Czech Republic flag

Czech Republic country brief

Overview

The Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic were created as separate States on 1 January 1993 on 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 2011, the Czech population was estimated at 10.56 million. The Czech Republic celebrates its National Day on 28 October.

Political overview

The Czech Republic is a pluralist, multi-party parliamentary representative democracy with the Prime Minister as Head of Government. The Parliament (Parlament České republiky) is bicameral, where the Chamber of Deputies or Lower House (Poslanecká sněmovna) has 200 members elected for 4 years and the Senate or Upper House (Senát) 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, he also holds some important legal powers, including the appointment of 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 last elections for the Lower House took place in May 2010. Between May 2009 and May 2010, the Czech Republic was governed by a caretaker administration, following a vote of no-confidence in the previous ODS-led coalition government. The May 2010 elections resulted in a coalition of 3 centre-right parties: ODS and two newer parties, TOP09 and Public Affairs (VV). The parties won a combined 118 seats. The next Chamber of Deputies' elections will be held in 2014. The last elections for the Upper House were held in October 2012, with next elections scheduled for October 2014. Petr Nečas, leader of the ODS party, is the current Prime Minister.

The Czech Republic joined the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in 1995, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) in 1999 and the European Union (EU) in 2004. It is also a member of numerous international organisations.

Economic overview

Since abandoning communism in 1989, the Czech Republic has made significant economic progress and the country now has a solid market economy. The global financial crisis of 2008-09 affected the largely export-orientated Czech economy, as export demand from the EU declined. Real GDP fell by 4.7 per cent in 2009, mainly during the first quarter. By 2010, the Czech economy showed signs of recovery, with estimated growth of 2.6 per cent. The Czech economy grew by 1.9 per cent in 2011 but fell into a recession in 2012 due to a slump in external demand.. 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 Czech Republic produced more than a million cars in 2010, over 80 per cent of which were exported.

Bilateral relations

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 22,700 Australians identify themselves as having Czech ancestry. The largest proportion of the Czech-born population (around 40 per cent) resides in New South Wales.

Responsibility for diplomatic relations with the Czech Republic rests with the Australian Embassy in Warsaw. Australia's Ambassador to Poland is also accredited to the Czech Republic. Visa and migration issues are handled by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship office in Vienna. Australia maintains an Austrade-managed Consulate in Prague, headed by an Honorary Consul. The Czech Republic maintains an Embassy in Canberra, a Consulate-General in Melbourne, and Consulates in Sydney,Adelaide, Perth and Lewisham (Tasmania).

The Hon Alexander Downer MP, then Minister for Foreign Affairs, visited the Czech Republic from 14-15 September 2005. This was the first visit by an Australian Foreign Minister to the Czech Republic since its formation in 1993. In Prague, Mr Downer met with then Foreign Minister Svoboda, then Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies  Zaoralek, then Defence Minister Kuhnl and the Mayor of Prague Bem. More recent high-level visits have included travel to Prague in 2007 by Her Excellency Professor Marie Bashir AC, CVO, Governor of New South Wales, and the July 2011 visit to Melbourne by Czech Deputy Trade and Industry Minister, Milan Hovorka.

The framework for Australian commercial relations with the Czech Republic include 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

Australian merchandise exports to the Czech Republic in 2012 were valued at A$105 million. Although wool remains by far Australia's largest single export item (A$96 million), Australian exports are slowly diversifying; other export categories include: measuring and analysing instruments; telecom equipment and parts; and precious metal ores (excluding gold). Imports from the Czech Republic over the same period totalled A$425 million and included: passenger motor vehicles; wood products; prams, toys, games and sporting goods; and rotating electric plants and parts. In 2012, the Czech Republic was Australia’s 52nd largest trading partner.

In 2012, Australian investment stock in the Czech Republic was estimated to be approximately A$298 million, with inwards investment from the Czech Republic valued atA$33 million.

If you would like information on specific export opportunities in the Czech Republic, or more information on export assistance, please contact Austrade.

Last updated July 2013