The Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic were created as separate States on 1 January 1993 from the territory of the former Czechoslovakia. The Czech Republic is bordered by Poland, Slovakia, Austria and Germany and has a land area of 79 thousand square kilometres. In 2014, the Czech population was estimated at 10.5 million people. The Czech Republic marks its National Day on 28 October, which celebrates the creation of Czechoslovakia in 1918.
The Czech Republic is a pluralist, multi-party parliamentary representative democracy with the Prime Minister as Head of Government. The Parliament is bicameral. The Chamber of Deputies or Lower House has 200 members elected for 4 years and the Senate or Upper House has 81 members elected for 6 years, with one-third of senators replaced every two years.
The President of the Czech Republic, Mr Milos Zeman, took office in March 2013 following his win in the second round of the Czech Republic’s first ever direct Presidential elections. Although the President performs mainly representational functions, the role also holds some important legal powers, including appointing the Prime Minister and members of the government, appointing members of the Czech National Bank Board, and signing or vetoing legal acts passed by the Parliament. The next presidential election is due in January 2018.
The last elections for the Lower House took place in October 2013, following the collapse of the previous government amid a corruption and spying scandal in June 2013. After months of an interim government, in January 2014 a three-party coalition of centre-left and centre-right parties under the leadership of Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka of the Czech Social Democratic Party (CSSD) was sworn into power by President Zeman. The governing coalition also includes the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL) and the centrist party ANO 2011. The governing coalition holds 111 of the 200 seats in the Lower House. The last elections for the Upper House were held in October 2014. The next elections for the Lower House are due in 2017.
The Czech Republic joined the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in 1995 and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) in 1999. The Czech Republic is also a member of the Visegrad Four, with Poland, Slovakia and Hungary. The grouping aims to promote closer cooperation between these four central European countries to further their European integration. All four countries joined the European Union in May 2004. The Czech Republic will hold the rotating presidency of the Visegrad Four from July 2015 to June 2016.
The global financial crisis affected the largely export-oriented Czech economy, as export demand from the EU declined. Although the Czech economy showed signs of recovery with growth of 2.3 per cent in 2010 and 2.0 per cent in 2011, it fell into recession in 2012 due to a slump in external demand, which extended into 2013 with real GDP falling by 0.7 per cent. The economy returned to growth in 2014 with GDP increasing by 2.0 per cent supported by stronger imports and higher government spending. Unemployment was estimated at 6.1 per cent in 2014.
The auto industry remains the Czech Republic’s largest single industry, and, together with its upstream suppliers, accounts for nearly 24 per cent of domestic manufacturing. The EU is the Czech Republic’s biggest trading partner accounting for approximately 80 per cent of Czech exports.
Australia and the Czech Republic are like-minded on many international policy issues and share strong people-to-people links. Since the Second World War, there have been two major waves of immigration: after the communist takeover of Czechoslovakia in 1948, and following Soviet occupation in 1968. According to 2011 census figures, around 22,800 Australians identify as having Czech ancestry.
Australia's Ambassador to Poland is accredited to the Czech Republic. Visa and migration issues are handled by the Department of Immigration office in Vienna. Australia maintains a Consulate in Prague, headed by an Honorary Consul. The Czech Republic has an Embassy in Canberra, a Consulate-General in Melbourne, and Consulates in Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth and Hobart.
The first visit by an Australian Foreign Minister to the Czech Republic since its formation in 1993 was undertaken by the Hon Alexander Downer from 14-15 September 2005. In Prague, Mr Downer met with Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda, Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies Lubomír Zaorálek, Defence Minister Karel Kuhnl and the Mayor of Prague Pavel Bém. In July 2011 Czech Deputy Trade and Industry Minister Milan Hovorka visited Melbourne. In 2007 Her Excellency Professor Marie Bashir AC, CVO, Governor of New South Wales, travelled to Prague.
The framework for Australian commercial relations with the Czech Republic includes an Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement and a Double Taxation Agreement, signed in 1994 and 1995 respectively. The Agreement between the Government of Australia and the Government of the Czech Republic on Cooperation in Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy and the Transfer of Nuclear Material entered into force in 2002. The Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) signed a Memorandum of Understanding with its Czech counterpart in May 2008 to allow Australian law enforcement and other Government agencies to receive vital financial intelligence from the Czech Republic. Australia and the Czech Republic implemented a bilateral Social Security Agreement on 1 July 2011.
Bilateral economic and trade relationship
Two-way merchandise trade between Australia and the Czech Republic in 2014 was A$733 million. Exports from Australia to the Czech Republic over this period totalled A$122 million, mainly in wool. Imports to Australia from the Czech Republic in 2014 amounted to A$611 million, consisting predominantly of passenger motor vehicles.
In 2014, Australian investment stock in the Czech Republic was estimated to be A$291 million, with inwards investment from the Czech Republic valued at A$42 million.
For information on doing business in the Czech Republic, please see Austrade's website.
Last updated: July 2015