Two Czech Centers fall victim to austerity measures

Wider state budget cuts will also mean a reduction in funds to promote Czech culture, tourism and trade abroad.

Budget cuts imposed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will lead to the closure of Czech Centers in Košice, eastern Slovakia, and Buenos Aires, Argentina, in late February 2011.

There are 24 Czech Centers currently in operation in 21 countries across three continents. Since 1993 the centers, under the auspices of the Ministry, have promoted Czech culture, tourism and trade.

The Czech Center in Bratislava, western Slovakia, will remain in operation.

The closures will save Kč 5.5 million, Czech Center spokesman Jiří Rosenkranz said, adding that no additional closures are now planned, and programs in the remaining centers aren’t being reduced.

However, a number of other cost-cutting measures have already taken place, including moving Czech Centers to less expensive locations.

The Czech Centers’ operating budget, meanwhile, has been cut over recent years; whereas in 2000 it stood at Kč 184 million this year it stood at Kč 98 million this year — and in 2011 will drop to Kč 80 million.

Czech Centers held or co-sponsored 3,000 events last year that drew in some 3.5 million visitors in total.

Reining in spending

Prime Minister Petr Nečas (Civic Democrats, ODS) campaigned on a promise to rein in spending to bring the deficit to 4.6 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2011 from the 5.3 percent of GDP level expected this year. To achieve this, the wages of public sector workers will drop 10 percent; so-called social spending will be cut Kč 10 billion.

Nečas aims to reduce the deficit to 3 percent of GDP by 2013, as part of the effort to meet the Maastricht criteria for eventually adopting the euro. No date has been set for Czech entry into the eurozone.