AuthorMartin Hladík

Senate President meets Madeleine Albright

Senate President Jaroslav Kubera was the only Czech constitutional official to meet former United States Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. The bilateral meeting was held at Prague Castle as part of celebrations of 20 years since the Czech Republic joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. Kubera and Albright mainly discussed ways to reduce the division within society which is prevalent not just in the Czech public space, but also that within Europe and America in recent years, and which certain politicians entrench through their statements and actions.

PragArtworks – Art’s in the House, Move on UP!

Art ́s in the House, Move on UP! is a remarkable collaboration with IMMOFINANZ and myhive Pankrác House. Louise Beer, founder and director of PragArtworks, has brought together a diverse group of contemporary Czech artists to create an exclusive exhibition in the heart of Prague. The exhibition showcases artworks in the urban office spaces of Pankrac House. This industrial environment is unconventional yet presents the perfect setting to showcase the wide range of contemporary works on display. The pop-up gallery not only offers a space for the artists to display their works, but also fosters a sense of kinship and community. Connecting the artists to their audience and creating an inviting atmosphere is what PragArtworks has set out to achieve since it was established in 2017.

I, the Brand – Holding the Mirror and Holding the Back

Since 2010, when I started my communications business in the Czech Republic, I became aware of how vital it is that our names are connected with sound, positive values. In my case it was integrity, freedom and partnership that were leading the way, taking me away from a media landscape troubled by crisis into a growing people development practice.

Little by little I realized that my clients, heads of small and large companies alike, were facing a similar challenge. Regardless of their intention – if they wanted to achieve something within the company, drive an acquisition, change careers or launch their own business – even the greatest leaders were all of a sudden at a loss. When asked why they personally wanted to communicate in a certain way, what was driving them, they often had no answer. It was much easier to hang on to the company direction, vision and values than to turn the mirror inside and allow their inner voice to take the lead in communications.

Allowing the Soul to Speak

If we were to look at the Eisenhower principle of prioritization, with tasks split along two axes – their urgency on the horizontal and their importance on the vertical – we would realize that personal branding sits in the upper left box – important, but not urgent. It’s like that medical check that you’ve been postponing for ages for fear of what you might find or have to change once you go through it. The appeal of important and urgent tasks is so much bigger – at best we can point at the urgency of the matter to find an excuse about why we spent all our time and energy on immediate assignments. Yet that is a brilliant example of short-term thinking. If you really want to think long term – and building a career and personal brand is quite a long term endeavor – you need to be able to step away from the lure of the immediate and into the realm of the important, the essential, the vital, which might be a bit bitter and messy at the beginning, but much healthier long term.

This is why, starting with our second session of personal branding I start stretching people’s focus with long term questions. “What’s really important to you? What do you want to leave behind? If you were to be hit by a car tomorrow, who would miss you? To what extent do you feel you fulfilled your mission on this Earth?” And so on.

You can imagine that this is the point when clients start to “fall in love” with me. Had they not already paid for their full personal branding package in advance, they would be running through the door and never come back. That’s why I call this moment the breaking point. In personal branding my mission is holding the mirror and holding the back. This is literally what I do: I hold people’s backs long enough for them to start looking into a personal mirror that is not fogged by outside factors like family, company or society expectations. Slowly, the dreams of youth – and the pain attached to losing contact with them – come forward. Slowly, allowed and held, the soul breaks through immediate impulses, emotions and ideas and starts to speak. This is the greatest moment and the biggest reward of my profession: that moment when the reconnection to self occurs and my clients come up with realizations beyond their wildest dreams. This is the reward for coping with the process and with the messy feelings around it: finding one’s voice and allowing it to speak freely while taking responsibility for cherishing and nurturing it for the rest of one’s life.

The Facets of the Personal Diamond

Imagine your personal brand as a multifaceted diamond shining in all its beauty on a precious purple bed. This diamond has several facets that are not all visible at the same time – it is not even necessary to show all of them to everyone at any given moment. What is vital however is to know what your personal diamond’s facets are and to become aware of how well polished they are in case you might need to show them to someone and allow them to power your communication.

So, what are the facets of your personal diamond? They are everything that is basically You:

    • your past, including your origin and family history, your roots, your place of birth, your ethnicity and nationality;
    • your core values, usually developed during the first years of life;
    • your innate talents and gifts;
    • your education, including the schools you attended, the things you learnt there and the skills that you developed;
    • your professional experience, including your past career successes large and small;
    • your hobbies and volunteer activities, which usually speak strongly of your values;
    • your personality and level of emotional maturity;
    • other particular aspects that make you who you are, such as your nickname or your “freak factor” meaning specific issues or experiences, positive or negative, that had a major impact on your life etc.

All these gifts are already in your coffer, building together the unique DNA thread of who your are. These are the edges and facets of your personal diamond that might be calling for your attention. Again, they don’t have to or shouldn’t even have to be all visible at the same time. But a good starting place is to realize that you have them and that they are your real assets when building your career and personal communications strategy.

If you find yourself at a crossroad, take a break. Give yourself a couple of days off for self-reflection and go back to those nasty questions I mentioned above. What do you really want to leave behind? What is there that is really important to you? Who would miss you if you were gone? What is your mission and your message for this world? And, mainly, to what extent do you live your mission in your everyday life and speak of it in your everyday communications?

This can be a tough place and you don’t have to dive into these muddy waters of the soul alone. Yet it is only alone that you can dive deep enough to recover your diamond from the depths, bring it up and start polishing it, one facet at a time. From what I’ve experienced so far, one day you will be amazed by the light that starts to emerge from the inside out and to guide you mercilessly on your journey. And that’s the true reward: for you, for coping with the process of bringing yourself forward in all your glory, and for me for holding the mirror and holding the back.

By Cristina Muntean


Cristina Muntean is a consultant, trainer, mentor and coach who specializes in personal branding, strategic communications, emotional and systemic intelligence for leadership. A former journalist with more than 12 years of experience in the Czech, Romanian and international media, she founded Media Education CEE, a PR advisory and training agency in Prague in May 2010. Her clients are executive level managers and entrepreneurs with Top100 companies in the Czech Republic and Central and Eastern Europe. Cristina is also an internationally certified trainer and coach with the Enneagram, a complex system of personal development, and a facilitator of systemic dynamics in business organizations. She provides her services in English, Czech, French and Romanian, her mother tongue. Cristina can be reached at +420 776 574 925 or at

Wine from Tahiti or One Dream Fulfilled

Rangiroa coral island

Viticulture today utilises knowledge collected over almost three thousand years. It was likely Phoenicians who first began growing grapes, then the Romans, followed by many generations of monks until the first generation of today’s winegrowers. Growers were continually seeking out, testing, varying and improving methods of cultivation and wine production. Today, winemaking culture is supported through highly efficient research laboratories using cutting-edge equipment, but nature still has the first word. Hundreds and thousands of experts the world over are continuously exchanging experience, and communicating their successes and failures.

Wine press

Nothing of this sort occurred in Polynesia. Just one man alone made the decision to grow grapes here. He was unable to rely on any local experience of viticulture. All the questions had to be posed. What vine to use, what variety to plant? There are almost 4000 grape varieties. Where should the vines be planted? Nobody had any experience of growing vines on a coral bedrock in a tropical region. Furthermore, grape vines have annual cycles, and are used to alternating winter and summer periods. How can the particular and shorter incidence of sunlight at this latitude below the Tropic of Capricorn be utilised when grapes need long periods of sunlight in order to produce enough sugar, and colder nights to strengthen the vine, etc.?

Wine museum in Tahiti

It was clear that growing vines in Tahiti would require starting from scratch. Dominique Auroy surprised everyone. Sceptics, wine-lovers, experts, specialists and scientists.

“He experienced every moment of his life with great intensity.” This could be his epitaph; someone who has constantly needed new challenges to live. Dominique was very young when he came to realise that we are only the masters of our own fate when we see our dreams fulfilled. “For me, life without risk, without excitement and without pleasure is not a life at all. When I first arrived in Polynesia 40 years ago, I did not realise that I would spend most of my life here and that I would experience such a fascinating period of innovations and fundamental changes.” The 1980s in his life were marked by a large project that he believed in despite the scepticism of many. He won them all over when he created an incredible and massive construction: a hydroelectric power plant in the middle of the forests, which twenty years later secures 50% of the hydropower for the whole of Tahiti.

Grape harvest in Tahiti

His new challenge of growing grapes came later at the end of the 1990s. A few years before, he had become a shareholder in BraPac, a company that imported wine to Polynesia. He didn’t find the wine trade of great interest. Due to the high cost of importing wine to a country where a population of 250 000 people consumed 4 million bottles of wine a year, his plan to start growing vines locally began taking shape. But before getting down to growing grapevines, as a true visionary Dominique began working on the now renowned mineral water, Eau Royale. His next challenge was growing sugarcane and producing rum. In Tahiti, sugarcane is a native plant that has been exported and used in the Caribbean to produce rum. The Mana’o rum which Dominique Auroy produces is of the highest quality, and is highly rated amongst many experts around the world.

This was followed by a long and difficult journey from the first grape- vine shoot appearing to the first glass of wine being drunk. In the meantime, he founded a unique wine museum in Tahiti, and a branch of the fraternity of Burgundy wine enthusiasts, Chevaliers du Tastevin, which this year celebrated 25 years of operation here in style. “Only in wine have I found the harmony and balance so important for life,” con- cluded Dominique’s speech at the celebration, and he modestly watched as the whole hall rose to its feet in long applause.

Rangiroa coral atoll

First the horizon appears in front of us; where the green-blue clear sea ends and the brilliant blue of the sky rises upwards. Here, in the South Pacific amongst the coral islands of Tuamotu on the atoll of Rangiroa, every visitor is enchanted by the nature-enveloped dazzling light of the tropic sun. The boat cuts through the calm turquoise lagoon, and suddenly in front of us a small coral atoll emerges, with a forest of coconut palms. We embark onto the shore and onto a wonderful sparkling white beach, but our surprise will come elsewhere, and what we see will arouse incredible emotions in us. At the end of the coral path lined with coconut palms, rows of grapevines suddenly appear, and the air is full of the aroma of ripe grapes. The courage and adventure of one man suddenly becomes clear. We find ourselves in the Dominique Auroy vineyards, in “Domaine de Rangiroa”. Local Polynesians are working hard under the hot sun. The harvest is over. The grapes (Italia and Carignan varieties) are put into small containers and transported by sea to the main island for processing. Thanks to the tropical climate, grapes are harvested twice a year. 40 000 litres of wine are produced annually, and this covers not just local consumption; the wine is also exported to Europe, Australia and New Zealand. It took almost ten years for the group of determined people around Dominique to manage to tame the local natural environment, and for the world to be able to enjoy the first glass of this now renowned crisp wine.

Rangiroa, coral island in French Polynesia in the Pacific Ocean

“I made the decision to take the path of adventure as my life’s journey,” smiles Dominique without pathos.

The results of many experiments often arouse admiration and respect in regard to the process used or developed rather than the results of the actual product. And so experts’enthusiasm and qualitative reviews of these white wines grown on the coral atoll, “Tahiti blanc de corail” and “Tahiti blancsec”,wasallthemoreimpressive.Thewineherecannotbecompared to any well-known white wines from the traditional wine-growing latitudes and climates. The first wine has a surprisingly rich composition of aromas. Its fresh fruity flavour of pineapple, ripe peach and dried apricots develops fully in the mouth. The second wine is full and golden, and very fresh, elegant and balanced in the mouth. It finishes with the flavour of tropical fruit blended with a subtle minerality.

“You’ve got to be patient and persistent in life. It’s unfortunate that some have not realised this and have tried to slow down this development from the beginning, but the pleasure is in overcoming obstacles.” Dominique Auroy has won his incredible wager twice over. Not only is it possible to grow grapevines on a coral island in Tahiti, but he has also demonstrated that the resulting wine is of high quality, today having won many awards. Here, Dominique has clearly extended the limits of human possibility and tamed a number of laws of nature.

“My greatest satisfaction is that the citizens of Rangiroa atoll have appropriated the vineyard, and they are proud of it. It is a wonderful reward. Wine production is about passion above all, and passion gives my life meaning and value. I trust that wine stands for all I have sought in life.”

Authors : Iva and Joseph Drebitko
Photos : authors’ archives

Monika Koubová


TAKE CONTROL of your own health


Dr. Monika Koubová, Lifestyle Medicine Physician

MUDr. Monika Koubová has spent over twenty years working in internal medicine in a hospital, as emergency physician in the pre-hospital acute care and in the emergency ward, saving patients. After many years managing life threatening health conditions she has come to learn that it is important not just to treat disease, but especially to prevent it. As such, she was the first board-certified Lifestyle Medicine Physician in the Czech Republic. Did you know that up to 70% of chronic diseases that heavily impact health care budgets can be stopped, reversed or even cured? Although we met up during the week, our interview took place over a home-cooked lunch. We discussed epigenetics findings, superfoods, silent killers and, in particular, how small changes in our habits can bring large results. There were also lighter-hearted moments during our serious discussions. MUDr. Monika Koubová can explain even complex scientific principles in an understandable and humorous manner.

Monika, you tell your patients that you can’t guarantee beauty or slimness. The traditional viewpoint of “lifestyle medicine” is that it deals with lifestyle diseases and their prevention.

The medical approach in lifestyle medicine is not about slimming, as one might assume here in the Czech Republic according to the various advisory studies that have been proliferating. In Australia, America and Great Britain, this term signifies a modern medical science based on long term research, which has led to an approach to chronic diseases of the modern era being stopped or cured. The huge range of what at first sight seem to be unrelated diseases has one common denominator: the modern era and our habits, or rather bad habits, which result in pathophysiological changes within our organism. Diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, heart failure, heart attacks, autoimmune diseases and renal failure, which, for example, affect 10% of the population, without half of those affected being aware of it. 920 000 citizens of the Czech Republic suffer from diabetes, and it is estimated that by 2030 the number of type 2 diabetics will grow to 1 200 000. And those suffering congenital type 1 diabetes comprise just about 3 % of patients with diabetes.

You say that we rely too much on our own family histories. When I was in hospital in January, it seemed almost absurd to me, at 42 years old, that they were asking me about illnesses suffered by my parents and grandparents. I realised that it was I who was responsible for my condition. I would add self-critically that I had not been particularly responsible.

The belief that we inherit diseases from our parents remains prevalent. We do not inherit most of the diseases; we create them. If your grandmother died of a stroke, then that may have been the consequence of poorly treated high blood pressure, or many other related causes. Until the age of 40, our body is able to seemingly forgive a lot, but after that all our sins are summed up. With added interest. Preventive medicine has been a subject of study in the West for over 30 years as a result of the rapid increase in lifestyle diseases in developed countries. The modern era changes our biorhythms, lifestyle regime and thus the functioning of our whole body. Thanks to modern medicine, we are able to extend life expectancy. We have great cardiac and cardio-surgical clinics, specialized stroke units, diabetes and oncology centres, transplant medicine and the development of new medicines is significant. Behind an extended life expectancy, however, there is a rapid fall in vitality, and patients thus spend the last 10 to 20 years of their life dependent and reliant on the care of others. Even cancer research has shown that only 5-10% of tumours are inherited. You can even investigate the specific genes responsible for a tumour. Other types of cancer arise through pathological mutations during cellular division.

So we come to epigenetics as a field of medicine with great potential.

Epigenetics demonstrates that we can affect the behaviour of up to 70% of our genes regardless of our particular genome. We ourselves can influence whether most of our genes work for us or against us. I wouldn’t recommend going blind into genome screening without subsequent consultation with an expert who can recommend suitable adjustments to your lifestyle and diet. I compare epigenetics to a lock – it’s up to us whether we give a free pass to diseases and let them develop, or whether we stand up to the challenge of even poor genetic makeup and adjust our overall lifestyle. I don’t want to talk purely about alimentation. It can happen that we need to add some elements through vitamins, minerals, or even medicine in general. This incredibly complex field has had to set out its own path for itself outside the so-called mainstream of medicine, in which many studies are sponsored by pharmaceutical companies. Epigenetics studies on patients with prostate cancer have shown that a treatment programme incorporating just a minimum of the drugs necessary, but also stressing changes in diet, sleep and exercise, can suppress the activity of adverse genes while, in contrast, supporting the activity of beneficial genes. The outcome is a reduction in tumour growth. The same principles for influencing how our genes behave undoubtedly also apply in the effect on some other tumours.

Can this type of approach be used to improve overall fitness?

I tell patients who have had a heart attack that if they follow all the recommendations and take the necessary drugs, then no more arteries need become clogged up. One can also speak of diabetes without insulin. Patients with type 2 diabetes needn’t develop their disease into daily insulin administration. But if insulin is already vital, they can work towards achieving a half-dose. Insulin, which is vital for some, unfortunately causes obesity and is also carcinogenic. Although the lifestyle regime measures I propose are more intensive, they bring results. Clinical studies have shown that through the right micronutrients one can reduce telomere shortening, leading to the slowing of the ageing process. All the procedures I use are the result of science-based clinical studies verified on specific patients. Although we have known some of the results for 30 years, the increase in lifestyle diseases demonstrates that we still haven’t learnt. A wider adoption of this medical approach will require not just much greater doctor training, but also a change in their rewarding. The current system is set up such that we are treating patients, not healthy people. I don’t want to always be treating my patients; I would rather restore them to health.

Diet is one of the key components of a healthy lifestyle. But dietary recommendations change so frequently that it is easy for the lay person to become confused.

There was a massive growth in the food industry during the 1970s, and food began to be produced industrially. Remember the film The Wing or the Thigh in which Louis de Funès fought against Tricatel? Industrially produced food, however, contain not enough of important micronutrients such as enzymes, vitamins and minerals which provide important nutrition to our bodies. Food can contain up to 100 thousand various micronutrients. There are also a lot of trends that promote erroneous and unhealthy dietary recommendations. I’ve got a patient who followed a ketogenic diet for 13 years, meaning she ate lots of fats and proteins, and no carbohydrates. At 52 years of age, she is experiencing severe osteoporosis, and has suffered necrosis of the hip joint. Paradoxically, osteoporosis is most prevalent in countries that consume a lot of meat and dairy products. The motto of milk for healthy bones is obsolete. Dairy products are tasty, but they provide excessive fat and salt. We absorb twice as much calcium from dark green vegetables such as broccoli, kale and Savoy cabbage, while also getting twice as much of calcium and a lot of protein from them. Another widespread myth is the advice to consume a lot of protein. We do need protein, but a specific quantity should be recommended on the basis of age and physical activity. Growing children, people over 65 and active athletes need larger amounts of protein than the rest of the population. In contrast to fats and sugars, the body is unable to store protein except of in our muscles. However to achieve that, our muscles must exercise. As such, it is better to consume protein in smaller amounts over the course of the day rather than all at once. And almost all of us suffer from a lack of fibre in our diet. Fibre is not just important for gut function, but it is also a food for the so-called microbiome. Up to two kilograms of our body weight comprises bacteria, bacterial films and the bacterial community in our gut. This collection is sometimes called our second brain, and only in recent years have researchers focused on its functions and importance. Again, if we take lactobacilli without the necessary fibre, then the lactobacilli won’t stay in our gut anyway, something the television commercials don’t stress. Instead of lactobacilli tablets, you can also eat sauerkraut or kimchi.

