Languages
Page last updated at 15:53 GMT, Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Czech Republic country profile

Map of Czech Republic

Part of Czechoslovakia until the "velvet divorce" in January 1993, the Czech Republic has a robust democratic tradition, a highly-developed economy, and a rich cultural heritage.

It emerged from over 40 years of Communist rule in 1990, and was the first former Eastern Bloc state to acquire the status of a developed economy. It joined the European Union in 2004.

Overview

Communist rule had lasted since the late 1948, when the restored prewar democratic system was overthrown in a Soviet-backed coup. The "Prague Spring" of 1968, when Communist leader Alexander Dubcek tried to bring in liberal reforms, was crushed by Warsaw Pact tanks.

In 1989, as the curtain was coming down on communism in the Kremlin, the dissident playwright Vaclav Havel emerged as the figurehead of the country's "velvet revolution" and became the first president of post-communist Czechoslovakia.

An era ended in February 2003 when he stepped down as president. It had been interrupted for only a few months at the time of the separation of the Czech Republic and Slovakia, with Mr Havel becoming first president of the former.

The river Moldau, Charles Bridge and Prague's old town
Historic Prague is the focus of a tourist boom

Mr Havel saw the ghost of former Soviet military influence exorcised in 1999 when the country was granted full membership of Nato. He left office having led it to the threshold of the EU. His old rival and successor as president, Vaclav Klaus, oversaw accession to the union.

However, the Czech Republic has been reluctant to join the euro, and is not expected to adopt the common EU currency before 2015 at the earliest.

In addition to its developed industrial economy, the Czech Republic now attracts tourists to some of the finest Baroque, Art Nouveau and Cubist buildings in Europe.

Facts

  • Full name: Czech Republic
  • Population: 10.4 million (UN, 2010)
  • Capital: Prague
  • Area: 78,866 sq km (30,450 sq miles)
  • Major language: Czech
  • Major religion: Christianity
  • Life expectancy: 75 years (men), 81 years (women) (UN)
  • Monetary unit: 1 koruna (Kc) = 100 halers
  • Main exports: Manufactured goods, machinery, cars and transport equipment, beer
  • GNI per capita: US $17,890 (World Bank, 2010)
  • Internet domain: .cz
  • International dialling code: +420

Leaders

President: Vaclav Klaus

Valcalv Klaus
The former PM and current president is known as a Eurosceptic

Vaclav Klaus of the conservative Civic Democratic Party succeeded Vaclav Havel, with whom he had many clashes in previous years, in the largely ceremonial role of president in February 2003.

Parliament narrowly re-elected him in February 2008.

He was the architect of Czech post-communist economic reforms, serving as finance minister in the first post-communist government and prime minister between 1992 and 1997 before financial scandals contributed to the fall of his government.

Mr Klaus is a bitter opponent of closer EU integration - although he insists that his views are more "Eurorealist" than "Eurosceptic". He signed the "Lisbon" European Union reform treaty in November 2009, the last European leader to do so.

Prime Minister: Petr Necas

The head of the centre-right Civic Democrat party (ODS), Petr Necas, was asked by President Klaus to form a government after the May 2010 general election.

Petr Necas leaving a meeting at Prague Castle in May 2010
Petr Necas has encountered resistance to his austerity plans

Prior to the election, the Czech Republic had been in political limbo for over a year, and Mr Necas inherited a difficult situation.

The caretaker government of Jan Fischer had been keeping things ticking over, but pressing problems such as the country's swelling deficit remained to be dealt with.

Mr Necas formed a coalition with the right-wing TOP 09 party and the centrist Public Affairs party.

Between them, the three parties hold 118 out of the 200 seats in the Czech parliament.

The first task awaiting the new coalition was to reduce the budget deficit. Its proposals, which included a 10% cut in public sector wages, provoked a mass protest in Prague in September 2010.

And in October, the Social Democrats gained control of the Senate in mid-term elections, putting them in a position to block legislation. The Social Democrats' leader said they would strive to make the government's reforms "socially more tolerable".

A physicist by training, Petr Necas joined the ODS in 1991. He was first elected to parliament in 1996 and became minister of labour and social affairs in 2006.

He succeeded Mirek Topolanek as leader of the ODS in March 2010.

He is married and has four children.

Media

Private radio and TV stations provide stiff competition for their public rivals.

Public broadcaster Ceska Televize (CT) operates two TV networks and a 24-hour news channel. Public radio, Cesky Rozhlas (CRo), operates three national networks as well as local services.

Two major private TV channels broadcast nationally and there are scores of private radio stations. BBC World Service is available on FM in many cities and towns.

The country is pressing ahead with the digitisation of TV broadcasting; there are plans to switch off analogue signals by 2012.

Press freedom is protected by a charter of basic rights. However, Czech and foreign media organizations criticized an amendment to the penal code in 2009 that made it an offence for journalists to make public the contents of police wiretaps.

Around 6.7 million Czechs were online by June 2010 (Internetworldstats).

The press

Television

  • Czech TV - public, operates mainstream channel CT1 and cultural channel CT2
  • CT 24 - public TV news channel
  • TV Nova - private
  • Prima - private

Radio

News agency/internet



Print Sponsor


FROM OTHER BBC SITES



A GUIDE TO EUROPE

 

 

Compiled by BBC Monitoring

EUROPEAN PRESS PROFILES
 

SEE ALSO
Czech author Josef Skvorecky dies
04 Jan 12 |  Entertainment & Arts
Leaders honour Havel at funeral
23 Dec 11 |  Europe
In pictures: Vaclav Havel
18 Dec 11 |  Europe
Czechs halt Google Street View
15 Sep 10 |  Technology
Czech battle over art nouveau epic
11 Aug 10 |  Europe
Havel directs first feature film
03 Aug 10 |  Europe
Czechs move to right in election
30 May 10 |  Europe
Czechs take over leadership of EU
01 Jan 09 |  Europe
BBC Radio 4: Profile: Vaclav Klaus
08 Jan 09 |  Special Reports
Eurosceptic becomes EU leader
27 Dec 08 |  UK
Czech PM raises new Lisbon hurdle
19 Dec 08 |  Europe
Roma's struggle for fair education
28 Aug 08 |  Crossing Continents
Prague's bridge to the world
09 Jul 07 |  Europe
'Octopus' library stirs up Czechs
14 May 07 |  Europe
Czech village 'vetoes' US shield
18 Mar 07 |  Europe
Pupils remember communist era
03 Nov 06 |  Education

RELATED BBC LINKS

RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

BBC navigation

BBC © 2013 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific