attention. There is a strong Czech tradition in producing animated films, with the work of Jiří Trnka (Trnka, Jiří) and Jan Švankmajer being perhaps the most revered.

Fine, applied, and folk arts
 The architecture of the Czech Republic is rich and varied. Prague is especially noted for its wealth of building styles. Among Prague's architectural treasures are the Romanesque Church of St. George, which dates from the 10th century, and the twin-spired St. Vitus's Cathedral, representative of the Gothic style. The city contains many fine Baroque structures, with the Valdštejn and Clam-Gallas palaces and the Antonín Dvořák Museum being some of the most magnificent examples. The Bedřich Smetana Museum is exemplary of the Classical style, and the National Theatre and the National Museum are the principal examples of the Neoclassical style. Notable buildings of the 20th century include those designed in the Cubist style; the first such building now houses the Museum of Czech Cubism.

      The Czechs have a strong tradition in the graphic arts. This includes many forms of caricature: Josef Čapek, the brother of the writer Karel Čapek, is remembered for a series of drawings entitled The Dictator's Boots, from the time when Adolf Hitler was ascending to power. Much of Czech graphic art derives its inspiration from popular, narrative art, such as the happy marriage between Jaroslav Hašek's texts and Josef Lada's illustrations. Since the 19th century, Czech painters and graphic artists have on the whole followed the broad European movements, but realism generally prevails. One of the best-known painters of the19th century was Josef Mánes. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Paris-based Art Nouveau illustrator Alphonse (Alfons) Mucha (Mucha, Alphonse) captured the elusive fin de siècle mood in his paintings and posters, which gained him world renown. During the 20th century, Czech painters such as František Kubka, Emil Filla, Toyen (Marie Cermínová), Jindrich Štyrský, and Josef Šíma were much influenced by Cubism and Surrealism. Painters active during the latter part of the 20th century included Jan Zrzavý, Mikuláš Medek, Jiří Tichý, and Jiří Kolář.

      In the applied arts, manufactured glass ornaments, traditional northern Bohemian costume jewelry, and toys are probably the best-known objects. Popular art has been preserved most often in useful ceramic and wood objects; embroideries and traditional costumes have come to be of less importance.

Cultural institutions
 The Czech Republic's impressive network of public libraries dates back to the 19th century. The largest library is the National Library in Prague, created in 1958 by the merger of several older libraries. Other major collections are in the National Museum Library, also in Prague and founded in 1818, and the State Scientific Library in Brno. Of the republic's many museums, three in Prague are especially noteworthy: the National Museum (founded 1818), the National Gallery (1796; whose collection is exhibited in several locations), and the Museum of Decorative Arts (1885), the latter housing one of the world's largest collections of glass. The Prague Zoological Garden is known for Przewalski's horse, the last of a wild horse subspecies.

Sports and recreation
 Czechs enjoy a variety of outdoor activities, including golf, canoeing, cycling, and hiking, as well as winter sports such as cross-country skiing, snowboarding, and ice hockey. The Czech Republic's ice hockey team distinguished itself throughout the 1990s, winning the world championships in 1996 and 1999 and taking the gold medal at the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, Japan. The former Czechoslovakia also produced world-class football (soccer) teams and finished second in the World Cup competition in 1934 and 1962. Jaroslav Drobny, Jan Kodeš, Martina Navratilova (Navratilova, Martina), Ivan Lendl, and Hana Mandlikova head an impressive list of Czechs who have experienced international success in tennis.

 The Czech Republic made its Olympic debut at the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta, though Czech athletes (representing Bohemia and later Czechoslovakia) had begun participating in 1900. Indeed, early Czech Olympic heroes include long-distance runner Emil Zátopek (Zátopek, Emil), “the bouncing Czech,” who won three gold medals at the Helsinki Games in 1952, and gymnast Vera Cáslavská (Čáslavská, Věra), the winner of many Olympic gold medals and world championships in the 1960s.

Media and publishing
      All publishers and news media were, until the political changes in late 1989, subject to censorship through the government's Office for Press and Information. The government owned all telephone, telegraph, television, and radio systems, and news was disseminated by the official Czechoslovak News Agency. In the postcommunist years, with the abolition of censorship, the introduction of a free-market economy, and the advent of the Internet, dissemination of information changed radically. During the 1990s many new newspaper and book publishers came into existence, although, owing to unstable economic conditions, many of these enterprises were fairly short lived. Widely read daily newspapers include Mladá fronta Dnes (“Youth Front Today”), Právo (“Right”), and Hospodářské noviny (“Economic News”), all published in Prague.