You’ve invited me to a home-made lunch. Your favourite motto is: Have all the colours of the rainbow on your plate and you don’t need to count the calories.

I’ve cooked home-made pheasant from South Bohemia. My 81-year-old father, a walking advertisement for lifestyle medicine, hunted and gutted it. He is still active, runs a medical practice once a week, teaches at university and is also an active hunter. The portion of meat is a lot smaller than that served in restaurants; about 0.8 grams of proteins per kilo weight per day is enough. And protein isn’t just in meat. We’ve got a beetroot, celery, rocket and chard salad as a side. I’ve gone for groats instead of rice, which contains protein, and surprisingly also fat, as well as slow-release carbohydrates. I follow the recommendations I give my patients. I hate diets and I’m not going to be counting calories. I give my clients a graph in which I draw a thick line. If you eat the recommended foods, you’re not going to feel hungry, you’re going to have enough nutrients, and it won’t be so hard to maintain the regime. Other foods won’t spoil the diet, but I only recommend a very small amount. And don’t ignore the folk wisdom that hunger is hidden thirst. I recommend drinking at least a quarter litre of water a quarter of an hour before a meal. During the day and overnight, we perspire about 3⁄4 litre of water, so it is important to drink properly in the morning. You can also begin every meal with a salad like Italian, Swiss and other of the healthiest nations do.

What happens in the initial examination and subsequent treatment?

I begin with a comprehensive initial examination, and on the basis of the problem or risks I determine what laboratory tests need to be done. I focus on examinations, which provide information of early signs of diseases. One of the tests is patented by Harvard Medical School for example. As it is comprehensive, this initial examination doesn’t take 10 minutes, but rather an hour. It is important to eliminate medical conditions which are not related to wide range of lifestyle diseases (e.g. thyroid disease). On the basis of the results, I propose suitable measures, whether they be medicines, or dietary or other changes. The number one killer now is no longer cigarettes, but rather a lack of exercise. Another silent killer is a lack of sleep. The first results following a change in overall regime come in 14 days, which is motivating for the patient. This is followed by further gradual changes. You can’t make too many dramatic changes at once, as they won’t be sustainable in the long run. Patients who come to me take control over their own health. I provide this programme to both individuals and companies. It has been shown in the USA, Canada and Australia that companies which invest in health improvement programmes (not to be confused with preventive examinations) don’t just have healthier employees, but also more motivated, more loyal and more satisfied employees. Corporate programmes, and also team workshops, take place on the basis of group consultations. The programme can reveal individuals’premature diseases, while also fostering a positive relationship to health and fitness in the company in general. Employees learn which habits they need to change for better long lasting health, their diet and spend quality time together and learn about new findings in the nutrition and food supplements field. And, of course, I work on the basis of evidence-based procedures, with the programme beginning and ending with laboratory tests.

By Linda Štucbartová

Drop in insect populations not part of natural cycle

Zoologist Petr Šípek on how dramatic drop in numbers can impact ecosystems

More and more analysis is pointing to a dramatic drop in insect populations in Europe and across the world. A long-term study in neighbouring Germany, for example, suggests that flying insect populations dropped alarmingly by more than 75 percent over the last three decades.

Are we on the cusp of extinction of various insect species? And, if so, what can be done to curb the downward trend?

Those were questions I put to Dr. Petr Šípek a specialist at the Department of Zoology at Charles University’s Faculty of Science.

CU Zoologist Petr Šípek. From Petr Šípek’s personal archive.

There is something like 10 quintillion insects on the planet and about one million species! Ten quintillion (10 followed by 18 zeroes)!

“Ordinarily people don’t think about insects or realize that there are so many and that they are the most diverse group of multi-cellular organisms. But we find insects in most ecosystems with the exception of marine and saltwater systems; otherwise they are present almost everywhere and usually in large numbers.”

Despite the numbers, various scientific studies around the world are seeing evidence that insect populations are largely on the decline. And the drop according to many indicators is not trivial but fairly significant to alarming, depending on who you ask.

“It is very difficult to map insect populations in general; you mentioned one million species but we estimated that another 5 – 7 million which have not been described and catalogued before now. Some of them may never be or may disappear before we have a chance, with land conversion going extinct. The task is enormous.

“For a long time entomologists had a sense that things were changing but exact numbers are hard to prove. You can count the number of butterflies on a meadow but it is very hard to estimate populations. That said, there is evidence now of big changes: there has been a huge decrease in insect populations and it is [no longer possible to ignore].

“In daily life, you can notice that there are fewer insects around than in the 1980s and 1990s: we see fewer of them flying around and you have to wipe the windshield of your car far less often than used to be the case…”

From Zoologist Petr Šípek’s personal archive.

Not as many are ending up splattered against the glass!

“There are also indirect indicators of the change, specifically of populations of insect feeding birds in ecosystems. If their primary food sources drop, their own population numbers suffer. There was a huge study in the Czech Republic conducted by the Czech Society for Ornithology and scientists from Charles University such as Jiří Reif and colleagues. They discovered that since 2004 there was around a 40 percent decrease in common species among common agricultural farmland birds. And that is quite a lot.”

We will talk more about the aspects of the negative impact but before we do, I would like to ask about the study in Germany from 2017, which surveyed developments for 30 years. It measured flying insect biomass for three decades and is now referenced in report after report.

“The funny thing about that is that scientists did not set out to estimate the biomass of flying insects and that was a side-product of their work. They monitored the situation over 30 years and then realised afterwards what they had in terms of data. The samples were unsorted and nobody really knew what was there at first but after all that time they realised they could count the average biomass of flying insects caught per day and according to that they could estimate how many flying insects there were.

“What they uncovered was remarkable: that there was a decrease of 2.5 percent per year. This was a long-term trend and this was not a situation with peaks and valleys but a continuous decrease. The study took place at small scale nature reservations so I think it reflected changes to the broader surrounding countryside and the impact of that.”

What are some of factors that are likely to have contributed to the population decrease?

“The German scientists were not able to point to a single factor but said it could be the impact of several, including what is known as extinction depth, which means it could be related to changes in the landscape that took place 10 or 20 years before. That makes it trickier to make clear connections. It can be difficult to link extinction to the changes but it can reflect things that happened 20 or 30 years before.”

The visible effect was staggered…

“Yes. That is correct. And for that reason, in this study, scientists were not able to see which factors had had an influence.

“That said, progress has been made: very recently there was analysis published in Biological Conservation in which the authors (having surveyed or studied some 600 long-term studies monitoring insects but focussing most on around 80 or 90 of those) outlined four major causes. The first is the intensification of agriculture and the conversion of land for agricultural use; the second was pollution (either from everyday pollution or from agricultural pollution in the form of pesticides and fertilisers), the third was biological reasons (such as the impact of new incoming invasive species), and the fourth was climate change.

“Members of the public often think climate change is a greater culprit, and it can be, but there are cases where it paradoxically help some species to survive. At least in Central Europe. Warmer conditions have seen some insects rebound or return after being driven off by land conversion. Some are finding an acceptable habitat again. The same is not true for mountainous areas. Animals there are losing their habitats because vegetation is shifting: insects that have been hard hit include bumblebees. Climate change is also having an impact in tropical areas but that is still not yet fully understood.”

From Zoologist Petr Šípek’s personal archive.

Extinction, we should perhaps also point out, is also part of the natural cycle, isn’t it?

“That is certainly true but that is not the case here: this is not about natural extinction. Rates are falling too fast. Common species are vanishing and this is not really a natural process. Species can of course go extinct but usually this is a very slow process. and what we see there is an evolution from the old species Sso we cannot say that what is happening is due to natural extinction. In fact, it is the opposite.”

You mentioned the fewer bugs splattered on the windshield: many people on their picnic or holiday probably don’t mind if there are fewer wasps or certain bugs but that doesn’t do justice to the seriousness of the situation. The role insects play in the food chain that can have a much broader effect…

“Insects may seem marginal in our eyes but you have to take into consideration the enormous role they play. Their role in the evolution of flowers and flowering plants, blossoms, was a joint work. It is estimated that 80 percent of plant species are pollinated by insects so their role is massively important: if you lose the pollinators then clearly there will be an impact on the ecosystem.

“Then you have insects that prey on other species so if you lose the natural threat, pests can multiply unchecked. It is about maintaining a balance: if you lose predators new pests arrive easily and usually they are among the most adaptable.

“The degradation of organic matter is another area where insects play a crucial role: with my group of students we did tests in the field where we left dead mice. In the spring, these mice are decomposed in 50 percent of case by burying beetles. If they are not, they are decomposed by flies; as each mouse, around 20 grams, can host around 70 larvae of Calliphoridae flies, which – in the next generation – will be able to produce 400 eggs each.

“If you lose the control element of the burying beetles, you risk in the summer and next season a much higher fly population. These are links that we can now uncover bit by bit. The general role played by insects is difficult to gauge, because each have their place or have a different role within their habitat.”

Will we humans feel the bite, for example, in food production, when a key insect species drops out?

“I think so. We see it already, with the problems faced by honeybee producers. This has an economic impact and we have seen large turmoil about colony collapse disorder which has affected bees in North America and also in Europe and the costs can be tabulated. You cannot have production without pollinators, you cannot grow apples in your orchards without them. So the impact is being felt. When a natural predator disappears, it has an effect and producers then have to use more chemicals against destructive insects.

From Zoologist Petr Šípek’s personal archive.

Generally-speaking, does it mean in the future that there will be less variety in species as some die out?

“There may be less variety and there will be a greater evenness of biodiversity around the world, and fewer insects that will be endemic to only some areas. But we will lose local assemblages and the local diversity. The make-up of insects from ecosystem to ecosystem will be much more alike, whether we are talking about insects here, the US, or France.”

I guess that the big “If” now is what we can actually do to change the trend. I suppose there, there is a big difference between government or internationally-funded projects which might provide solutions and between small things each of us or citizen scientists can do…

“Certainly we can start with ourselves and there are small things each of us can do to help insects. You can help create microhabitats if you have a garden or country cottage, not just insect hotels but small ponds without fish and generally looking after our countryside in ways that create diversity. Because, what you have across Europe is huge agricultural areas and areas that are neglected – land no one takes care of. And that’s bad, especially if you consider that all of the landscape and forestland and meadows have been careful created and tended to for centuries.

“So the management of deserted areas can help insects too. We recreated nature around us and if we just abandon parts now that is a prime setting for invasive species. We need to tend to areas and to not let them be overrun. We have to create good conditions. Grass can be cut in a way that helps insects and promotes biodiversity and heterogeneity.

“Then, agricultural firms, forestry companies and aquaculture, need to realise they have a responsibility too: they too are landscape engineers. They carry responsibility not only for food production but also for an impact on how landscape functions. They need to accept that and help look for solutions.

“Each of us can also exert pressure that we want the problem to be taken seriously. A lot of things are going on now, people are signing petitions and various organisations are focussing on the environment. We need to find a balance between economic and ecological concerns, namely a healthy environment which can support us and other living creatures. Education of course helps and a biennial exhibition I organise has proven enormously popular among schoolchildren – who are fascinated by insects the more they learn.”


Written by Jan Velinger

Photos: Petr Šípek’s personal archive


Forget Mykonos and Santorini — Syros is the Greek Island You Must Visit This Summer

Syros may lack the white-sand wonders of its more popular neighbors. But for a certain kind of in-the-know traveler, that’s precisely its appeal.

As my husband, Emilio, and I lay on the deck of our Airbnb, I realized I’d run out of time to shower before the symphony. Eyeing the ladder that descended into the Aegean, I told Emilio that I would just jump into the ocean instead.

“Any time you can say that, it’s a good day,” he replied.

Every summer, after visiting my relatives in northern Greece, my husband and our two young children — Amalia, 6, and Nico, 3 — set out to discover someplace in the country new to us. We’d been on the Cycladic island of Syros for only half an hour, but we could already tell we’d made a good choice. On other islands, such as Syros’s neighbor, Mykonos, we’d debated whether to stay in town or on the beach. Here, we were in the heart of Ermoúpolis, the Cyclades’ capital — an Italianate dream of palazzos, theaters, and cafés that is home to half the population of Syros — but the sea was steps from our front door.

While Syros is on the same ferry line as Mykonos, it sees a fraction of that island’s foreign pilgrims, perhaps because it was long viewed as a commercial and industrial hub with massive shipbuilding operations. With fewer spectacular beaches than some of the Cyclades, Syros doesn’t fit the lazy-whitewashed-village-atop-a-sandy-shore vision most Americans have of the islands. The visitors who do come — the majority are from France and Scandinavia — are drawn by the festivals and thriving art scene, the more than 1,300 Neoclassical buildings, and the incredible cuisine.

If Ermoúpolis keeps Syros from being thought of as a desert-isle dream, the fact that the island has a thriving city by the sea makes it alluring to those interested in life beyond the beach. Bobbing in the waves opposite our room, I gazed up at the row of palazzos. Nearby, teenagers cannonballed off the large dock that is the town swimming spot. Atop the hill that rose behind them was the blue and gold dome of the church of Agios Nikolaos, patron saint of sailors. The view of Ermoúpolis from the sea, I realized, is even more stunning than the view of the sea from the land.

That evening, I found myself staring up again — this time at the ceiling of the Apollon Theater, which opened in 1864 and was modeled after La Scala and other Italian theaters. We were attending the opening night of the Festival of the Aegean, a two-week celebration of opera, music, and dance held every July. Before picking up his baton, the Greek-American conductor Peter Tiboris, the festival’s founder, urged the audience to notice the frescoes. The outer ring shows Verdi, Bellini, Dante, and Mozart; the inner ring Homer, Aeschylus, and Euripides.

Read the rest.

Director of IFIMES with Secretary General of UN

(left) António Guterres, Zijad Bećirović

Director of the International Institute for Middle-East and Balkan Studies (IFIMES) Assist. Prof. Dr. Zijad Bećirović, accompanied by IFIMES Main Representative at ECOSOC/UN Irena Mernik Knee, met UN Secretary-General António Guterres at UN Headquarters in New York.

Director of the Institute Assist. Prof. Dr. Bećirović presented to the UN Sec-retary-General Guterres the work of the Institute in the region of the Bal-kans and the Middle East, with a special emphasis on projects related to the special consultative status of IFIMES whit the ECOSOC/UN.

The IFIMES International Institute intends to issue a special edition of the European Perspectives International Scientific Journal in the next period, dedicated to the UN and its role in the world.

The Secretary-General of the UN, Guterres, stressed the importance of the UN and importance of global stability and peace to enable universal pro-gress of humanity.

At the end of the talks, UN Secretary-General Guterres and Bećirović agreed that global security, stability, peace and fast solutions of open is-sues are of great importance.


Czech 100 Best

Comenius the pan-European society for culture, education and scientific-technical cooperation has staged the “23rd annual competition Czech 100 Best”. The objective of this competition is to discover, select, visualize and reward Czech companies, enterprises and societies from the entire spectrum of economic activities, who achieve remarkable, extraordinary or positively noteworthy results.

On the Friday of 30th November 2018, the finale of the “100 Czech Best” survey based competition occurred at the Spanish Hall of Prague Castle in the presence of more than 700 VIP guests, including the President of the Senate of the Parliament of the Czech Republic, Mr. Jaroslav Kubera, the President of the Chamber of Deputies of the Parliament of the Czech Republic, Mr. Radek Vondráček, Senators, MPs, Ministers Mrs. Nováková, Mr. Toman, Rector of the Charles University, Deputy Ministers, 1st Deputy Police President, Deputy Chief of Staff of the Czech Army, Ambassadors and others.

During the Gala the awarded were establishments and institutions of 8 industry categories with immediate impact on the welfare of Czech citizens. I.e.: Tourism & Hotel Services, Dynamic Growth & Stability, Information & Communication Technologies, Inventions – Deployment – Export – Profit, Construction & Transportation, Employment & Cooperatives, Agriculture & Food, Health – Education – Humanity.

One of the peaks of the event was the recognition of nine extraordinary women and ten men with the popular title “Lady Pro” and “Gentleman Pro” respectively.

The ceremonial peak of the event was the declaration of top ten “best of the best” of the Czech Republic.

An integral part of this last day of November at the Prague Castle was the morning conference on the traditional theme “Key Factors of Success”, where a diverse list of personalities on the subject had the right to speak about their success.


Key Factors of Success

Czech 100 Best

5 Ways to Rejuvenate Your Mind & Body This Spring

With the cold winter days finally subsiding and slowly giving way to the warmer seasons of the year, the time is just right to get back on track with your healthy plans and habits – not just for the sake of your physical health, but your psychological and emotional wellbeing as well. After all, 2019 should be the year when you become the healthiest version of yourself.

The anticipation of the joyous sights and sounds of spring creates the perfect backdrop for an entirely new approach to personal health and fitness – a holistic approach that will help you rejuvenate your mind, body, and soul. Here are the five ways to achieve this, and so much more.

Start with a wholesome approach to nutrition

Your eating habits can have a profound impact on your physical and mental wellbeing, as well as your performance in your personal and professional life. While you might have gotten away with a few bad diet choices during the colder months of the year, now is the time to bring back the healthier eating habits in order to banish those extra kilograms from your frame.

Eating healthy once more will make you feel better all around and help you ease into a good workout routine while at the same time cleansing your mind and making you feel good about yourself. Remember, your diet choices can greatly influence your mindset, so be sure to introduce plenty of healthy foods such as fruits and veggies to help banish the wintery blues.

Start exercising on a regular basis

Exercise is one of the best things you can do for your overall health and long-term wellbeing, but let’s not kid ourselves, it’s not like finding the motivation to work out on a regular basis is easy. This is especially true for those business leaders among you who have a hectic schedule and numerous responsibilities in your personal and professional lives.

Nonetheless, it’s important that you recognize the power and potential of daily exercise, in particular, how it can help you find inner peace and improve your physical performance in real life as well. So start slowly by introducing a couple of light sessions a week. Up the training frequency every week until you’ve made daily exercise a habit you simply can’t live without.

Complement healthy habits with healthy supplementation

Vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. These are the keywords you need to introduce into your diet if you want to supply your mind and body with the nutrients essential for long-term cognitive health and physical wellbeing. However, it’s also important to be aware of the fact that the modern way of life often forbids us from reaching our daily requirements for these nutrients.

This becomes especially problematic when you’re trying to uphold a workout routine along with your daily schedule, which is why introducing workout supplements with protein into your diet as well as a daily multivitamin complex is essential for your overall health. Nailing your exact nutritional needs and using healthy supplementation to fuel your mind and body will allow you to stick to your healthy habits in the long run.

