International Czech Centres face budget cuts

By Nicole Klement

Czech Centres are responsible for promoting the Czech Republic's culture and trade around the globe. There are 17 of them, but this number may soon be reduced due the Czech Foreign Ministry's planned budget cuts. Heads of the Czech Centres gathered in Prague recently to discuss their financial situations and to try to find ways to soften the impact of the impending austerity measures. RP's Miroslav Krupicka talked to the head of the Czech Centre in New York, Premysl Pela about the cuts:

"I have to say at this moment I don't know the amount of money the Czech centre in New York will receive, but it's obvious it's going to be dramatically decreased. If you look on the global figures for the Czech centres administration- which administers seventeen centres throughout he world- if you look at the year 2000, the support from the ministry was to the amount of 144 million Czech crowns. This was cut this year to 110 million and the proposal for next year's budget is 60 million crowns. So, as you can see there is a cut of approximately 60 % vis a vis the year 2000. Any cut of 5-10% would significantly affect the programs of the Czech centre in New York."

If you loose the money what will you do? I mean what will Czech centres do in general, will some centres be closed, will you have to reduce your activities?

"I think the math is fairly clear. After the cut's last year, the Czech centres were really on the edge of survival. So as of next year there is no possibility to keep 17 Czech centres open."

You have just finished your deliberations at the foreign ministry, what are the opinions about the budget cuts?

"There is a lot of hope to turn to a more positive discussion that would lead to the prospect that the Czech centre would continue to carry the presentation of the Czech Republic abroad. At least to the same extent as in previous years. One of the conclusions of the gathering of the Czech centres and meeting with a number of ministry representative was a letter that was signed by all directors of the Czech centres addressed to the minister describing the severity of the situation and the urgency. I certainly do know, that under the very unfortunate and unprecedented terrorist attacks in New York, these issues seem to be less relevant. But, I still believe that we have to return to this issue and make a very responsible decision."

Could you now mention a few highlights of the Czech Centre in New York in the coming months?

"The program is affected as we mentioned already by the financial cuts this year. We have to cancel a presentation of the region Plzen in New York, also we had to cancel a conference on the contribution of the Czech individual in a European and World context. At this point we have also cancelled a traditional street fair which is part of the Czech Republic's independence day celebration. I think we will go ahead with a series of concerts, the opening of photo exhibitions and a traditional film festival where the leading film will be Honza Hrebejk's film "Divided we fall"."

Author: Nicole Klement
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