      State control of radio and television broadcasting ended in 1991. The Czech Republic has several nationwide radio networks that broadcast news and cultural programs as well as a number of local radio stations. The nation has two state-run television networks. Independent commercial stations also operate, among them Nova Television and Prima Television.

Miroslav Blazek Richard Horsley Osborne Z.A.B. Zeman Milan Hauner

History
      For earlier history of the area, including Bohemia and Moravia as well as Czechoslovakia, see Czechoslovak region, history of (Czechoslovak history).

      The Czech Republic came into being on Jan. 1, 1993, upon the dissolution of the Czechoslovak federation. At the time of the separation, the federation's assets were divided at a ratio of two to one in favour of the Czechs; special agreements were made for a natural-gas pipeline from Russia, the diplomatic service, and the armed forces. The citizens of the former federation also were divided on the basis of new nationality laws, and, immediately after partition, large numbers of Slovaks began applying for Czech citizenship.

 Václav Havel (Havel, Václav), who had served as the first president of Czechoslovakia after the overthrow of the communists, was elected president of the republic in January 1993, and Václav Klaus became prime minister. Because there was as yet no Senate, the election was conducted only by the Chamber of Deputies, thus contravening the republic's new constitution. Although the separation with Slovakia proceeded amicably—quickly dubbed the Velvet Divorce, in reference to the 1989 Velvet Revolution—customs posts were erected along the Czech-Slovak border, and signs of rising national tempers were briefly noted on both sides of the new frontier.

 Under a centre-right coalition government—composed of the Civic Democratic Party, the Civic Democratic Alliance, and the Christian and Democratic Union–Czech People's Party—the new Czech Republic pursued a fairly aggressive policy of political and economic reform, the cornerstone of which was a program of rapid privatization. On May 31–June 1, 1996, the Czech Republic held its first general election since the country had become a separate entity. The coalition government lost its parliamentary majority when the centre-left Czech Social Democratic Party nearly quadrupled the number of seats it had previously held in the Chamber of Deputies. Nevertheless, the coalition headed by Klaus and Havel remained in power, with a pledge of support from the Social Democrats. However, major economic problems, serious rifts within the ruling coalition, and public dissatisfaction with Klaus's leadership and economic policy forced the prime minister's resignation in November 1997. Klaus's Civic Democratic Party then split into two factions. Jan Ruml, a former interior minister, founded a new conservative party, the Freedom Union, to which almost half of the Civic Democrat deputies defected.

      Klaus, however, remained a political force and shortly after his resignation was reelected party chairman of the Civic Democratic Party. At the June 1998 elections his party won more than one-fourth of the votes; the Social Democrats won nearly one-third. President Havel, who had been reelected by a slim margin to a second term in January, called upon Social Democrat chairman Miloš Zeman (as the leader of the party with the largest number of seats in the Chamber of Deputies) to form a government, which was not initially successful. Eventually Zeman was installed as prime minister, and Klaus was elected to the chairmanship of the Chamber of Deputies.

      The country's domestic troubles during the mid- to late 1990s were to some extent mitigated by its acceptance into NATO. However, by the end of the 1990s, public dissatisfaction with the political leadership was growing. In early 1999, a group of prominent political writers issued Impuls 99, a declaration calling for decisive social, moral, and political change that would ensure the country's rapid accession to the European Union (EU), to which it had formally applied for membership in 1996. In November 1999 activists who had been leaders during the 1989 revolution circulated a more radical manifesto, Thank You! Now Leave!, demanding the resignations of the leaders of all the major political parties for jeopardizing the Czech Republic's acceptance into the EU. Tens of thousands of citizens took to the streets of Prague and other cities to demonstrate against the government. Another cause for concern was the spread of racial violence against the Roma (Gypsies).

      On the other hand, in the realm of foreign policy, the Czech Republic experienced considerable success during the 1990s. In January 1997 Germany and the Czech Republic signed a document of reconciliation in which Germany acknowledged regret for its treatment of Czechs during the Nazi era, and the Czech Republic expressed remorse for Czechoslovakia's expulsion of some three million Germans from the Sudeten region following World War II. Relations between Slovakia and the Czech Republic, however, remained tense for most of the 1990s, with some improvement in the early 21st century.

      Klaus regained the political spotlight in 2003 when he became president at the conclusion of Havel's decade-long tenure. As president, Klaus served along with a series of prime ministers. The Czech Republic took a historic step on May 1, 2004, when it became a member of the EU.