Reconnect with Mother Nature

Speaking of exercise, springtime is the perfect time to get out of the stuffy gym environment and into the great outdoors. Don’t be a slave to the same gym routine you’ve been doing for months, but rather dare to venture outside to make the world your own outdoor gym and reconnect with Mother Nature.

Simply going for a jog or doing HIIT in the park will be enough to cleanse your mind while giving your body a new challenge to overcome. When you find yourself among the trees and the critters that permeate the natural world, take a moment to close your eyes, and breathe in the freedom and serenity.

Part with the old and embrace the new

On a final note, understand that spring is the season of change. This is your opportunity to change for the better yourself, and more concretely, leave the past behind and embrace what’s to come. This is a new chapter for you, so make it a good one.

Final thoughts

After months of cold, dreary weather, the sun is finally about to poke out its pretty head and bathe the day with its warm light. Embrace the beauty to come and use this opportunity to rejuvenate your mind and body in a holistic and wholesome way.


By Peter Minkoff

Peter is a lifestyle and travel writer at Men-Uall magazine, living between Ústí nad Labem and Antwerp. Follow Peter on Twitter for more tips.


In Nuremberg, the BIOFACH organic food trade fair and the VIVANESS Natural Cosmetics Fair were held from 13 to 16 February. The largest European organic food fair celebrated its 30th anniversary with a record number of exhibitors: 2989 at Biofach and 284 at Vivaness, a total of 3273 exhibitors from 98 countries. Botswana and the Comoros made their debut at BIOFACH, while the Philippines and Serbia represented for the first time at VIVANESS.

Trends at BIOFACH: vegetarian / vegan diet, protein products, convenience (semi-finished products) and zero-waste products.

Vegetarian and vegan products continue to be a significant trend, that is also reflected at the BIOFACH Novelty Stand. In addition to classical vegan ingredients such as soy, customers are also thrilled with cashew nuts, almonds or peas. Protein-containing foodstuffs, whether in the form of oils, rods, spreads or cocktails, are also popular. Another sustained trend is for uncomplicated meals that are quickly prepared. Convenience products are now an integral part of the range offered by the organic segment. However, more and more consumers also focusing on „external values”, i.e. packaging. Innovative packaging, just like the “unpackaged” concepts under the category „zero-waste”, is a significant issue in the sector. Trending are turmeric and other exotic flavours as well as kimchi, the lactic fermented vegetable typical of Korean cuisine. Vegetarian offer was presented by 1245 exhibitors and 1345 by the vegan. Also, worth mentioning are gluten-free and lactose-free segments (1,200 and 890 exhibitors), as well as raw food (a food not modified at more than 45 ° C) presented by 561 exhibitors.

Trends at VIVANESS include probiotic cosmetics, Nordic beauty and also zero-waste products.

Bio from all over the world
BIOFACH presents organic food from all over the world in all its variety. The VEGAN, WINE and OLIVE OIL products have their own dedicated worlds. In addition to presentations, tastings and a specialized accompanying program took place. In the experiential worlds of OLIVE OIL and WINE, the best products were awarded the Olive Oil International Award for Oils and MUNDUS VINI BIOFACH for Organic Wine.

New Trends
Biofach: A total of 541 new products were introduced, the trade visitors voted for their favourites to win the Best New Product Award in seven categories. Five German products won and one from Austria and Poland: Käserebellen GmbH Pumpkin cheese (fresh products), Schrozberger Milchbauern Ice cream (frozen products). In the category of Dried Cooking and Baking Products, Georg Thalhammer received awards for Pesto seaweed-wild garlic. HANS Coffee & Berry from HANS Brainfood won the award in the other dried products category. In the non-food products Primoza, impressed the trade visitors with The Growing Calendar. After the leaves have been squeezed at the end of the month, the seeds can be planted. Austria has won Landgarten Almond with Rose Blossom in chocolate, forest fruits and cherries in chocolate in the category of dried products and sweets. In the category of drinks, the Polish company Nutracevit was awarded for BIOHASKAP, pure haskap superberry juice.

Vivaness showed 155 new products in 6 categories won by German companies: Black soap with activated carbon from SPEICK Naturkosmetik in face care, in the category of body care was awarded Weleda for Skin Food Serie (butter on body and lips), Benecos dominated decorative makeup cosmetics, special cosmetics reigned Speick Naturkosmetik sunbathing, Denttabbs with dental tablets scored in drugstore, Wellness was the best Coscoon Cosmetics with body butter. Danish company Unterkram won hair shampoo with Green Matcha shampoo.

BIOFACH and VIVANESS Congress is the biggest international congress for the organic food and organic cosmetics sectors. There were over 9500 participants in 139 meetings in six forums. Congress focused on the relationship between agriculture, processing, nutrition and health. The main congress topic was: “The organic system –healthy in a holistic approach.” The congress will cover topics like biodiversity, soil health, clean water, wild plants, animal welfare and nutritional choices.

Visitors and exhibitors
The fair was visited by 51500 professional visitors from 143 countries, half of the visitors were German. There were 797 visitors from the Czech Republic. The largest number of exhibitors was Germany 1020, followed by Italy 423, Spain 220, and France 213. In 2020 the fair will expand in the two most modern exhibition halls, designed by Zaha Hadid Architects.

Czech Republic at the fair
At the end of 2018, more than 4600 farms ecologically managed in the Czech Republic with over 520 thousand ha, represented 15% of farmed land. The average size of the Czech ecofarm was 119 hectares. In the EU we have the third largest ecofarm on average.

Production of Organic Farming in the Czech Republic
The total production of organic farms in 2017 is estimated at CZK 6768 million, representing a 5.1% of the total agricultural production. Unfortunately, about half of the ecofarm production (grain, milk, meat) is exported abroad. The rest remains in the Czech Republic and is used for food production, but only a part of it is used in the bio-quality market. Due to the low demand of Czechs for organic food, a number of bio-materials end up in common foods. On the Czech market, processed foods such as baby food, coffee and tea, as well as milk, dairy products, fruits are the most sold.

Market and consumption of organic food
The total organic food turnover of Czech subjects reached CZK 4.19 billion in 2016. Of this, consumers in the Czech Republic spent 2.55 billion CZK on organic food. Organic food producers are already 750. Almost 40% of the total turnover of organic food was exported (goods for CZK 1.64 billion), compared to imports of organic food from abroad. The average annual per capita consumption increased to CZK 241 (in the EU it was 54 euros) and the share of organic food in the total consumption of food and drinks reached 0.9% (in the EU already 7%). Andrea Hrabalová from the Czech Technology Platform for Organic Farming explains: “Average Czechs spend six times less on organic food than the average European, and after 30 years of organic farming in the Czech Republic they still do not know why to buy domestic organic food. It is clear from experience from other countries that the main driver of EZ development is not subsidies but long-term and conscious consumer demand.” Our organic farming is doing well and is not lost in the world. Europe has 350,000 biofarms and 2.4 million worldwide. Domestic bioproduction would potentially make four times more biofoods than it is today.

Photos by: NürnbergMesse

Text by: Jaromír Hampl

Tourists Now Have to Pay an Entrance Fee Before Setting Foot in Venice

Here’s why Venice is going to charge admission.

We’re used to paying admission fees to enter tourist attractions and amusement parks, but paying to enter a city is a new concept to most. After seeing an estimated 25 million visitors each year, Venice, Italy is breaking the mold by becoming the first Italian city to charge visitors an entrance fee.

This week, the city approved a 3 Euro per person fee for all day-trippers. The new day-trip entrance fee will go toward maintaining the World Heritage site. According to Reuters, of the 25 million tourists who visit Venice each year, around 14 million spend just one day, and many take picnics and sleep on cruise ships, bringing little income to local businesses. Under a seven-year-old law, overnight guests are already charged a nightly tourist tax.

Venice’s local population has been declining since World War II, from roughly 175,000 to 50,000 people, while the number of tourists have increased. The city is repositioning itself as an open-air museum and as Luca Zaia, Veneto governor, told Reuters, “Venice needs respect, and as is the case with museums, sports stadiums, cinemas, trains and airplanes, it needs to have planned visits … which makes it sustainable both for tourists and the city.”

Collecting the fee may get complicated, however, as day-trippers can enter the city by plane, cruise ship, car, train, or bus. Transport companies who bring tourists into Venice may add the entrance fee to their ticket price or, as The Daily Beast reports, the city may make use of the turnstiles located at the entrance to the old city from the main square used by cruise ships.

Venice has a beauty and historical appeal that’s not to be missed; you’ll just want to make sure you factor an entrance fee into your travel budget.


Debate on reduction of emissions

On the 28th of November 2018 the European Commission adopted the Strategy “A clean Planet for all”. For businesses it is a good starting point for the debate on future action in this field. However, the target of the EU being climate neutral by 2050 is rather idealistic. The EU has the most ambitious targets worldwide and we need to reach a well-balanced scenario which will support investment in low-carbon emissions technologies and products and at the same time not hamper the EU’s competitiveness. In order to reach a well-balanced solution we have to push for coordinated action across the whole planet. Therefore, it will be crucial to engage in a dialogue with other major economies of the world. As for the Czech Republic, the main challenge will be to change its heating plants sector which will require huge financial resources and investment in R&D&I. Those are the main outcomes of a debate on the EU long-term strategy to reduce the emissions organized by the Representation of the European Commission in Prague, Liaison Office of the European Parliament in Prague, Confederation of Industry of the Czech Republic and CEBRE-Czech Business Representation to the EU on the 7th of December 2018 in Prague.

© CEBRE – Czech Business Representation to the EU

CEBRE founders meet MEPs

The mandate of the current EU institutions is slowly, but steadily coming to an end. However, several important legislative proposals with a significant impact on businesses are still being finalized. The impact of several proposals, notably from the area of clean mobility and mobility of employees, were discussed by CEBRE founders together with Czech MEPs on 16th November in the premises of the Confederation of Employers’ and Entrepreneurs’ Associations of the Czech Republic in Prague.

© CEBRE – Czech Business Representation to the EU

The Czechoslovak Foreign Institute entered into the 10th decade of its activities

The Czechoslovak Foreign Institute, established 90 years ago, celebrated its jubilee at the Strahov Monastery in Prague, with the participation of three hundred members, personalities from the social and political life and foreign diplomats. A turnout of guests represents a clear evidence of the Institute being perceived as an important and respectable institution.

The chairman of the Czechoslovak Foreign Institute Jaromír Šlápota welcomed the guests and thanked them for taking their time to celebrate the anniversary of the institution, which at the time when we hear from media more information about the split and messed up society, brings people together and unites them. The abbot Daniel Peter Janáček then appreciated the fact that over the last ninety years of its existence the Institute managed to retain its relevance and keep itself up to date. Prof. PhDr. Ivo Barteček, CSc. mentioned the three generations of personalities of the Czechoslovak Foreign Institute: the first generation of the founders, who in the years 1929–1939 sought to create the new institution to support the national economy and social order and at the same time to help the Czechs and Slovaks living and working abroad, the second generation associated with the restoration activities of the Institute after 1945 and the following four decades full of turbulence, and the third generation, which after 1990 managed to return the Institute its originally intended mission and is inherently associated with the name of the current chairman Jaromír Šlápota, who has been leading the Institute since the middle of 1992.

On the occasion of the 90th anniversary of the Czechoslovak Foreign Institute eight personalities and one institution have been honoured for contributing to the improvement of teaching Czech compatriots abroad. A thank-you certificate and commemorative Silver Lion were awarded to: JUDr. Eva Dobrohrušková, Ing. Vladimír Bezděk, M.A., Vladimír Bílek from Croatia, Ing. Karl Hanzl from Austria, JUDr. Jaroslav Hot, Michael Joseph Pojezdný, Ing. Petar Petkovov Stanchev, Evermod Gejza Šidlovský and the company MADFINGER Games, a.s. Brno. The award was accepted by co-founder of the company Tomáš Šlápota. Then, the recepients had the pleasant opportunity to enjoy the art of Felix Slováček, musician and member of the Institute.

“Is 90 years in the life of a community a lot or a little? It is enough. Since this community has been alive all the time, it means it is a good community,” Michael Joseph Pojezdný, the former long-time abbot of the Strahov Monastery and a member of the Institute, said in his speech on the address of the Institute. Vladimír Bílek, a member of the Croatian synod for the Czech and Slovak minority, greeted those present on behalf of eleven thousand compatriots in Croatia, who profess to be of the Czech nationality, and thanked to the Czechoslovak Foreign Institute for the excellent cooperation and care of the equipment of Czech schools in Croatia, which are teaching Czech to 1,500 children. “For expatriates in Austria, living there already for four generations, the Czechoslovak Foreign Institute is an important link with their old homeland. At the present time when there are no easy conditions for the maintenance of the Czech language in the world, the cooperation with the Institute is even more important for them”, Ing. Karel Hanzl, the chairman of the Komenský School association in Vienna mentioned and he handed over to the Czechoslovak Foreign Institute an honorary plaque, as an award for a long meritorious work for education of youth and for its dedicated action in favour of the development of the expatriate movement in Vienna. Then PhDr. Libuše Benešová and Senator Ivo Valenta, vice-chairmen of the Institute, thanked to all the members who had contributed to the implementation of the Czechoslovak Foreign Institute projects for compatriots.

The final word belonged once again to the chairman of the Czechoslovak Foreign Institute. He stressed the principle of tolerance, which the Institute has in its statutes, and which allows a useful collaboration of people of various political views, he remembered the names of the members, who had left their marks in the Czechoslovak Foreign Institute, and mentioned the fact that the Institute never changed the attribute Czechoslovak in its title and still remains a patriotic institution. At the conclusion, similarly as ten years ago at the St. Agnes convent, when the Czechoslovak Foreign Institute celebrated its 80th birthday, he wished participants good health so that they could get together in next ten years at the party to celebrate hundred years of the Czechoslovak Foreign Institute activity.

Zarif’s sudden resignation: The beginning of the militarization of the Iranian diplomacy?

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif expressed his resignation, a quiet diplomat and a seasoned politician, one of the soft faces of Iran’s foreign policy, for what is known as a political wisdom who can able to bring Iran an acceptable nuclear agreement. It was enough when the dean of diplomacy of the 20th century Kissinger given him a copy of his book dedicated with “To my enemy who deserves respect”.

His political independence gave him a margin for political maneuvering, which was rarely had his predecessors from the former Iranian foreign ministers. But the mentality of the revolution seems to be dominating the mentality of the state in Iran. The result is that he announced his resignation on 26.02.2019 and which was rejected from President Rohani who is reformer like him.

The possibility of the possibility of the political transformations in Iran is closer to speculation than expected. We can’t analyze about Iran’s foreign policy without Zarif, as long as Iran today seems to not care about the consequences of confrontation with the international community.

President Rouhani himself may be a subjected to a scenario similar to Zarif scenario. Eventual questioning in the parliament and the call of former Iranian President Ahmadinejad to his impeachment and forming a transitional government to continue confrontation with US.

The reformist movement in Iran believes that the conservatives along with the deep state clerical establishment is convinced that if things continue as they are internally and externally, the character of the next president will be military. The new Leader should be a strategic military figure such as Qasem Soleimani (Commander of the Quds corps) or Mohsen Rezai (former commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and the current secretary of the Expediency discernment council). General Qasem Soleimani will stay as the key figure among others, because of his relations with the deep state, and even externally with his relations with various political and military movements in the Middle East) Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libanon) connected to Iran.

Despite the many reasons discussed in the background prompted Zarif to resign, this resignation indicate that there is a big dissidence in the Iranian political system. At the time Zarif called for necessity of Iran to deal with European conditions more seriously , the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei issued the most critical words to the Europeans, and considered them as partners with the US in an attempt to destroy Iran.

The main reason behind this resignation is the nature of dealing with Iran’s foreign policy. The bilateralism that has characterized Iran’s foreign policy since 1979. The Iranian political divergence has caused a lot of paralysis And raise the skepticism of the international community. When Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif uses the language of diplomacy with others, we find the generals of the Revolutionary Guard and the advisers of the Supreme Leader use the language of threats and intimidation

Despite Zarif’s continuous attempts to prove an independent foreign policy away from the conservative and reformist conflict in Iran, he did not succeed in that either. Each faction has a particular view on Iran’s foreign priorities, which in turn restricted many of Zarif’s foreign efforts. The Iranian Revolutionary Guards try to return back the nuclear negotiations to the Supreme National Security Council of Iran, and withdraw the file from the Iranian Foreign Ministry.

The Supreme Leader and the Revolutionary Guards want the end of the Trump’s presidency term, without any concessions. Any succeeded foreign minister cannot change anything. As long as the Advisers of Khamenei are the planners of Iran’s foreign policy, the military diplomacy will be the shape of Iran’s foreign policy.

Zarif wrote in his memoirs published in 2013, entitled “Mr. Ambassador” says “in diplomacy, you have to always smile … but never forget that you are talking with the enemy.” He was very realistic and regarding the nuclear agreement he thinks that the agreement cannot be perfect, and an ideal deal for a party, it will be catastrophic for the other party.

Zarif who was continued attacked from the both sides (Conservatives in his country and some US officials) Iranian conservatives described Zarif as a coward because he was studying in the United States rather than defending his country during the Iran-Iraq war of 1980-1988. US Senator Tom Cotton, a Republican who opposes the nuclear deal, wrote a tweet about Zarif in 2015, in which he twitted “you hid in U.S. during Iran-Iraq war while peasants & kids were marched to die”. Zarif’s answer was by congratulating Senator Cotton on the birth of his son!

An experienced diplomat will be missed not only in Iran but in all global diplomacy and how much we need like him in our world today.

Bakhtyar Aljaf
Director of IFIMES
(International Institute of the consultative status with the UN)

Spain Has a Secret Ski Valley Hidden on Its Northern Border

—and the food and wine are every bit as good as you’d expect. If champagne breakfasts and hearty dinners in mountain villages sound like your scene, you may want to consider the Spanish Pyrenees for your next ski trip. There Tom Robbins discovers first-rate cuisine and a distinct, beguiling blend of cultures—both traditional and modern.

For an hour or more,  we had been descending through a forest of black pine and fir, following a stream we could hear but not see. The snow lay deep, smothering the creek and turning tree stumps into giant white mushrooms. There were bears in these woods, said my guide, a young Spaniard named Peru Ortiz de Zarate, and bearded vultures that crunch on the bones of dead mountain goats. But we were making far too much noise to risk meeting these animals, laughing as we pushed past the trees that grabbed at our rucksacks and ski poles.

Finally, as if pulling back a theater curtain, Ortiz de Zarate parted two branches to reveal our destination. Ahead was a clearing in the forest, where a wooden bridge straddled a burbling stream swelled by melting snow. Beyond it, looking like something from a fairy tale, lay a deserted hamlet named Montgarri — a place of pilgrimage since the 12th century and once a key staging post for travelers crossing the Pyrenees between Spain and France. Today just two buildings remain, cocooned in silence and slow time: a 16th-century church with rough stone walls and a dilapidated spire, and the former rectory alongside it.

Our heavy-booted footsteps rang out as we crossed the cobblestoned courtyard, swept clear of snow. Inside the rectory — now converted into a refuge for climbers and skiers — a Spanish pointer dozed beside the glowing logs of an open fire. A waiter brought us olives and glasses of cold beer, then raked the embers and fixed a grill above them, throwing on some vast beef ribs for a lunch that would last until 4 p.m. Afterward we drank patxaran, a rose-colored liqueur made with sloes and flavored with cinnamon. We walked over to the empty church so I could light a candle, then hurried out to catch the last ride back to the ski resort — a snowmobile that pulled us along on our skis. Hanging tipsily from the rope as we climbed a track through the darkening forest, I smiled into my scarf, happily exhausted by the most memorable day’s skiing I’d had in years.

If the joy of travel is threatened by the homogenization of global culture — the fact that today’s Insta-ready hotels, restaurants, and stores can look the same, whether they’re in Brooklyn or Bangkok — then skiing is particularly challenged. As much as we love the sensations of the sport, most ski trips have an inherent similarity, no matter where in the world they take place. Days pass in the familiar routine of going up lifts and down pistes. Evenings are spent surrounded by the usual mountain clichés: antlers and antique skis, glühwein and fondue.

Read the rest.

ELAI celebration event

European Leadership & Academic Institute (ELAI), which provides open, practically focused workshops with leading personalities of Czech business, organizer of two major events Innovation Week and Entrepreneurship Week, hosted a celebration event at the end of January, 2019. Lecturers, clients and friends of ELAI were invited to enjoy lovely evening at the King ́s Place Prague in the Old Town.

Want to feel more confident?

I think that most of us do. The question is: what are we doing to cultivate real, deep self-confidence? And, what is it we may be doing (without even realising it) that is jeopardising our self-confidence? Let’s talk about, shall we… 🙂

Edita Randová


“It all begins in your mind”


Edita Randová, world-renowned mezzo-soprano

Edita Randová is a Czech mezzosoprano. She has held concerts on every continent, taken part in major music festivals and performed at the famous Carnegie Hall. She has represented the Czech Republic and its music through tours in Australia, China and Brazil, always under the auspices of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. She has a passion for foreign policy, and last year she completed her Master’s degree in International Relations. Her mission is to introduce classical music to young people. To this end, she founded the international music festival Tóny nad městy, for which she is Artistic Director. Some of her most significant recordings include a CD with Antonín Dvořák songs. In spring, she is releasing a new CD focused on Dvořák’s early songs, which are not well known amongst the general public. She currently performs concerts most often in Italy. Edita Randová speaks English, French and Italian.She is planning to undertake doctoral studies in Art Management at the University of Economics, Prague. She has succeeded in her career and in motherhood and is the proud parent of a 26-year-old son. Although she is a star, she does not conform to a corresponding attitude. We agreed on our interview directly. She visited me at home and, despite people saying milk in coffee gives you phlegm, she took a small espresso with a drop of milk. She indulges the occasional vice, but is also often hungry. After meeting Edita,I realised how much art involves living under orders. Everything that a career can mean and also that being the best in a tough business environment often isn ́t enough.

We’re holding this interview in a private room in my home. I know you’ve got a concert in Italy, so I didn’t want to meet in a café when there is a flu epidemic going on. Do you worry about your health and your vocal cords?

I won’t let things affect me; I believe it all begins with the right mindset. I try to eat healthily, with coffee my only vice. I think that focusing on whether I have a head- or neck-ache, or keeping up to date on flu outbreaks is more likely to cause what I’m worrying about to occur. I do note such reports, but I tell myself they’re not going to affect me. I’m very focused on spiritual development, and thus it is my belief it all begins in your mind.

I entirely agree. In my profession as a coach, I perceive an open and positive mindset as fundamental for successful functioning and further growth. After a break of over twenty years since you last studied, you completed a Master’s degree in International Relations last year.

I had the opportunity to try out coaching at one specialist conference where, from being a visitor, I filled in for one of the experts who had suddenly fallen ill. Since that time, conference organisers have contacted me a number of times. I’m used to an audience, I don’t mind impromptu speaking and I think I can share my experiences in life. Many of my peers were surprised that I was returning to studying, stating that they no longer had the “head or age” for it. Many of my peers complain they can’t learn a foreign language. When one explicitly repeats this claim, then one creates one’s own block. I’ve noticed that people use excuses such as age and fitness in order to cover up their own laziness and idleness.

Why did you choose international relations alongside your music?

I enjoy travel, and do it a lot. With tongue in cheek, I say that as some people take the train or bus in the morning, so I take the plane. I enjoy representing the Czech Republic in far- away destinations such as China, Brazil and Australia. It was in China, during a performance at Beijing University celebrating the Czech Republic’s national day that I was asked to say a few words about the culture of the Czech Republic. I began talking not just about music, but also about important historical buildings and the overall importance of culture. The ambassador appreciated my performance and observed that I would work well in diplomacy. I realised that I really enjoyed diplomacy. So I studied for my master’s. But this isn’t the end of my studies. From September I’m going to study for a Doctoral degree in Art Management at the University of Economics, Prague. Thus, two decades later, I am fulfilling the wishes of my parents, who wanted me to study at the University of Economics. My parents were not convinced that I could make a living exclusively from singing, which I had been drawn to since pre-school age. So I studied post and telecommunications economics at economic secondary school with the idea of working as a post office manager. I never made it to the post office, becoming an air traffic officer, and then I worked in music. I think that events happen to us in certain cycles. My return to study at the University of Economics was thus the natural completion of my original focus. I am leaving diplomacy as a possible career for the time when my voice is no longer suitable for top concert performances.

Pace and rhythm are very important in music. It seems that the right things come to you at the right moment.

My motto is not to push your luck. It has been meeting particular people which has directed my focus. On the other hand, I have always been open to new opportunities. I studied hard; I haven’t cut myself any slack. Now I’m studying for entrance exams. Besides sheet music, I always carry specialist economics textbooks with me. I don’t take any account of my age, and it’s doing me well. I trust that new opportunities will come again. Besides experience of foreign policy, I also have experience of domestic politics; I was on the list of parliamentary candidates for the KDU-ČSL party. And because I believe that dreams shouldn’t just be wished for, but also expressed, I would one day like to represent the Czech Republic as Ambassador in a country I know well, whose language, music and culture I have studied; that is to say, in Italy.

In a way, you already are an ambassador. You set up the Tóny nad městy festival, whose mission is to introduce classical music to young people.

Often young people come up to me after a concert having been moved by the incredible experience. They tell me that this is the first concert they have been to. After the experience, they want to go again to a concert. Many young people initially choose an overly complex composer, and this discourages them from music. Leoš Janáček simply isn’t for novices. But everyone will enjoy Bedřich Smetana’s Evening Songs, or the songs of Antonín Dvořák. In terms of operas, I recommend experiencing Bedřich Smetana’s The Bartered Bride. We can all grasp a happy story, in some ways a love story in a Czech village context. At my concerts, you’ll hear both lighter and more demanding repertoire for a young audience. For school- age children, various types of concerts are organised, but there are no such opportunities for adolescents or young adults. I’d like young people to go for dates to the National Theatre and State Opera as well. There are still a lot of preconceptions about classical music and concerts. Many people still don’t know how to dress for classical music concerts. I am surprised by how many people from Prague have not been to a concert at the Rudolfinum. They would rather form their own assumptions than come and try it out. We’re back at mindset.

You’re used to pushing yourself hard. What is really behind your success?

I’m sorry that lots of people are envious of me. Looking at my career, they see only travelling, my outfits, hair styling and stage performances. I continue to study Italian, opera singing and English. For a long time, I learnt to play the piano. I sing every day, but I am not an instrument player who can practice for hours on end. It is important to overcome laziness. I don’t go to the gym, but I regularly use an exercise bike. I always have to keep myself in check, and I restrict my diet. I avoid alcohol, something which isn’t easy to do within Czech culture. Everyone asks me whether there’s something wrong with me. They can ́t imagine deciding to make a radical change overnight.

You’ve said that Czech music isn’t particularly well known abroad. Why is that?

If you sing in Czech, the audience doesn’t understand. I often perform in Italy and I sing in Italian because the audience like it when they understand. At chamber recitals where I include Czech songs, I’ve learnt always to explain to the audience what I’m going to be singing about. This increases understanding, the songs are perceived differently and they gradually grow in popularity. Dvořák is well known in the USA, but in Italy it was very difficult to get him into my repertoire. Because I studied in Italy, there is no language barrier. Italians often think of me as Italian due to my appearance. I like going there often, but the economic situation there at the moment is unfortunate. Young people leave to go abroad because they can’t find work. Corruption is pervasive in Italy. I regret how little we Czechs appreciate how beautiful, clean and safe Prague is. I live near Charles Square, and I feel safe. I walk through the park alone in the evening. I’m proud to be Czech. We have low unemployment and stability. So why are we always complaining?

Have you got any more unfulfilled dreams?

I’ve already said I would like to be the Ambassador to Italy. I believe that what I send out into the ether will return to me. In terms of singing ambitions, I’m too experienced to believe it’s only about aptitude and talent. Working for the best opera houses is also a matter of tough business and political contacts. Take a look at the over-representation of Russian singers, such as in La Scala. Not even classical music has managed to avoid the influence of lobbyists, connections and sponsors. Few people realise that opera and classical music are businesses. Issuing a CD isn’t just about whether you’re the best in your category; it’s important to choose a repertoire which attracts attention. Then it’s important to find a sponsor or patron to issue your CD. The costs for arranging a director, studio, cutting, mixing, etc. can’t be funded from sales. That’s why I’m really pleased to have succeeded, and in spring I’m going to be launching my new CD of early Dvořák songs. I’ll be happy if Czech and Slovak Leaders readers can be there for it.

Linda Štucbartová

Feedback as a Breakfast of Champions

Kateřina Novotná & Jan Mühlfeit

Nowadays, we live in a society that denies mistakes: mistakes are often seen asunacceptable. Children are often raised from a very early age with the belief that making a mistake is abnormal or even immoral. The past, and therefore the mistakes we make, cannot be changed. The only thing we can do about the past, whether it is good or bad, is to learn from it and bring our attention back to the present. Changing the future is not a matter of the future but of the present moment.

Mistake as a guide

If we think of the mistakes that have happened and weconstantly remind children about them , it is very difficult for children to concentrate on the present. Petr Čech, one of the best football goalkeepers in the world, says, “Whatever the score, it’s still zero in my head.” This means that regardless of the result of the activity, you must learn from it and immediately return to the status of “here and now “.

A mistake is a guide to how to do something differently and better next time. The greatest thinkers and inventors of human history have made errors many times, Thomas Alva Edison’s lightbulb was not invented in the first attempt. By concentrating on mistakes, we are too focused on our weaknesses. The traditional model says: “Remove the weaknesses and preserve what you are good at,” which unfortunately is not possible.

If one works only on their weaknesses, they will start to forget what they are good at. Synapses of the brain (the connection between the neurons), which represent talents, will eventually begin to fade and these neural connections will begin to gradually disintegrate. If Jaromir Jagr learned hockey up to a certain level and then did not play for two years, it would immediately be obvious from his performance. And that’s the way it works with any activity.

So, we can make up for our weaknesses by learning about them to a certain level, or we can let other people, for whom they are strengths, to handle them. It is important to deal disproportionately with what we are good at. To do what we are good at means that we will, of course, make much less mistakes.

From childhood, the world teaches us that mistakes are unacceptable. When a child comes to school, his rating drops. Grading is a 17th-century retreat from when the school system began to develop, and people thought that it was necessary to divide children into certain compartments. However, a mark does not tell the child anything, from the point of view of feedback, a verbal evaluation is much better. Through that the child learns what has been done well and, if not, what to do differently, so that the child can be encouraged. Although this type of feedback is allowed in the Czech Republic, only a few schools use it.

Types of parents and their feedback

That’s why we try to actively discuss our acquired knowledge about feedback with the parents in our courses and workshops. Based on parents’ approaches to children as part of the evaluation, we have created a classification. The first of these types is the parent “dictator”, a parent who constantly determines a child’s rules and boundaries – how to behave, what he or she did wrong, and so on. However, the restrictions the “dictator” creates are unilateral. The parent does not listen to the child, he or she is not interested in knowing how the child responds to the restrictions. Rules and boundaries are, of course, necessary both in education and communication with the child. But it is good for the parent to know how the child deals with them.

The second type of parent is the so-called “passive parent”. This is a parent who, alternatively, does not give the child any rules or limits, and does not listen to him. He is also far from the ideal parent.

The third type represents the “a shoulder to cry on” parent. His approach also lacks the limits and rules, but unlike the previous two types, he tries to listen and take an interest in the child. Although this is one of the better approaches, however the absence of rules takes away from its success because every child needs some boundaries.

An ideal parental approach is a combination of both, the so-called “buddy” parent. Not only does he clearly define the boundaries and rules of the game, but he also monitors how the child reacts to them. The buddy can listen to the child and try to co-create the rules with him so that they are both satisfied. For this to work, it is necessary to have some trust and patience, then it can work together.

No need to worry if you sometimes see yourself as a parent “dictator”, “passive parent” or “a shoulder to cry on”. Being a “buddy” parent under all circumstances is not possible. It depends on the situation, the child’s age, but also on their developmental stage. For example, when it comes to puberty, then most of the rules does not work at all. Of course, it is possible to move in the individual quadrants of the approaches, but when reflecting on them, it is necessary to keep in mind the goal to get closest to the “buddy” parent approach.

It ofter happens that neither of the parents are in the same quadrant. One can be more “dictator” and the other one more “a shoulder to cry on”. However, this is just another form of functionality because they complement each other. The combination and interconnection of different approaches moves parents closer to the ideal.

One of a parent’s frequent mistakes is constant praise of the child. If parent consistently commend a child, the child begins to rely on it and at some point, he or she expects it for any activity. If the child does not get their praise, they may think they did it badly, which is not necessary..

Praising a child for a banal activity is not optimal. But if we want to support them in some way, we can also do this with an indirect question, for example: “Are you satisfied with your performance?”. So, we teach the child not only self-reflection, but also not to expect automatic praise.

The Sandwich Feedback

When giving feedback, most parents, coaches or teachers will typically first point out what the child did wrong. At that moment, their brain stops listening, and the amygdala (the emotional part of the brain) screams in the head, “I’m useless, I’ll never do anything right”. Even if a child is subsequently praised, his brain does not hear it anymore. There is another way to give feedback. The golden mean is sandwich feedback, which divides it into three phases.

At the beginning of the assessment, the child should be praised, no matter how they did. That will lead to serotonin exclusion, a chemical of happiness, which is formed for example, when someone praises us, and the child is much better prepared for the corrective feedback that comes in the second phase.

In the corrective feedback, however, one rule must be respected – to separate child from the activity. “You’ll never learn,” or “you’re not capable” will cause the child to take it personally, amygdala will take over and convince the child that they are incapable and cannot do anything well. If we change the assessment and say that the numerical example must be counted in another way, the emotional part of the brain does not take it personally and the person is open to feedback.

The essence of the third phase is the expression of support and trust for the child in the future. At that point, oxytocin, a hormone of trust or love, is formed, and if we touch or hug the child, it will support the process.

So, what does the result look like? Whatever the result of the activity is, the child knows what was done well and what to do differently. They create an emotional bond to the activity, and they are inspired for further work. Fear also goes away because the child realizes that even if he or she does it wrong the next time; the child will get support from his parents.

Sandwich feedback works just as well with adults. If we begin with a negative assessment, we are awakening the amygdala that creates negative beliefs which lead to emotional abduction. That is the situation when we are doing something right, but someone will negatively comment it – suddenly everything goes downhill.

The last mistake to be made is to pity the child’s misconduct. The amygdala will appear again, and the child will believe that he or she is stupid and will get stuck. Guilt and self-pity are very insidious feelings; on the contrary, sympathy or expressing understanding for the child can support them in their determination.

What does it all mean? A mistake is a result like any other. Feedback is the breakfast of champions – no matter what the results are, we need to learn how to get feedback very quickly, so we know how we are doing. It is not good to just praise or punish in the long run, but to provide interlaced feedback that reflects the result in a proper way. Finally, instead of pity, it is good for to express not only understanding for the child but also trust in their future.

Every child is a genius, discover their hidden talents

Do you want help your children to discover their talents and prepare them for future life? As part of the Unlock Children’s/Student’s potential, with the latest knowledge of positive psychology parents learn how to effectively lead children so that they can not only be successful but also happy in their lives. The new Unlock Children’s Potential (Albatros 2018) book from Jan Mühlfeit and Kateřina Novotná, which became a bestseller after a few months, is also based on successful courses for children, students and parents.

Due to the high interest in these workshops, an online course for parents, teachers or trainers who are actively working with children ( is now available.

Read more about all our projects at

2018’s biggest data breach fines: infographic

Data is now big business and the price for organisations who fail to protect it from criminals has never been more costly, as our new infographic shows.

Click here to skip to the infographic

2018 has seen the biggest ever fines issued by the ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office) for information security breaches.

We’ve rounded up some of the biggest fines dished out to companies and charities in the infographic below – not including some of the year’s biggest breaches of data that are still under investigation, such as the nearly 50 million user accounts that were compromised by Facebook, or the 500 million hotel guests impacted in the recent Marriott hack.

These breaches paint an alarming enough picture – but all of the fines so far have been for incidents that occured and investigated pre-GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) in May.

Under GDPR, organisations that fail to protect the personal data they handle will now face a potentially crippling fine that could push them into insolvency.

“The fines are going to increase because it’s clear that there are plenty of organisations still not taking data protection seriously,” says Philip Anthony, Founder and Managing Director of charity cyber security specialists CoopSys. “If an organisation didn’t bother to lock up its building each evening and was burgled there wouldn’t be much sympathy and the staff responsible would have to leave – and the same needs to apply to unprotected IT systems.”

“We’ve reached a point where cyber assets such as data are as important as physical assets. And if you don’t take proper care of cyber assets or someone steals them or damages them, in the eyes of the law its now as serious as a physical loss.”

As the infographic shows, anyone handling personal data without a cyber security strategy in place at this point is playing with fire.

Original article.

President of the Republic of Serbia received Director of IFIMES

The President of the Republic of Serbia, Aleksandar Vučić, received today the director of the International Institute for Middle-East and Balkan Studies (IFIMES), Assist. Prof. Dr. Zijad Bećirović.

