Atlanta companies should closely follow current efforts to privatize industries in the Czech Republic, Alexandr Vodra, the country’s ambassador to the U.S., told GlobalFax at the World Trade Center Atlanta (WTCA). By doing so, he added, they could participate in his country’s efforts to encourage investment from outside Europe.

The energy and telecommunication sectors are to undergo extensive privatization in the near future, he said, as are important engineering interests.

Meanwhile, he also said, foreign investment is climbing as the government is encouraging new “greenfield” investments through a variety of incentives and companies recognize that the Czech Republic is a cost-effective way of accessing the European Union (EU).

Mr. Vodra, who was appointed ambassador to the U.S. in 1997 by President Vaclav Havel, participated in the activities of Czechoslovakia’s democratic opposition in the mid-1980s. He visited Atlanta at the invitation of the Southern Center for International Studies and the Czech-North American Chamber of Commerce.

Despite its efforts to lure foreign investment globally, his country’s “top priority” is to join the EU, he stressed during a luncheon at the WCTA on May 16. His government, he added, has an “internal goal” of joining the European Union (EU) by 2003.

He also said, however, that “realistically” admission would most likely not occur until 2005. In March 1999, EU leaders agreed that six countries including Czech Republic, Cyprus, Estonia, Hungary, Poland and Slovenia, could join the EU by 2006.

He also described the enormous changes in the country’s economic policies.  Although only three to four percent of the Czech Republic’s trade is currently with the U.S. that amount, nevertheless, exceeds its trade with Russia.  Ten years ago, some 30 percent of its trade was with the former Soviet Union.

To learn more about the ambassador’s visit here, call George Novak, the Czech Republic’s honorary consul in Atlanta, at (770) 859-9402 or send a fax to (770) 951-0751.