Z.A.B. Zeman Milan Hauner

Additional Reading

Geography
General works
There is still a limited number of works that discuss the Czech Republic and Slovakia as separate countries. General descriptive information on the region is available in Sharon L. Wolchik, Czechoslovakia in Transition: Politics, Economics, and Society (1991); and David W. Paul, Czechoslovakia: Profile of a Socialist Republic at the Crossroads of Europe (1981), a brief survey. A brief guide containing all the essentials is Jiri Hochman, Historical Dictionary of the Czech State (1998). Also informative is Daniel Miller, “Czech Republic,” in Richard Frucht (ed.), Eastern Europe: An Introduction to the People, Lands, and Culture, vol. 2, (2005).

The land and the people
Milan Holeček et al., The Czech Republic in Brief (1995) is a geographical guide. Other basic geographic information is discussed in Jaromír Demek et al., Geography of Czechoslovakia, trans. from Czech (1971). Useful atlases are Jozef Ščipák and Jindřich Svoboda (eds.), Atlas ČSSR, 8th ed. (1984); and Emil MazÚr and Jozef Jakál (eds.), Atlas of the Slovak Socialist Republic (1983). The history of the Roma minority is addressed in Otto Ulč, “Gypsies in Czechoslovakia: A Case of Unfinished Integration,” Eastern European Politics and Societies, 2(2):306–332 (Spring 1988); and Will Guy, Zdenek Uherek, and Renata Weinerova (eds.), Roma Migration in Europe (2004).

The economy, administration, and social conditions
Economic trends are considered in Oldřich Dedek, The Break-Up of Czechoslovakia: An In-Depth Economic Analysis (1996). Karel Dyba, The Czech Republic, 1990–1995: An Economy in Transition (1996), is written by one of the economists chiefly responsible for the Czech Republic's economic transition. Jaroslav Krejčí, Social Change and Stratification in Postwar Czechoslovakia (1972), is a socioeconomic study of Czechoslovak life in the communist period. The companion volume by the same author, Czechoslovakia 1918–92: A Laboratory for Social Change (1996), should be consulted for its discussion of socioeconomic analysis of the early postcommunist years. Steven Saxonberg, The Czech Republic Before the New Millennium: Politics, Parties, and Gender (2003); and Stefan Auer, Liberal Nationalism in Central Europe (2004), address political issues. Election analysis is provided in the comprehensive text Richard Rose, Elections and Parties in New European Democracies (2003).

Cultural life
The Coasts of Bohemia—A Czech History (1998), takes a popular approach, with an emphasis on cultural history. Miloslav Rechcigl, Jr. (ed.), The Czechoslovak Contribution to World Culture (1964), is a collection of essays on all aspects of intellectual life, with an extensive bibliography. Czech and Slovak writers and their works are discussed in Robert B. Pynsent and S.I. Kanikova (eds.), Reader's Encyclopedia of Eastern European Literature (also published as The Everyman Companion to East European Literature, 1993). Specific studies of music and folk art include Vladimír Štěpánek and Bohumil Karásek, An Outline of Czech and Slovak Music, trans. from Czech, 2 vol. (1960–64); Rosa Newmarch, The Music of Czechoslovakia (1942, reprinted 1978); and Věra Hasalová and Jaroslav Vajdiš, Folk Art of Czechoslovakia, trans. from Czech (1974), on the art and architecture of both Slovaks and Czechs.

History
Concise historical information can be found in Jiří Hochman, Historical Dictionary of the Czech State (1998); and Petr Ornyj, A Brief History of the Czech Lands to 2004 (2003). The best collection of English-language essays on the breakup of Czechoslovakia is Jiří Musil (ed.), The End of Czechoslovakia (1995). The best analysis from the communist perspective is Oskar Krejčí, Czechoslovak National Interests and Reflections on the Demise of Czechoslovak Communism (1996).Histories of the country's transition to a market economy and accession to NATO and the EU include Václav Klaus, Renaissance—The Rebirth of Liberty in the Heart of Europe (1997); OECD Economic Surveys—Czech Republic (1995/96–2006); Jiří Vecerník, Markets and People: The Czech Reform Experience in a Comparative Perspective (1996); Martin Myant et al., Successful Transformations?: The Creation of Market Economies in Eastern Germany and the Czech Republic (1996); Jeffrey Simon, NATO and the Czech and Slovak Republics—A Comparative Study in Civil-Military Relations (2004); Alexandra Gheciu, NATO in the “New Europe”—The Politics of International Socialization After the Cold War (2005); Jacques Rupnik, Implications of the Czecho-Slovak Divorce for EU Enlargement (2000); Jiří Krovák (ed.), Current Economics and Politics of (ex-) Czechoslovakia (1994); Jan Švejnar (ed.), The Czech Republic and Economic Transition in Eastern Europe (1995); and the country study by World Bank, Czech Republic: Toward EU Accession: Main Report (1999).Milan Hauner

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Universalium. 2010.

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