Director of the institute Assist. Prof. Dr. Bećirović presented to President Vučić the work of the Institute in the region of the Balkans and the Middle East, with a special emphasis on the Republic of Serbia and regional cooperation. The focus was on projects related to the process of Serbia’s accession to EU. The International Institute IFIMES intends to issue a special number of the international scientific journal European Perspectives, which will be dedicated to the process of Serbia’s accession to EU.

President of the Republic of Serbia Aleksandar Vučić presented the priorities of Serbia on the road to the EU, the importance of economic progress of Serbia and the current developments in the country. In particular, he stressed the importance of the country’s faster progress on the way to the EU.

President Vučić and director Assist. Prof. Dr. Bećirović agreed at the end that regional security, stability and peace are very important, as well as quick resolution of open issues according to the principle of win-win solution.

Director of IFIMES Assist. Prof. Dr. Bećirović invited the president of Serbia Vučić to have a lecture at the institute soon, which President Vučić accepted with pleasure.

31 Brilliant Ways to Actually Use Your Travel Photos

If you travel and own a camera or smartphone, it’s safe to say you return home from vacation with hundreds of snapshots. Or thousands. Some destinations are just really, really ridiculously good-looking.

As for the fate of these travel photos? You’ll probably continue to Instagram them for the next couple of days while you can still get away with pretending your trip isn’t over. Maybe you’ll set aside a few for #tbt posts on particularly dreary future Thursdays. Maybe, if you have a penchant for evoking envy in friends and acquaintances, you’ll make a Facebook album, too.

But after that, all of those precious pixelated moments from family vacations, weekend getaways, and epic adventures will sit, forgotten, in a digital folder or on a hard drive. No longer.

When it comes to travel photo projects, the Internet is full of smart ideas — like paper lanterns or a photo-wrapped pencil set — and these kinds of things are lovely for when you’re feeling (very, very ambitiously) inspired. For the knowingly craft-challenged set, simple prints are the way to go.

Parabo Press is a good site for beginner photo printers as it’s super easy-to-use — though it’s actually the sister site to both of those not-as-easy DIY tutorials. They have simple and affordable printing options and some more unique styles like black and white engineer prints or velvety matte glass ones. For your first order, you can actually get a set of 25 square-shaped prints for free, just paying for shipping.

There’s also a world of options dotting the middle of the creative enthusiasm spectrum, and you’ll find my favorites below. (P.S. a lot of them make great gift ideas for jet-setting friends and family.)

Turn your Instagram feed into an actual book

Photo books can be a lot of work, but Chatbooks makes it simple. It syncs with your Instagram or Facebook account for an effortless import. I just loaded in 138 photos in about three seconds, and they automatically arranged chronologically — one per page — with the ability to add captions and locations if I want. They also recently teamed up with illustrators to launch a collection of limited-edition, travel-themed covers.

To buy:, from $14

Print photos directly from your smartphone

Traveling with my Fujifilm Instax Mini is fun, but I too often found myself retaking the exact same photo on my phone because I am a visual hoarder. Enter the Prynt Pocket, a printer that plugs directly into the iPhone to print photos instantly, or you know, after a few edits and the 13 test shots it might take to find just the right angle.

Hang them on a cute clothespin display

So now you’ve got a stack of three-dimensional travel memories and an empty wall. Pinterest would tell you the only logical next step involves a spool of string, clothespins, and if you’re very motivated, some twinkle lights. On the other hand, this five-tiered frame is $20 at Bed, Bath, & Beyond. It’s not cheating, I promise.

To buy:, $20

See the rest here.

PULSE lecture with the Deputy Governor of the Bank of Greece

This month University of New York in Prague was thankful and privileged to have had Professor John (Iannis) Mourmouras, Deputy Governor of the Bank of Greece, present his lecture entitled “Recent developments in the European Union: a look to the East” to our graduate and undergraduate students. Professor Mourmouras opened his lecture with a few thoughts on some of the key issues on the political and economic agenda, looking into the major risks for the global economy and then turning to the current state of the eurozone economy and architecture, as the euro turns 20 this year. He also focuses on the Central and Eastern European (CEE) states 15 years after their entry into the European Union, and points out the macroeconomic situation of the Czech Republic, with its potential entry into the eurozone.

Kateřina Šrámková


The 13th season of the LOUČEŇ CHATEAU and news of the Light Art Outdoor Installation


Kateřina Šrámková, owner of the Loučeň Chateau

Kateřina Šrámková, owner of the Loučeň Chateau, the original residence of the Thurn-Taxis family, is a holder of the Exceptional Businesswoman award, although her own story and manner, of course, do not come off as exceptional. Her original profession was a tax advisor. She is also a mother to four children, as well as the person who not only restored the run-down chateau, but also created a unique system of 12 labyrinths and mazes in the chateau gardens. In keeping with her innovative approach towards running a historical building, Kateřina introduced the concept of the year-round season in the Czech Republic, along with experience tours of the chateau’s premises. A sharp contrast to any monotone interpretations of tangled data, names and events, like the organized tours we have become accustomed to in the past. Some routine elements of the tours left such an impression on visitors that many of them have requested these elements themselves. You are required to put on slippers in place of your shoes to walk inside the Loučeň Chateau, since visitors have taken a liking to this custom. Part of the Loučeň Chateau is the Maxmilián Hotel, which provides additional services. Loučeň is ranked just behind Karlštejn Castle within the Central Bohemian region and holds seventh place in the country-wide rankings. Seven is a lucky number for Mrs. Kateřina, and Loučeň actually commenced operations on 7. 7. 2007.
You can experience a tour at Loučeň with Mrs. Kateřina playing the role of the White Lady.The White Lady actually existed as Terezie Berková of Dubé, who was the daughter of the burgrave of czar Rudolf II and wife to Václav Berka of Dubé. The White Lady of Loučeň was a kind ghost who always gave out sweet pudding to children. Maybe thanks to her there is still a spirit of friendliness and well-being in the chateau.

Mrs. Kateřina, the turning point of the century was truly a turning point for you. In the year 2000 the LOUČEŇ company acquired the property of the chateau and park and the company left its established career. But you did not burn out or try to get away from the city, a pattern that is quite common today.

Nothing was impossible in the nineties. I was fulfilled in my original profession as a tax advisor, but after I bought the Loučeň Chateau, it became necessary for me to start concentrating on one thing. I ended my career of wearing pumps and working in a large office on Wenceslas Square, and I threw myself into everything that I didn’t know how to do and everything I wasn’t familiar with.
My intuitive decision probably wouldn’t seem correct according to many managerial guidebooks. Having two careers at once simply wasn’t possible any more. You can clone yourself at 150%, but not at 300%.

What do you consider to be exceptional?

After I received this award, my daughter gave me a flower dedicated to “the most exceptional businesswoman”. This was morethan the award I received at the beautiful Czech National Bank, because it was from someone very close to me. I don ́t associate with the word “exceptional” too much. For an industrious, tireless businesswoman yes, but exceptional?

What would you reward yourself with then? Do we, as women, even know how to award ourselves?

hat is a good question. I think that I was able to find a good mix between what is important and has to be done, and that which can wait or doesn’t have to be done. My work consists of the entire Loučeň complex, which has 23 hectares, combined with caring for a six-member family and commuting more than 100 kilometers daily, all of which must fit into one day that only has 24 hours. When others often ask me how I handle it all, I answer that I don’t know. I get up in the morning and start the day, and I finish in the evening and then I go to sleep. I think that the key is perfect organisation. And I am definitely not perfect. It’s like with the number of children. When a person has only one, they still feel like they can’t keep up. The more a person does, the more that person can handle. Gradually, the awards come from the outside. I am proudest, however, of the attendance at Loučeň, which varies between 160,000–180,000 visitors a year, depending on the weather, activities and other factors. I would like to point out that “the more visitors the better” does not always apply to attendance. Seventh place in attendance is better for me than first place, since that position belongs to the Prague Castle.

You are awaiting your 13th season this year. What’s something new you’re planning?

You are the first one to tell me that it’s the 13th season. I am excited about this season, because it will be different than the others. We are moving away from the format of short-term events, since this format has been exhausted in the Czech Republic. As our clients and their habits change, we are starting to focus more on activities that take place within a range of two weeks up to one month. We are planning a Czech fairy-tale summer for the month of August.

Czech castles and chateaus are unique, not only from the perspective of preserved and original historical facilities, but also from the perspective of public accessibility.Appreciative commentary often resounds from foreign visitors. Are we succeeding, as Czechs, in recognizing and appreciating the value of our cultural heritage?

I think that we appreciate its beauty as soon as we leave the country to travel abroad.Although I don’t have the statistics, I would presume that we must be in first place in Europe, not just for the number of accessible sights, but also for the number of guides, tour circuits and expositions. Such beautiful, historical interiors accessible to the public in such a plentiful amount is something I have not experienced in any other country.

You follow foreign trends very carefully and then try to bring them to Loučeň. You were inspired by labyrinths in France. What other new things are you planning?

I am planning something new, but this time it’s not the result of direct inspiration. I came up with a new concept myself after having tried to find a specific resource to implement. I discovered that they are already implementing a similar concept abroad, even at historical sites. On one hand, this made me happy, but on the other, I was disappointed. No similar place existed that we could draw inspiration from when we opened Loučeň. There was no example of good practice. We went with the trial and error method, and I am happy that there were more successful trials than there were errors. It happened many times that our ideas were actually brought to us by someone else. Personally, this made me very happy, because one does not copy the same bad idea twice.I was the one who first came up with the concept of the year-round operating season for castles and chateaus. Although we fought long and hard with the weaker winter season, the concept proved to be correct over time. It makes me happy to see how in November, everyone is issuing information regarding their Advent activities and winter tours. Not too many people will remember that before, sites like these were strictly open only from 1 April to 31 October.But back to my original thought. In English, the title is “Light Art Outdoor Installation”, but as for the title in Czech, we are still looking for one that sounds nice. This installation is about the use of modern technology that is capable of programming light, color, and intensity, and my vision is to make the park beautiful in the dark. Imagine the park in the dark, and in the dark there are illuminated objects – various trees, water areas, bushes and stumps, which are, in a sense, artistic creations in themselves, and now they will be illuminated and connected to a moving light show. I am consumed with this idea; I actually just returned from a trade fair in Frankfurt. Thanks to this installation, we can even extend the attractiveness period of the chateau to after sunset. The well-known Castle-Chateau Night is held on the last weekend in August, so we are aiming to introduce ourselves to the visitors. The climax will then be afterwards, during Advent and Christmas time.

I know that you don’t keep usual casual habits. You do not live at the Loučeň Chateau, because you think that the chateau does not belong to you. You are managing it for the next generation. If you were to create a coat of arms, what would you put on it?

A deer. The most elegant animal found in Czech forests in my opinion. When it snows, they kick up frost with their hooves. And another parallel? I love tall high heels.

Other than an invitation to Loučeň, what closing message do you have for the readers of the Czech and Slovak Leaders magazine?

In terms of business, I can’t advise the readers at all. Someone who has more experience than I can give advice on that. Instead, I will answer from the context of everyday life. You should never be afraid to take up arms for the right ending. Not in any situation or at any age. If we will not physically work with our hands, then there will be nothing left behind uswhen we’re gone.


By Linda Štucbartová

The Best Long Weekend Getaways for Couples

Want to spice things up in your relationship? Get out of town.

Nothing keeps the sparks flying quite like traveling together. Navigating new places with your significant other while spending quality one-on-one time is a great way to deepen your bond and create lasting memories.

And every couple deserves a special getaway to enjoy to their hearts’ content — whether your idea of a good time is cozying up in a rustic lodge, lazing on a tropical beach, hitting the slopes, or sipping wine in the countryside. Whether for Valentine’s Day or a long weekend like President’s Day, there’s no better time to book a long weekend escape with your partner.

Whatever pace you prefer in an ideal couple’s trip, these are some of our favorite destinations to recharge the romance. Get ready for starry-eyed bliss.

Montreal, Canada

If you’re seeking a European-esque destination without the transatlantic flight, head to Montreal. This sophisticated Canadian metropolis is rich with history, centuries-old architecture, and bustling French bistros.

Most tourists shy away from Montreal until spring, so those who enjoy a winter wonderland vibe can delight in a quieter visit full of cold-weather charms: ice skating at Parc La Fontaine, dogsledding through Mont Tremblant, guided nighttime snowshoeing on Mont Royal complete with breathtaking views of the city lights. Travelers can then warm up with hot chocolate by a roaring fire at one of Old Montreal’s cushy hotels.

After exploring the vibrant downtown scene, couples can treat themselves to an indulgent treatment at the luxurious Spa St. James in the Ritz Carlton Montreal, or to a classic 1940s bar experience at Bartizen in the W Montreal. The sexy, dimly lit space, which specializes in Canadian gin, will set the mood for romance.

Palm Springs, California

Glamorized as Old Hollywood’s vacation destination of choice, Palm Springs is still as hip as it was in Frank Sinatra’s day. The desert oasis allures with stylish resorts, world-class restaurants, and majestic desert views.

There’s a little something for everyone. It’s a haven for golfers (with more than 100 area courses), hikers, and adventure seekers. Try a backcountry Jeep tour through San Jacinto Mountain trails, or trek to Joshua Tree National Park (less than an hour away). Looking to unwind? Soak in the natural healing waters at Desert Hot Springs or head to one of the many day spas for a hot stone couples massage. Palm Springs also has a foodie scene and many of the finest establishments offer patio dining under the stars.

For a relaxing staycation, book a suite at the Ritz-Carlton Rancho Mirage. With everything from clifftop dining to a luxe spa surrounded by the beautiful Santa Rosa Mountains, you won’t have to leave the grounds to have an unforgettable weekend. Plus, there’s postcard-worthy scenery in every direction. We recommend taking it all in from a cabana at the pool while sipping a frozen spiked Arnold Palmer. The golf legend debuted the now-famous iced tea-lemonade drink in Palm Springs in the late ’60s.

Read the rest here.

The Youngest Sibling Is the Funniest, According to Science

Younger siblings are the funniest members of the family, if they do say so themselves. And according to a survey from YouGov, they do. The survey asked siblings to assess their own personality traits and the majority of younger siblings consider themselves to be a real hoot. Can’t you just hear older siblings rolling their eyes right now?

The pollsters asked 1,783 British adults to rate different aspects of their personality based on birth order. The results revealed that youngest siblings are more likely to think they are funnier than their older brothers and sisters, with 46% believing they are the funnier ones, compared with 36% of oldest siblings.

There may be some validity to the claim. The Guardian reports that in the book My Youngest, There’s No One Like You, author Kevin Leman, lists a crop of comedians who were all the youngest in their families. The list includes Billy Crystal, Eddie Murphy, Goldie Hawn, Drew Carey, Jim Carrey, Whoopi Goldberg, Steve Martin, Jon Stewart, Ellen DeGeneres, and the late Charlie Chaplin. Admittedly, it’s a pretty impressive list.

The poll also asked the respondents (all siblings) to consider which child in their family was the most relaxed. The baby of the family won that round, too, but only by 3%. Older siblings, though, were considered to be more responsible, successful, organized, and self-confident. This isn’t just because older siblings are, by definition, older than their younger brothers and sisters and, thus, have had more time on the planet to establish careers and families. The research concludes that there are family forces at work that make older children more responsible than their younger siblings. “Parental attention soon shifts onto new arrivals, and first borns may have to learn the ropes themselves,” the researchers wrote. “As evidence, elder siblings are more likely to feel more organized and able to prioritize their own lives.”

Older children are frequently put in charge of younger ones, watching the little ones, and getting a sense of responsibility early in life. 54 percent of first borns believe they are more responsible than their siblings, compared to 31 percent of last borns.

Younger siblings, on the other hand, considered themselves to be more easy-going and relaxed than their older relations. Even more telling, a majority of younger children feel like they are more favored by their parents. If that’s true, it’s no wonder they feel like laughing.

This Story Originally Appeared On Southern Living

Making your New Year’s resolutions stick

Tereza Urbánková – a PR, communications and marketing professional

There are many ambitious and smart people in the world achieving amazing things all year round. However, the US News & World Report revealed that 80% of New Year’s resolutions typically fail by the second week of February. I can clearly see this trend in my gym – come January, it is absolutely packed after the indulging finale of the year but towards the end of the month, the numbers reduce and in February, most of the ‘new guys’ are gone while those who use the gym regularly remain. In principle, resolutions lead to some kind of self-improvement – we want to turn the leaf over and be better, look better, achieve better. In some instances, our pledges for self-improvement may also concern the impact we make, on our family, our community, even our country. These are all cool goals.

So what goes wrong in the process? And why is it that with such great intentions, getting fit, losing weight and generally improving our lives seems so elusive?

First, let’s take a look at a bit of history. According to the New York Times, historians believe that the ancient Babylonians were the first people to make New Year’s resolutions 4,000 years ago. Beginning with a 12-day religious festival known as Akitu, the Babylonians crowned a new king or renewed their loyalty to the sitting ruler. In addition, they also pledged to pay debts and return borrowed goods to keep in good standing with their gods whom they expected would reward them with a good harvest in return.

A study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, a scientific journal which investigated New Year’s resolutions, found that 55% of them were health related, such as exercising or eating healthier. About 20% were to do with getting out of debt. The study also showed that enjoyment and importance are significant factors in whether people stick to their resolutions. In other words, if the participants were getting immediate rewards from their new habits, they would be more likely to stick to them.

When setting up your own personal goals, do you ever approach them as business goals, applying the SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound) principle? This could be a more effective way as the failure to achieve the New Year’s resolutions may not be only in the people who set them up but in the goals themselves and set expectations.

Using the SMART principle, here is how you could potentially approach the setting the resolutions:


Vague goals don’t work. They have to be clear to you so that you don’t bring yourself into the situation when you feel indifferent and confused about your aspirations. Have you got an absolute clarity why your goal is important and what will it involve to achieve it?

Measurable and achievable

I believe that it’s important to start small and see the difference. Many goals are simply unachievable and unrealistic – sometimes because they represent a massive change and we are simply not ready for that. Yet. Small steps, small changes in your routine, can inspire you to keep going, can demonstrate progress which brings enjoyment I’ve mentioned before and is also worth celebrating. Some changes need to be made gradually; a sharp turn may be again too much – for you, and your closest ones. In addition, if you have a recurring goal every year and never achieve it, perhaps it’s time to reflect on reasons why it happened and adjust the final outcome.

Thrive Global, advocating the ‘small steps theory’, published an article earlier this year celebrating January as the Microstep Month. Instead of setting overly ambitious New Year’s resolutions that make you feel bad when you can’t accomplish them, they want to help you revolutionise your approach to making resolutions with Microsteps, Thrive’s science-backed, too-small-to-fail mini habits that you can easily integrate into your life right away.


Are the resolutions really yours? Or, have you created them based on current trends, have you been influenced by the people around you telling you what you definitely should do? Such approach leads to lack of connection, motivation and dedication. Your goals don’t represent your dreams and are likely to fail as they may not be the things that matter to you most. Perhaps you should ask yourself the following questions:

Does your goal align with other things you are pursuing? Does it match your needs? Will you be able to put the desired effort into this goal? Is there anything in your life that may hinder the completion of this goal?


To determine a timeframe can help drive your determination to progress on a regular basis. For example, “I will lose weight by summer” is not specific enough. It might be better to say: “I will lose 2 kg per month starting January and maintain the rhythm until May to achieve the weight I want”. Another important aspect is to give a thought to ‘what next’ after you achieve the goal.

Research also shows that how you phrase your goals is important, for this apparently has a psychological effect. If they are phrased negatively, for example, “I’m not going to eat any sugary snacks”, you are only thinking about what you should not do, and it may be harder to achieve. Try “I’m going to eat only fruit as a snack”, which clearly states what you are going to do.

Resolutions need to be attainable, but also challenging. While this is true, there’s a lot more to it. We tend to rely mostly on our willpower and grit, and although those are important traits, they may not be sufficient. For example, there will be moments of self-doubt and tiredness, so we need to be prepared for that.

We are all drawn by the promise of a fresh start the New Year seems to offer. I am no different. Although I try to define my goals quite pragmatically and pursue them, I also wait with anticipation and ready to see what other unexpected twists and turns a New Year brings to my life. One never knows…


Tereza Urbánková is a PR, communications and marketing professional with 20 years’ experience and proven success in delivering award-winning communications programmes for multinational companies operating in industries such as hospitality, retail, IT, defence, broadcast, logistics, pharma and engineering. After having lived and worked in the UK for 11 years, she now works in Germany for Boehringer Ingelheim, a global pharmaceutical company, as Head of Global External Communication, Animal Health. Tereza is a member of the Executive Committee of the Czech British Chamber of Commerce in London. She speaks Czech, English, Spanish and Russian and can be reached through her LinkedIn profile.

5 Simple Ways to Motivate Yourself to Exercise

We all know how important it is to be physically active, but exercising regularly isn’t as easy as it sounds. Sometimes it can be very hard to find the motivation to get up and do your daily workout. So, here are a few simple ways that will inspire you to stay on track.

Create a schedule

One of the easiest ways to stay motivated when it comes to exercise is to make it a habit. Exercise shouldn’t be something you should do, but something that you absolutely have to do. Once it becomes a part of your everyday life and your daily routine, it will be much easier to dedicate yourself to it. In order to create a good schedule, decide how many days a week you’re going to hit the gym or go for a run. Then, note your workouts in your planner or calendar just like you would note your business meeting or doctor’s appointment. This might seem extreme, but when your workouts become obligatory, you’ll have an easier time staying motivated.

Set small goals

Working out without a goal can become very boring very quickly. So, make sure to set a few small and reachable goals for yourself that will keep you pushing forward. Make them realistic and concrete. For instance, try to lose 3 kilograms, try to run 1 kilometer without stopping or try to exercise every day during a designated month. This way, you’ll be able to track your progress and have a clear reason why you work out. Exercising just because you know you should will not keep you motivated for long.

Come up with a good eating plan

If you want to see the results and stay motivated to continue exercising, you simply must eat clean. First, you need to start avoiding junk food and overly processed sugary foods and drinks. It’s the hardest part of eating healthy, but it’s the key to success. One great way to stay on track is to start preparing your meals in advance. This way, you’ll always have healthy and nutritious meals at hand and you won’t have a chance to succumb to the temptation of ordering fast food. You can also have some recovery supplement drinks ready. For instance, BCAA supplements can help you battle muscle soreness, boost your recovery time and benefit your retention of maximum muscular force. Just mix it with water and you’ll get a tasty and refreshing beverage. It’s so much better than any drink you could buy at the store and much tastier and more beneficial than water.

Join a class

Some people can work out alone and stay motivated, but if you simply don’t have that amount of discipline, try joining a class. It will help you find your competitive spirit and push yourself to the max. Plus, you might find some amazing friends and have many laughs while you sweat it out. If you don’t like the idea of group exercise, you can find a friend who’s willing to boost their fitness. You will be an amazing support to one another and get in shape while nurturing your friendship.

Treat yourself when you achieve good results

Every time you reach a goal you’ve set, make sure to give yourself a little treat. However, make sure to invest in something that will not set you back and ruin your hard work, but inspire you to work even harder. For instance, you can buy a new pair of running shoes or invest in a piece of workout equipment you’ve been eyeing. You can book a nice recovery massage or book a fun activity with your friends (bowling is super fun yet it burns a lot of calories).

Just keep in mind that there’s a huge prize waiting for you if you exercise regularly. You’ll feel energized and healthy, and look amazing, too! So, try these motivational tricks and you’ll certainly reach your workout goal.


By Peter Minkoff

Peter is a lifestyle and travel writer at Men-Ual magazine, living between Ústí nad Labem and Antwerp. Follow Peter on Twitter for more tips.

Jaroslav Kubera, new President of the Senate meets ambassadors

Jaroslav Kubera, newly elected President of the Senate began his new tenure with meetings with foreign ambassadors. Besides long-term important partners such as Slovakia, Germany, Poland, France and Italy, some of the others he received included the plenipotentiaries for Russia, China, Chile, India and Peru.

Petra Plemlová


“We have all been fighting for a spot at the top since we started”


Petra Plemlová, Owner and founder of unuodesign s.r.o.

The story of a young, successful businesswoman in the field of e-commerce with children’s clothing. Petra is a four-time mother whose story is full of many genres. Even though many people would like to see a fairy tale with a happy ending, some moments were more like a dark Scandinavian thriller. Despite a not-too-happy childhood and constant underestimation on the part of her two older and more successful siblings, Petra graduated as a kindergarten teacher. Working with children fulfilled her purpose, and it was here that she became aware of how much time and energy she spent on dressing and undressing children, as she continuously encountered uncomfortable and impractical children’s clothing. From a young age, she spent a lot of time with her neighbor, a well-trained dressmaker from the period of the First Republic. It was only a matter of time before this hobby became Petra’s main occupation.

She gradually began to make her first products, initially only for friends and for her own children. Clothing easy enough that children can dress themselves. When the front and back of the clothes are the same, it doesn’t matter if they mix up the sides. Clothing without zippers and buttons. Clothing that grows with the children, so there is no need to order a new size every three months. She had to begin running her business full time after her husband nearly destroyed their entire apartment when he fell ill with a mental disorder. Her stock of already prepared sewing materials was also destroyed.

Petra remained alone with her four small children and was under constant scrutiny from the unhelpful social workers, who were more anti-social than social. Over a three-year period, she built a company that now attains a turnover of 50 million Czech crowns, employs more than 50 people and, within the scope of the Unuo endowment fund, provides help to women who have found themselves in a situation similar to her own. However, this conversation is not about the past, but rather the future. How does a successful businesswoman perceive the region of South Bohemia in which she conducts her business? What does the future hold for her industry, with regard to materials and e-commerce? And is this extremely active woman even able to relax?

Petra, the Australian Open has just recently ended. While many people were happy to see clothing made from recycled materials and produced by Adidas, you instead lamented on social media that unuodesign has already been using recycled “soft shell” material for a long time. It is more expensive, but for a good reason. Furthermore, your “growing” clothing has a usable lifespan of more than three months. How do you cope with the fact that large companies receive much more attention than smaller companies, despite the smaller companies being much more progressive?

I think that every company gets as much attention as it deserves. We have all been fighting for a spot at the top since we started. Especially if we started in a large industry, such as the one represented by the textile industry. We can deserve the attention if we get through great work performance, by making something original or by doing things differently. At unuo, we decided to use all three of these approaches that I just mentioned. I am glad that we are doing very well in the field of PR connected with organic or recycled materials.

You started doing business in Tábor and you’re doing well. In today’s economic environment, where the labor supply is limited, you are succeeding in taking on new workers, especially female workers. What’s your opinion on the specifics of doing business in the region of South Bohemia?

I can’t speak about the entire region, but personally I am excited about the city as well as the people who live in Tábor. Everything is different in Prague. The employees in this small city are not used to changing their profession or the company they work for, especially several times a year. Luckily, we avoid this fluctuation and any frequent position changes. I feel that the inhabitants of smaller cities care more about their good name. They are aware that if they end up getting a bad name at a few companies, the word will very soon spread. The people here are more “loyal” to their field. You could say that their lives are more motivated by relationships than by money.

We personally met at a panel discussion organized by the Elegantní Česko company, because both of us are proud of the traditions of the First Czechoslovak Republic. Custom sewing is one of those traditions on which one can establish oneself. You yourself were, however, sceptical about the future of the textile industry in Europe.

Our statistics confirm the reality that our customers feel positively toward production in the Czech Republic. It is even part of the positive decision-making criteria when choosing to buy Czech or foreign. Unfortunately, it is ranked third, right after the criteria of price and quality. From my experience, I’m speaking especially about the textile industry of manufactured clothing. If Czech customers buy clothing for their children at stores with prices lower than five euros, it is only a matter of time before the textile industry in the Czech Republic disappears altogether. It is interesting to note that many goods from third-world countries are subject to special duties so that imports of these products into the Czech Republic do not endanger certain industries. And then there is, for instance, agriculture which is subsidized by the state. No one is offering a helping hand to the textile industry, and that raises the question of how long the textile industry will last. Not just with regard to clothing production, but also textile production, the schools that supplied new dressmakers or weavers to companies have disappeared in the Czech Republic. Schools intentionally do not open these fields, because there is no interest on the part of the students. Students are not interested because the bright future of a seamstress who works a three-shift schedule and barely makes the minimum wage is not something anyone would want to have. And now we arrive back to the customer. The employer cannot pay his employees more if mothers buy clothes in stores at prices that are less than what we as suppliers have to pay for the material.

E-commerce business deals with new technologies. Other than clothing and materials, you offer a digital solution for the automation of warehouse processes that help other e-shops. This approach has won twice in the Czech Entrepreneurship Awards contest. Which direction would you like to go in the future? What is your dream?

Although my previous forecast may have been pessimistic, I hope that even ten years from now, and will be able to produce beautiful fabrics and children’s clothing. As for our application, PICKI, I hope that it will become a great helper, not only for our company, but for others as well. But naturally, I still see this application as an infant that will need a lot of care before it is self- sufficient and financially independent.

I won’t ask how you handle and multitask all your different roles. I know that this question, which is often asked of working mothers, will not seem quite fair to you. Instead, I will ask you about your great dedication to your work. Do you even know how to relax? How do you recharge your battery?

I am lucky because my job is my dream come true. Thanks to this, I no longer feel the need to relax that much.Whatyoulovehasthetendencytorecharge you a lot more than it exhausts you. I often relax at my sewing machine, which is actually my “job”. I love technology and read a lot about it, so I’m actually discovering what the new developer will introduce to us and when. Actually, that is also my “job”. I play a lot with the kids and go outside with them, which is a small part of my “job” as well. Only by observing my own children and other children can I see what our little clients and their mothers need.

We are doing this interview in January 2019. Did you make any New Year’s resolutions? And what would you like to wish the readers of Czech and Slovak Leaders?

I have one big goal in 2019, and that is to spend more time with my children. Not to be at home more, I’m there very often, but to be present with my children, enjoy their beautiful smiles and their love, which is so pure that it cannot be compared with anything else. My online children were born so I can support my real children. Now, when they´re successfully carrying out their mission, beautifully and on their own, I can focus my attention on the place where it is most needed. I extend this wish to the readers as well, and not only for 2019!

By Linda Štucbartová

13 Super Charming European Cities Well Worth a Day Trip

If you’re visiting a major European destination, take a day or two to visit one of these under-the-radar and easy-to-get-to smaller cities.

You’d have to have a heart of stone not to be moved by the little streets of Paris, the palaces of Vienna, or the twisting canals of Venice. After all, there’s a reason these iconic cities are as timeless and as popular as they are.

But Europe is more than just these well-known destinations. These cities may be the ones on the postcards, or the ones you’ll see plastered over everyone’s Facebook vacation photo albums, but some of Europe’s most beautiful and exciting cities are often also some of the continent’s smallest or most unassuming. If you’ve done the big ones before—or even if you just have a few days to spare while visiting a major hub—then enough can’t be said for the experience of hopping onto a train, bus, or ferry and taking a short trip to somewhere really new.

For example, while visiting London, why not take a day or two to visit the medieval city of Bruges? Just a few hours away by Eurostar, Bruges is a quiet, lovely city of canals and cobblestone streets (not to mention the city’s famous belfry). Similarly, Poland’s Szczecin is a beloved waterfront city that’s just a quick, two-hour train trip from Berlin. Bratislava, the charming capital of Slovakia, isn’t as popular a destination as Vienna, but it’s an easy day trip from the famous Austrian metropolis (only an hour away by train) and is a perfect home base for wine-tasting expeditions in the surrounding countryside.

All of the European detours listed here are easy, convenient trips: just a few hours away from a major city via affordable mass transit. (No private drivers or even car rentals necessary.) But, perhaps more importantly, all of the cities included—few of which get the attention they deserve—offer intrepid travelers the chance to have a unique, under-the-radar European experience.

Munich to Salzburg, Austria

Perhaps most famous for being the birthplace of Mozart (as well as the setting for The Sound of Music), Salzburg lies just on the border with Germany. A fully preserved embodiment of Baroque architecture, few modern buildings have been allowed a place in the inner city, meaning it today looks almost the same as it did four hundred years ago. In more ways than one, Salzburg is as Austrian as Austria gets.

The Route: The Munich to Salzburg route is a quick cross-border train journey: prices range from $20 each way and it’ll take you an hour and a half to get there. If you opt for the bus (go for Flixbus) it’ll cost $8 each way with a journey time of two hours.

Where to Stay: If you’re in Salzburg, you want historical luxury, and if you want historical luxury, you want Hotel Schloss. The hotel (which served as the filming location for the von Trapp family residence in The Sound of Music) is set inside a stunning 18th-century palace with a beautiful interior and remarkable surroundings.

Where to Eat: It’s no palace, sure, but S’Kloane Brauhaus serves classic, rustic Austrian cuisine (wiener schnitzel, venison stew) and home-brewed beer in a warm, traditionally decorated environment.

What to Do: Take a Sound of Music tour, or visit the birthplace of Mozart, which is now a museum. Or just head down to the Alter Market and dedicate your day to eating as much Austrian street food as you can.

Berlin to Szczecin, Poland

As the country’s seventh-largest city, Szczecin often finds itself in the shadow of some of Poland’s more popular destinations, such as Warsaw or Kraków. Nonetheless, this port city (located just on the Poland-Germany border) is as well loved by German tourists as it is by locals, chiefly for its gorgeous riverfront and locally made beer and vodka.

The Route: Luckily, Szczecin is as easy to get to as it is hard to spell. You can catch a train from Berlin’s Gessundbrunnen rail station straight into central Szczecin for about $75 round-trip, and you’ll arrive in well under two hours.

Where to Stay: The Park Hotel is a little slice of luxury situated right in the middle of Szczecin’s Old Town, only a short distance away from pretty much everything in the city worth seeing (including that aforementioned riverfront).

Where to Eat: You won’t have to go far for this one—the Park Hotel’s restaurant is one of the highest-rated in the city, and offers up a range of Polish and international dishes.

What to Do: The Szczecin Philharmonic hosts a number of events through the year, and the striking building itself is a wonderful example of Poland’s architectural eccentricity.

See the rest here.

Annual Christmas Charity Concert of Hilton Hotels in Prague

Hilton Prague and Hilton Prague Old Town organized the 22nd annual traditional Christmas Charity Concert featuring the Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra and soloist Ester Pavlů, conducted by Debashish Chaudhuri. For the first time in its history, the concert was organized in the magnificent Atrium lobby. The evening was presented by Michael Specking, General Manager of Hilton Prague together with Gabriela Lašková, TV news presenter. The Christmas spirit was brought by International Ladies’ choir Viva Voce. Hilton Prague Executive Chef Franco Luise surprised the audience not only with a delicious Christmas dinner after the concert, but also with a special cheque in form of a cake brought on stage by a sleigh with Santa Claus. Michael Specking generously wrote the amount of 60.000 CZK on the cake cheque and presented it to Ms. Terezie Sverdlinová in support of the Tereza Maxova Foundation. Thanks to the main partners who helped make this meaningful event happen again – AV Media, Gesto Computers and Leel Coils.

More Celebrities and CEOs Are Born in January Than Any Other Month

January belongs to famous people.

Elvis Presley, Kate Moss, Stephen Hawking, Martin Luther King, Jr., Oprah. The list of icons born in January is seemingly endless.

According to a study from the Journal of Social Sciences, those born under the sign of Aquarius — which lasts from Jan. 21 through Feb. 20 — are the most likely to skyrocket to the tips of everyone’s lips and become famous.

Those born in the first month of the year are also more likely to become CEOs. One study found that 10 percent of CEOs were born in the month of January. (However the highest honors went to March with 12.5 percent of CEOs.)

According to one UK study, those born in January also have the highest chances of becoming doctors.

This lineup is likely due to school and societal structures. Those born in the earlier part of the year have a couple of months’ lead on other children by the time they start kindergarten or enter organized sports.

“If you were born in January, you have almost 12 months’ growth ahead of your classmates born late in the year,” Adrian Barnett, a researcher from Queensland University told Science Daily.

If you’re trying to have a kid, your chances of conceiving a famous child are quickly approaching. You should probably plan for April.

If you were born in January and have a hard time getting friends to come out for your birthday: don’t despair. You’ll probably end up more famous than them anyway.

Geopolitics of Europe and the Iron Law of Evolutionary Biology

(Europe after the Brexit, NATO 70 summit and Turkish geopolitical vertigo)

Prof. Anis H. Bajrektarevic at the OSCE Conference

A freshly released IMF’s World Economic Outlook brings no comforting picture to anyone within the G-7, especially in the US and EU: The WTO Round is dead, trade wars are alive, GCC is rapidly Pakistanising while the Asia’s core and its Far East slows down. No comfort either comes from the newest Oxfam Report – Are 26 billionaires worth more than half the planet?, which the ongoing Davos Vanity Fair known as the WEF tries to ignore (as much as this gathering of capital sustains in ignoring labor). The Brexit after-shock is still to reverberate around.

In one other EXIT, Sartre’s Garcin famously says: ‘Hell is other people’. Indeed, business of othering remains lucrative: The NATO 70 summit will desperately look for enemies. Escalation is the best way to preserve eroded unity, requires the confrontational nostalgia dictatum. Will the passionately US-pushed cross-Atlantic Free Trade Area (substituting the abandoned TIPP and compensating for the Sino-US trade war) save the day? Or, would that Pact-push drag the things over the edge of reinvigorating nationalisms, and mark an end of the unionistic Europe?

Is the extended EU conflict with Russia actually a beginning of the Atlantic-Central Europe’s conflict over Russia, an internalization of mega geopolitical and geo-economic dilemma – who accommodates with whom, in and out of the post-Brexit Union? Finally, does more Ukrainian (Eastern Europe’s or MENA) calamities pave the road for a new cross-continental grand accommodation, of either austerity-tired France or über-performing Germany with Russia, therefore the end of the EU? Southeast flank already enormously suffer. Hasty castling of foes and friends caused colossal geopolitical vertigo in Turkey, whose accelerated spin produces more and more victims.

For whose sake Eastern Europe has been barred of all important debates such as that of Slavism, identity, social cohesion (disintegrated by the plunder called ‘privatization’), secularism and antifascism? Why do we suddenly wonder that all around Germany-led Central Europe, the neo-Nazism gains ground while only Russia insists on antifascism and (pan-)Slavism?

Before answering that, let us examine what is (the meaning and size of) our Europe? Where, how and – very importantly – when is our Europe?

The letzte Mensch or Übermensch

Is the EU an authentic post-Westphalian conglomerate and the only logical post-Metternich concert of different Europes, the world’s last cosmopolitan enjoying its postmodern holiday from history? Is that possibly the lost Atlántida or mythical Arcadia– a Hegelian end of history world? Thus, should this OZ be a mix of the endemically domesticated Marx-Engels grand utopia and Kennedy’s dream-world “where the weak are safe and the strong are just”?

Or, is it maybe as Charles Kupchan calls it a ‘postmodern imperium’? Something that exhorts its well-off status quo by notoriously exporting its transformative powers of free trade dogma and human rights stigma–a modified continuation of colonial legacy when the European conquerors, with fire and sword, spread commerce, Christianity and civilization overseas – a kind of ‘new Byzantium’, or is that more of a Richard Young’s declining, unreformed and rigid Rome? Hence, is this a post-Hobbesian (yet, not quite a Kantian) world, in which the letzte Mensch expelled Übermensch?

Could it be as one old graffiti in Prague implies: EU=SU²? Does the EU-ization of Europe equals to a restoration of the universalistic world of Rome’s Papacy, to a restaging of the Roman-Catholic Caliphate? Is this Union a Leonard’s runner of the 21st century, or is it perhaps Kagan’s ‘Venus’– gloomy and opaque world, warmer but equally distant and unforeseen like ‘Mars’?

Is this a supersized Switzerland (ruled by the cacophony of many languages and enveloped in economic egotism of its self-centered people), with the cantons (MS, Council of EU) still far more powerful than the central government (the EU Parliament, Brussels’ Commission, ECJ), while Swiss themselves –although in the geographic heart of that Union – stubbornly continue to defy any membership. Does it really matter (and if so, to what extent) that Niall Ferguson wonders: “…the EU lacks a common language, a common postal system, a common soccer team (Britain as well, rem. A.B.) even a standard electric socket…“?

Kissinger himself was allegedly looking for a phone number of Europe, too. Baron Ridley portrayed the Union as a Fourth Reich, not only dominated by Germany, but also institutionally Germanized. Another conservative Briton, Larry Siedentop, remarked in his Democracy in Europe that it is actually France who is running the EU ‘show’, in the typical French way – less than accountable bureaucracy that prevents any evolution of the European into an American-style United States. Thus, Siedentop’s EU is more of a Third Bonapartistic Empire than possibly a Fourth German Reich. The Heartland or Rimland?

D/evolutionary Biology and geopolitics

Regardless of different names and categorizations attached, historical analogies and descriptions used, most scholars would agree upon the very geopolitical definition of the EU: Grand re-approachment of France and Germany after WWII, culminating in the Elysée accords of 1961. An interpretation of this instrument is rather simple: a bilateral peace treaty through achieved consensus by which Germany accepted a predominant French say in political affairs of EU/Europe, and France – in return – accepted a more dominant German say in economic matters of EU/Europe. All that tacitly blessed by a perfect balancer– Britain, attempting to conveniently return to its splendid isolation from the Continent in the post-WWII years. Hence, living its Brexit distance from the continental Europe for most of its history.

Consequently, nearly all scholars would agree that the Franco-German alliance actually represents a geopolitical axis, a backbone of the Union.

However, the inner unionistic equilibrium will be maintained only if the Atlantic-Central Europe skillfully calibrates and balances its own equidistance from both assertive Russia and the omnipresent US. Any alternative to the current Union is a grand accommodation of either France or Germany with Russia. This means a return to Europe of the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries – namely, direct confrontations over the Continent’s core sectors, perpetual animosities wars and destructions.

Both Russia and the US has demonstrated ability for a skillful and persistent conduct of international affairs, passions and vigorous visions to fight for their agendas. Despite the shifts in political affiliations and drives triggered by the Brexit, migrants, economic performance or generational in/compassions, it is a high time for Brussels to live up to its very idea, and to show the same.

Biology and geopolitics share one basic rule: comply or die.


Anis H. Bajrektarevic
Vienna, 24 JAN 2019

Author is professor in international law and global political studies, based in Austria. His 7th book From WWI to www. 1918-2018 is just published by the New York’s Addleton Academic Publishers.

5 Tips for Traveling Solo After Retirement

As a chronological leader in the cohort of Baby Boomers who are now retiredor thinking seriously about it, I’m happy to say that I have the resources and appetite for travel. Time is no longer a constraint, but there are others, of course. While I still have the energy to schlep through airports, carry my own luggage, and spend 12 hours strapped into an airplane seat, I have lost all desire to backpack through Europe or hitchhike across the United States. However, I still have lots of exploring to do.

Others of my generation, and even younger folks, satisfy their urge to see the world by signing up with group travel companies that plan their itineraries, book their flights, reserve their hotel rooms, and arrange their meals and sightseeing tours. You’ve seen them – gathering on crowded corners near tourist sites, lining up for their buses, straining to see their guide’s flag over 50 other heads, filling entire sections of restaurants to the horror of their servers.

That’s not for me. I enjoy searching the internet for flights and destination details, browsing hotel and restaurant reviews, and reading up on what to see in the places I’m planning to visit. That’s part of the fun and reward of travel. And there’s so much useful information available that it makes the preparation nearly as enjoyable as the trip itself.

Although I’ve met many lovely people along the way, I have no desire to spend all day every day with the same ones. Dining at restaurants that have been selected because they’re large enough to accommodate the group and low-priced enough to fit the budget has no appeal for me. Eating great food when and where I choose is always a highlight of my travels.

I understand that many of my fellow Boomers and travelers of all ages appreciate the security of having someone make the arrangements and care for them along the way. Group travel provides comfort for solo travelers and those who aren’t confident about planning all the details on their own. It eliminates worries about finding transportation, getting lost, missing an important site, or not speaking the language. I get it. Here are some tips based on what I learned about managing those challenges on my recent solo trip to Italy.

Do your research.

After deciding on my destination, I make the basic arrangements for flights and hotels, also considering what I want to see and where I want to dine. (I told you the eating part was important!) Then, if I have any concerns about getting around or being able to visit the popular tourist destinations, I look for day tours with reliable companies, especially those offering front-of-the-line access or other methods for avoiding the crowds.

Choose the right day tour for you.

In Rome, I naturally wanted to see the Sistine Chapel and Vatican Museums. So do thousands of others every day, especially during the peak travel months. I signed up with City Wonders for their morning tour when I learned that the company’s official Vatican Museums partnership enables their groups to use a special no-wait entrance. (Even skip-the-line groups often wait up to an hour.)

Our small group entered the museums 30 minutes before other tours, and our English-speaking guide shared fascinating anecdotes and historical details before leaving us to enjoy the magnificent art on our own. She relayed that as a sculptor Michelangelo was reluctant to take on the project of painting the Sistine Chapel ceiling, but “when the Pope asks, you do it.”

She also described Michelangelo’s challenges of painting while standing on a platform (not lying on his back as many believe) and applying the color to porous plaster. With our guide’s words in mind, the extraordinary work of art was even more breathtaking to see.

See the rest here.

May 2019 elections in Bulgaria: A litmus test for the country’s political future

The International Institute for Middle-East and Balkan Studies (IFIMES) in Ljubljana, Slovenia, regularly analyses events in the Middle East and the Balkans. Macedonian historian, journalist and publicist Dejan Azeski has analysed recent events in Bulgaria in view of the local and European Parliament elections scheduled for 26 May 2019. His analysis entitled “May 2019 elections in Bulgaria: A litmus test for the country’s political future” is published here in full.

Although there are two more years till regular parliamentary elections in Bulgaria, many believe that their result will (mainly) depend on the forthcoming local election scheduled for 26 May 2019, which will take place along with the European Parliament elections. In about three months Bulgaria ¬– an important EU and NATO member – will not only get its new political structures but also set its geopolitical orientation. Therefore the forthcoming elections in Bulgaria will represent the litmus test for the country’s political future.

Regardless of whether the ruling conservative party GERB led by the incumbent Prime Minister Boyko Borissov remains in power or is succeeded by the left-wing opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), the country will remain a pro-Western oriented NATO member. The elections will decide only the degree of its pro-Western orientation: whether it will be ultrapro-Western like Poland, moderately pro-Western like Slovenia or rather neutral like Slovakia? Anyhow, none of the possible scenarios will take Bulgaria on the Hungarian path – the scenario which Europe fears the most.

GERB is losing power, but is still the strongest party

In the past few months Bulgarian ruling party GERB has undergone serious problems and scandals that have undermined its political rating. Fake Bulgarian (European) passports for Turkish and Macedonian citizens, corruption scandals, clashes among the ruling coalition and sharp criticism from Bulgarian President Rumen Radev represent only some of the problems faced by GERB.

The existing situation in the political scene may have serious implications for European Parliament election where the citizens (mostly) vote for the political party and not for individuals.

First surveys and forecasts have shown that GERB has only a slight advantage, which makes the forthcoming elections one of the most uncertain in Bulgaria.

However, Borissov’s GERB still has some strong trumps. If it loses the European Parliament election (which is highly unlikely), the incumbent Prime Minister has sound grounds to hope for a convincing victory at the local election which will be held at the same time.

Also in the past GERB and its leader Borissov built their power by gaining popularity in small cities and towns and devoted less attention to European Parliament elections.

Having performed hundreds of “small” projects for their citizens, Mayors of Varna, Burgas, Blagoevgrad, Stara Zagora, Plovdiv and even Sofia have practically secured themselves victories at next elections.

According to analysts’ estimates it would take a miracle for Borissov and GERB to be defeated in any of those Bulgarian key cities.

Moreover, GERB is known to enter the election race in Bulgarian rural areas with a head start.

That is why GERB and Borissov are expected to regain strong position in May 2019 elections, which will be an excellent starting point for the new victory at 2021 Parliamentary elections.

Bulgarian left-wing still anti-NATO sentiment

Korneliya Ninova leads Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) which is the largest opposition party in the country.

Ever since she gained the leadership on 8 May 2016 she has been m good political actions which have strengthened her rating at Borissov’s detriment. Increasing corruption among the ruling party and several scandals have only contributed to her rise.

Her greatest success so far has been the victory at November 2016 presidential election when Rumen Radev, who ran as an independent candidate with BSP’s support, defeated GERB’s candidate.

If Ninova continues with her current political rhetorics and dynamics in the next two years, she will gain sufficient political strength to become a serious candidate for winning the 2021 parliamentary elections.

However, there is a seemingly small problem, which may turn into a big obstacle. Namely, General Leonid Reshetnikov, the former high-ranked official and intelligence agent of Soviet secret service, has been regarded as the grey eminence of Bulgarian public scene for more than 30 years. It is believed that he controls several important media in the country and that his tentacles reach every pore of social life.

More and more often Korneliya Ninova is brought in connection with General Reshetnikov as his political ally, which may represent a recipe for defeat at the forthcoming elections. When the majority of Bulgarian media intensify the campaign in which Ninova is represented as a threat to the country’s pro-Western orientation, she will definitely lose the affection of domestic voters and the European states.

Ninova has already given grounds for that: she supported the defeated military pilot of the Warsaw Pact (who flew MIG-21 and MIG-29), showing a very restrained position towards NATO.

It should also be noted that President Rumen Radev blocked the procurement of American F-16 fighter jets for Bulgarian aviation. He has only recently authorised their procurement after having tried every other possible variant of F-16, such as the Swedish Gripen, the French Mirage and even the modernised Russian MIG-29. Moreover, under Radev’s command, Bulgarian soldiers participating in the official NATO exercise last year refused to shoot at targets marked with the Russian flag. Korneliya Ninova expressed no position on either of the two incidents, while her closest advisors and colleagues publicly or secretly supported President Radev and Bulgarian soldiers.

Another problem is the very influential chief of the President’s office Ivo Hristov. He has been marked as pro-French and anti-British, which is regarded in Bulgaria as pro-Russian orientation. His mere presence in the presidential palace in Sofia causes uneasiness, even though Hristov has not made any significant statements on this issue so far.

Nevertheless, all this may be mere speculation, coincidence or a cheap PR stunt by the ruling GERB against the opposition party.

The fact is that both Radev and Ninova always publicly declare their loyalty to the EU and NATO. Thus, no major changes are to be expected even if BSP takes over the government – Bulgaria will remain a loyal NATO and EU member.

Bulgaria will not become the new Hungary (which is a thorn in the West’s side) or the new Slovakia which has been increasingly promoting neutrality. However, it may become the new Slovenia which has principled positions towards every country, which is in fact not a bad position at all.

The key question: What will happen with Borissov’s political career?

Finally, we have come to the topmost political figure in Bulgaria for the past 15 years who is regarded by many as the knight saviour of Bulgaria – the incumbent Prime Minister Boyko Borissov.

Most of all he will be remembered by his feats from the period before he was Prime Minister: as the Secretary General of the Ministry of Interior he literally saved Bulgaria from the jaws of mafia. With his unconventional methods he dealt with organised crime which represented Bulgaria’s greatest evil. It should be noted that Borissov is the first Bulgarian politician since 1990 to win the fight against corruption, which enabled him to be elected as Mayor of Sofia and later as Prime Minister of Bulgaria.

Borissov was not only a “good cop”. He has also proven to be an excellent party leader and an excellent prime minister both in terms of internal and foreign affairs. Both the US and the EU, or more precisely their leaders do not hide the fact that they regard him as their best partner in the whole Balkans. A lot of credit for these achievements go to Borissov’s unofficial advisor, Bulgarian heir to the throne and former Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, who is believed by many to pull the strings in Bulgarian foreign politics, but since he pulls them towards the West this keeps satisfied both Brussels and Washington.

However, Borissov is not faultless – his circles have blemished his reputation. Long years in power have brought ever bigger deals and commissions. Certain individuals have become billionaires not only in Bulgaria but also at the regional level. Thus Borissov is considered to be involved in the deal concluded with the Czech energy company which took over the district heating system in Sofia. This turned into a classical Bulgarian story when his opponents and the media from Sofia claimed (without proof) that through that company Borissov was connected with Russian President Vladimir Putin and was blackmailed into doing certain favours for Kremlin.

Thus it is claimed that Borissov intentionally supported Tsetska Tsacheva as presidential candidate although she had the lowest rating and was regarded as the only possible competitor whom Rumen Radev would have been able to defeat.

Whether this is true or not is of no interest to anyone in Sofia and in Brussels. What is important is that the story has been launched and that Borissov is now burdened with suspicion in terms of corruption and his political actions, which has undermined his rating. As a result the Bulgarian public is no longer talking about Borissov as the election winner but about his political future.

The analysts who are familiar with Bulgarian political scene have envisaged three possible scenarios:

1. Borissov wins the May 2019 election and during the period until 2021 parliamentary election he ensures a peaceful transfer of power within his party (as Angela Merkel did in Germany), of course in collusion with the US and the EU. According to this scenario Borissov would be succeeded by the incumbent Minister of Finance Vladislav Goranov. Being a former student from London he will surely continue Bulgaria’s pro-Western orientation. This scenario also leaves the possibility for early parliamentary election in the second half of this year.

2. Borissov and GERB lose both local and European Parliament elections. In this case Borissov will clearly resign, but it is not sure whether Vladimir Goranov will be the only successor. Other potential candidates are Minister of Foreign Affairs Ekaterina Zakharieva, the incumbent Deputy Prime Minister Tomislav Donchev and former Minister of the Interior Rumyana Bachvarova who is also regarded as a highly influential person. An important role in this scenario will be played by Tsvetan Tsvetanov, who is one of the key officials and a highly trusted member of GERB. Whichever of the above candidates Tsvetanov chooses, they are all pro-Western and pro-British oriented.

3. Borissov refuses to give up the leadership of his party and of the state. Although not very probable, this scenario would be possible if the west (due to internal conflicts which have been aggravating since Donald Trump‘s election) supported different candidates for Borissov’s successor and failed to reach a common position on that issue. This scenario would be followed by a long and painstaking transition process, which – for Bulgaria’s sake – it would be better to avoid.

By Dejan Azeski

Lions Club Prague Bohemia Ambassador Charity event

In cooperation with Czech & Slovak Leaders

10 Must-Visit Wellness Destinations in 2019

Continuing the trend of health and fitness we’ve seen take over the world in 2018, this year should be even more imbued with wonderful visits to some of the finest wellness-focused destinations out there. After all, there will be even more spa centers, secluded wellness resorts, and glamping paired with natural treatments in various corners of the globe, just waiting for you to rediscover your inner Zen and soak yourself in the latest health-infused trends.

Now, the following destinations seem to have the greatest health potential for 2019, so make sure to add some of them to your list, and start booking those tickets as soon as possible for another year of wellness!

1. Find your hideout in Switzerland

The sheer view of the Alps alone is enough to heal your hustle-burdened soul. However, Swiss ingenuity doesn’t end at the striking views alone, on the contrary. With world-class hotels and resorts merely hours away from the main urban hotspots, you can take your pick among many wellness retreats this mountainous country has to offer.

Swim in the outdoor pool while the snow softly lands on your cheeks in the Alpina Gstaad, for example, and you’ll finally understand the unity of your mind, body, and soul, and your connection to Mother Nature.

2. Say hello to Bali

It’s no wonder so many yogis return to this slice of paradise year after year. In 2019, Bali remains the Indonesian epicenter of all things yogis love, and many a soothing retreat is to be organized on its very shores. You’ll find any and every yoga studio and spa to be as wonderful as the next one, so brace yourself for a peaceful escape in this tropical Eden on Earth.

3. Meet the Mediterranean in Italy

Who knew that the feisty Italian folk could reinvent the notion of relaxation and take it to a whole new level of pleasure? Well, it seems that the Mediterranean mood has a mind of its own, and their world-renowned Tuscany resorts such as Belmond Castello di Casole are sure to dazzle you into pure serenity.

4. Get lost in Hong Kong

This may be another surprise on the list, but the spirit of tranquil Asia prevails over the urban tempo that this region is known for. In fact, you’ll find that every professional spa salon in Hong Kong boasts the same impeccable level of peace and quiet you’d expect from a secluded spot in the mountains. It only takes a bit of digging to discover the ones that bring the best, most relaxing rituals of Asia to the nestled nooks of Hong Kong, and you’ll be all set.

5. Visit an Australian retreat

This list would be incomplete without a hop over to the Land Down Under, where they invented the idea of laid-back and relaxed. So, it makes sense to find some of the best hidden resorts precisely in Australia! Book a healthy detox holiday or an active escape in Byron Bay, and you will not be disappointed. Expect a wide array of water-based activities such as surfing, kayaking, and snorkeling, while their massages and guided meditations are also a must on your trip.

6. Enjoy the beauty of Thailand

No surprises here, as Thailand has always been the land of slowing down, discovering holistic treatments unlike any other, and exotic food to tease even the pickiest foodie’s palate. Cape Panwa’s Amatara Wellness Resort remains one of the most sought-after in the country, although every other on offer is as majestic as you can possibly imagine.

7. Explore the hidden nooks of Greece

The people-packed islands are not the only side of this life-loving country. In fact, it’s the hidden little getaways that make it so alluring to the luxury travelers of the world. The Peloponnese’s Euphoria Resort is one of those less-known locations with unparalleled spa treatments, and the setting of the entire resort is as enchanting as any other turquoise-laden sunny shore of Greece.

8. California’s best-kept secrets

The Golden State protects its reputation for fine dining, delightful wine, and extraordinary relaxation treatments with its many coastal retreats you can choose from. The only difficulty you’ll experience is selecting just one of many Californian spots known for truly divine wellness programs.

9. Find your Zen in Portugal

Another wine country filled with wonderful yoga escapes for the soulful, Portugal is literally brimming with destinations that will provide you with a slow-paced getaway of a lifetime. Combined with their truly unique cuisine, the backdrop of natural diversity, and a unique historic legacy, Portugal is indeed a destination on the rise for 2019, and its healthy holidays will only boost its reputation.

10. Book your getaway in Costa Rica

This Central American gem has always been the epitome of all things exotic and beautiful, and it remains one of the most popular destinations for nature-lovers. With its waterfall-laden rainforests and its mesmerizing coast, you can expect a pampering of a lifetime wherever you decide to stay in Costa Rica in 2019.


The world is chock-full of relaxing spots for you to explore, but these ten remain the most alluring ones thus far. Put them on your travel map for this year, and you’ll elevate your own perception of wellness and relaxation to a whole new level of perfection!


By Peter Minkoff

Peter is a lifestyle and travel writer at Men-Ual magazine, living between Ústí nad Labem and Antwerp. Follow Peter on Twitter for more tips.

Life Is Beautiful: Part XII.

Life Is Beautiful

Part XII: Live the Life You Want – Part II[1],[2]

The purpose of life is a life of purpose.”— Robert Byrne

James A. Cusumano, PhD; Chairman Chateau Mcely s.r.o. Prague, Czech Republic

In the last article in this series [3], I presented proven guidelines on how to “Live The Life You Want”. In this one, I share with you a means to accomplish this while simultaneously helping to make this troubled world a better place. What follows is based on what I have learned over the years from ancient wisdom thinkers of the East and from a number of modern-day philosophers.

The Source

Some years ago, I attended a lecture on consciousness by Deepak Chopra. It was inspiring and filled with valuable thoughts on how to make a positive difference in this world and at the same time live a life of fulfillment.

He pointed out there are two attributes over which we have absolute control, and which not only can create a more fulfilled life, but also help heal the world. Those attributes are living a life of love and gratitude practiced through the power of meditation.

Here I share the essence of his lecture and some additional thoughts to complement Deepak’s insights.

The Process

There’s a saying, “We are known by the company we keep”, and we tend to inherit the beliefs of those with whom we spend the most time. Their philosophies then become ingrained in our subconscious mind.

In fact, research clearly shows we function primarily with our subconscious mind (88 percent) which has been programmed by others conditioning [see Figure 1]. However, as human beings we have the unique ability to change this.

We can reprogram our subconscious by releasing negativity, interacting with likeminded conscious people, enjoying inspirational sights and sounds, engaging in uplifting activities and anchoring our intended desires and values within our subconscious through frequent practice of meditation. In this way we can develop new positive ways of living and begin to clear our subconscious of ideas, concepts and values that do not serve us well.

As discussed in the past, true transformation is brought about by two qualities inherent in human consciousness – Attention or focus and Intention, a clear vision of your desired outcome. Attention energizes this process and intention can make the desired transformation a reality. What we place our attention on expands in our lives and our intention for the object of our attention orchestrates the intelligent forces of the universe to support our desired result [See Figure 2].

Harnessing this power of attention and intention can change your life to reflect exactly what you envision. During meditation, entering into what is known in quantum physics as “the energy field of all possibilities” allows you to access and use your innate creative powers and change situations in your life to those that are more desirable.[4]

For instance, let’s say you live an hour’s drive from the sea and want to move closer to the shore. Then you might envision a three-bedroom home one block from the water’s edge with a vegetable garden and a lawn for your dog. Being specific helps crystallize the vision and imprints it not only in your mind, but also within the forces of the universe. When you go into meditation, look at your intention, enjoy its presence in your mind for a few minutes and then let it go. Surrender it to the “energy field of all possibilities” and allow the universe to work out the details.

A personal example – a few years ago, my wife, Inez and I decided that although we liked living in the Old Town of Prague, our daughter, Julia was becoming more and more involved with afterschool activities at the International School she attends. We made the decision that we would find and move to a home within easy walking distance to her school. We began by deciding what a perfect home would look like for us – a “fixer-upper” that Inez could renovate into something customized for our needs; a large garden with a swimming pool for Julia and her friends to play in and close proximity to the forest so that we could frequently and easily go for hikes in nature. Many people told us our expectations were unrealistic for the specific area we had chosen. We didn’t let this deter us from our goal. We began a frequent process of meditating on our dream home. A number of months later, we found it – exactly as we had envisioned it.

Whether you believe it or not, you possess the power to live a life filled with love, joy, health, compassion, friends, material possessions and whatever else you choose. As discussed elsewhere,[5] there are only two rules for success – your intentions should cause no harm to anyone, and second, in even the smallest way, it should make a positive contribution to this world. I encourage you to expect and accept this ultimate good and revel in the actuality of whatever you successfully manifest into your life.

Each morning you get out of bed, start the day with this thought –“Today, I embrace my potential to be, do and have whatever I can dream”– and whatever you do – please believe it!

The Power

The reality and source of all abundance is unlimited within the Intelligence of the universe. When properly accessed, mind, matter and consciousness work seamlessly hand-in-hand to manifest the abundance you seek into your life. In the “field of all possibilities”, I suggest you dwell on the seeds of success and live from within. Here your desires are fulfilled and often with minimal effort.[6]

Consider what some might consider a miracle, a coincidence or just plain good luck. Ask yourself, “How long does it take for a dream to come true – if at all?”In the minds of some, very specific conditions must be met, plans and strategies must be in place, a certain amount of time must pass and lots of effort usually is required.

However these requirements all spring from our three-dimensional five-sense world. In deeper levels of consciousness, what we call a dream, a miracle or a lucky coincidence can happen in a short period of time. Is a lucky coincidence something that happens to some, but not to others, or could it be that what we call “luck” is the result of focused attention and intention at a deeper level of consciousness?

Having your dreams fulfilled is not the result of luck. In fact, luck is a concept conjured up by those who have not yet discovered the incredible power of living in alignment with their Personal Consciousness and the infinite intelligence of the universe, namely Cosmic Consciousness.[7] Some might call the latter, God. While it is certainly spiritual in the sense that it is not a physical part of our three- dimensional world, it is not God as envisioned by any organized religion.

It’s becoming increasingly clear from advances in quantum physics that there is a cosmic framework and intelligence that permeates the universe – and that intelligence is within you. It can serve you through attention and intention when you quiet the “noise” of the world through the practice of meditation.

Once you realign with your Personal Consciousness, you will find that you can spontaneously fulfill your desires and enjoy what some call a miracle. There will never be a need to worry about when, or if your dreams will come true if you trust that they will through the practice of attention – intention – meditation.

Take a moment to envision an everyday “miracle” you would like to happen in your life. Consider your circumstances as they are now and how you’d like them to be. For instance, perhaps you work as an engineer, but have always wanted to express your artistic side. Paying attention to your body, notice how you feel when you think about your current circumstances and when you focus on your dream. Notice any feelings of comfort or discomfort, sadness or joy – they are telling you something. Your body is a wonderful tool to help align you with the power of your Personal Consciousness. Watching how it feels can help you to make creative choices that will bring you closer to what you desire.

Living Love

An Indian sage once said, “Life is love and love is life.” What keeps the body together but love? What is desire, but love of the self? And what is knowledge, but love of truth? The means and forms may be right or may be wrong, but the motive behind them is always love – love of the “me” and the “my,” or love of the “you” and the “yours”.

Love is the most powerful force in the universe. It can heal and inspire and bring us closer to the higher-self, i.e., Personal Consciousness. Love is an eternal never-ending gift to us and others. And when we truly experience it, we find our true selves – not our physical body, but that infinite, eternal piece of you called Personal Consciousness – your soul – if you want to call it that.
Like a tiny spark that ignites a blaze that consumes a vast forest, a spark of love is all it takes to experience its full force in all its splendor.

The practice of living love exemplifies the unlimited abundance of the universe. In ancient India the ecstasy of love was called Ananda, or bliss consciousness. The ancient wisdom seekers maintained that humans are meant to partake of this Ananda. Living our life with love for the benefit of ourselves, for others and for the world, helps us realize our true nature – Sat, Chit, Ananda – existence, consciousness, bliss.

Living from love helps heal the world and simultaneously attracts more goodness to you. Therefore, to experience true abundance in your life, live the love that you were created to be, the love that you are and watch your life flourish as you help the world in whatever way you choose. Practice living love by simply offering a kind word or thought to everyone you meet, recognizing it’s the greatest gift you can give to anyone.

Living Gratefully

Experiencing gratitude is one of the most effective ways of getting in touch with your Personal Consciousness. When you feel gratitude, your ego steps out of the way, enabling you to experience and enjoy compassion and understanding. Genuine gratitude is one of the most powerful ways to invite more happiness and fulfillment into your life. It is as if you are saying to Cosmic Consciousness, “Please give me more of this!” When you connect with gratitude you feel bliss for no reason. Simply being alive to gaze at the stars and appreciating the miracle of life itself brings you happiness.

To feel gratitude, sit in a quiet place, take 10 slow deep inhales and exhales and then consider all of the gifts you have in your life – nurturing, loving relationships, connections to very special beings, the miracle of your body, your fertile mind and material comforts. Appreciating your life in this manner sweeps away any thought of limitation and reminds you of the positive things that surround you. You realize that all of these things are gifts. If you want a little help with this, listen to the 6-minute video in the reference below.[8]

As you move into that place of gratitude, notice the warmth, love, compassion and sense of connection that enters your heart. This is called gratefulness which is synonymous with happiness [See Figure 3]. Find peace in knowing there is a plan moving you forward on both your physical and consciousness evolutionary journey. Find the seeds of goodness in every situation and embrace each moment of your life as an opportunity to evolve into a more loving and thankful being.

By giving thanks for all you have and committing to live a life of love and gratitude, abundance is certain to flow to you. That is the attractive power of love and gratitude.

Sat, Chit, Ananda!
Enjoy your journey, make a difference!


[1] EDITOR’S COMMENT— This is the tenth article in a series based on the author’s book, “Life Is Beautiful: 12 Universal Rules,”Waterfront Press, Cardiff California, 2015.

[2]  The author may be reached at Jim@ChateauMcely.Com.

[3]See CZECH & SLOVAK LEADERS Magazine, Volume IV, pp. 76 – 77, 2018.

[4] There is a direct and strong connection between consciousness and the laws of quantum physics. Over the years, most physicists steered clear of this connection, believing it shrouded in the realms of metaphysics and the paranormal. More recently, it’s become clear that new ad- vances in this field such as quantum computing and quantum cryptography will require taking this connection into account. See reference 6 for further details.

[5] James A. Cusumano, Life Is Beautiful: 12 Universal Rules, Waterfront Press, Cardiff, California, 2015.

[6] For the details of how all of this works, see James A. Cusumano, Cosmic Consciousness: Are we Truly Connected?, Fortuna Libri, Prague, 2011 (First Edition); Second updated edition presently in the publication process by Waterfront Press, Cardiff, California, 2019.

[7] Ibid.


[Figure 1] 

Most of your mind (88 %) functions in the subconscious. Only 12 % serves you in the conscious state.

[Figure 2] 

Attention and Intention in the state of Meditation are the most effective means to capture the power and intelligence of the universe and create the life you want – and simultane- ously help heal the world.

[Figure 3] 

It is not happy people, who are grateful, but grate- ful people, who are happy. Gratefulness always leads to long- term fulfillment and happiness.

2019 – the year of the robo?

Happy New Year! And what a year it may well turn out to be.

Despite the deluge of Regulations and Directives in 2018, I believe that it will be the next 12 months when we will see and feel the true effects of these.

In addition, will 2019 see the true rise of so-called robo advice?

As you are no doubt aware, there has been a great deal of interest and activity in the area of automated advice in recent times. Whilst originally seen as a major threat to the mainstream retail advice sector, the impact so far has been fairly minimal. This is no doubt due to many factors but I personally think that one of the major issues has been timing – those services that have launched are probably too early.

At this stage, one of the problems with fully automated advice is that the business models simply don’t work commercially. In the UK, for instance, the average client acquisition cost is in excess of £200 and with an average investment in the lower tens of thousands it is impossible to make any reasonable return. Figures released by Nutmeg not so long ago showed that, on average, clients needed to be with them for at least 10 years before profitability was reached!

This obviously puts the entire business model in doubt and, in particular, the ability to raise funds via Private Equity or Venture Capital, given that they usually require an exit strategy within 5 years.

However, business models are changing, not least in the UK, and advisory firms are increasingly gaining significant tangible assets that could be leveraged in order to offer a 5 year exit, which is highly likely to create serious interest from PE and VC operations.

Most people accept that, in the longer term, increasing numbers of younger generations will more easily and readily “buy online”, if this is linked to a more robust education programme the sector could have long term attraction. However, this is not likely to be seen in any significant sense for at least 10 years; not because of the technology but simply the time required for those generations to generate sufficient wealth to make the business model work.

The US has been operating automated advice models for some time and there has definitely been a move towards hybrid models, where advisers are integrated into the digital process at some point. This seems a far more sensible and viable approach, and offers both sectors – technology and advisory – significant growth possibilities. Currently it seems that these sectors operate in isolation and there is little co-ordinated cross-fertilisation. This is an area that offers scope for serious potential opportunities.

There is a well-publicised advice gap in the UK, with more potential clients than the industry is capable of catering to. Similar “gaps” exist elsewhere and are very likely to widen, as the UK’s did, with increased regulation. Anyone who can successfully bring the three key parties together – namely, “robo advice” firms, financial advisory businesses, PE/VC investors – could find that the future is very rosy. And help to narrow that gap for the benefit of all.

Will 2019 be the year when we start to see this happen…?

Paul Stanfield
Chief Executive at FEIFA / FECIF Secretary General

The Best Places to Travel in February

Winter is moving along, so if you haven’t dusted off the skis or taken advantage of the warm outerwear you’ve received as gifts or bought for yourself, it’s time to plan a trip to a snowy destination. Vail is not only a classic ski city with hills for all levels of skiers and lessons for those who need to refresh their skills, but it’s a charming town with lots going on. Events there in February promise to be exciting and fun, even (and maybe especially) for spectators. On the East Coast, there’s Burlington, Vermont on Lake Champlain’s shores with a choice of local ski resorts. About four hours north, Quebec will be celebrating Winter Carnival with a variety of cold weather activities and the ice hotel will make its annual three-month appearance.

If you’re getting chills just thinking about sleeping on a slab of ice, let’s shift to warmer destinations. The Exumas, part of the Bahamas, will have toasty temperatures and sunny skies. The Maldives, another island locale with sandy beaches, balmy breezes, and warm water, is known for superb diving and snorkeling among its coral reefs. Closer to home for most, Fort Lauderdale will have mild weather and much to do in the midst of Florida’s tourist season.

For celebrations, there’s Hong Kong’s Lunar New Year festivities, as they welcome the Year of the Pig with parades, fireworks, and traditional events. For one of the world’s most exciting pre-Lenten carnivals, Tenerife will astound with at least two weeks of merrymaking. For visitors who might enjoy some quiet moments between parties, there are miles of stunning beaches for relaxation.

A trip to Italy is always a pleasure, and the small city of Verona would please romantic travelers, and anyone who enjoys delicious food, historic buildings, and Italian wines. Speaking of wine, we also present South Africa in February — warm, fun, and home to hundreds of premium wineries set in gorgeous landscapes. Albuquerque, New Mexico should be on travelers’ lists of destinations to explore, with its pleasant February weather, opportunities to enjoy the outdoors, ride in a hot air balloon over gorgeous mountains, and learn about the native cultures of this historic area.

Think about a February getaway to one of these spots or get inspired by the suggestion of a winter trip, either to escape the cold or get right into it. Spring is coming soon upon the heels of this short month.

Verona, Italy

Set on the Adige River in Italy’s Veneto region, about an hour’s train ride west of Venice, Verona is a picturesque medieval city. Valentines seeking to celebrate the February holiday in a romantic locale might consider this city where Shakespeare’s ill-fated lovers, Romeo and Juliet, met and professed their love. The famous balcony and bronze statue of Juliet at the Casa di Giulietta deserve at least a brief visit if only for a photo and perhaps to leave initials or a padlock on the lovers’ wall. The building was featured in the 2010 film “Letters to Juliet” and in Zeffirelli’s 1968 “Romeo and Juliet.” From there, visitors will want to explore the 1st-century Roman amphitheater, setting for the summer opera festival and open year-round. A glass of prosecco or cocktail at a café on the expansive Piazza Bra would provide time to relax and do some people watching. Once the town’s forum during Roman Times, the Piazza delle Erbe is another inviting locale with views of beautifully preserved baroque buildings, and the Torre del Gardello clock tower. For a spectacular view of the river and the city, take the funicular or hike to the hilltop Piazzale Castel San Pietro. If time allows, a side trip to Venice or to nearby Lake Garda would be a convenient and memorable addition to a romantic vacation.

Vail, Colorado

Home of the Vail Ski Resort, one of the country’s largest and most popular, Vail is located in the Rocky Mountains about 100 miles west of Denver and 30 miles east of Eagle, Colorado. A variety of terrain, generous snowfall, mountain views, and an inviting European-style town with heated cobblestone streets combine to make Vail a beloved ski destination. One of the first resorts to welcome snowboarders, Vail is home to the annual Burton U.S. Open Snowboarding Championship, to be held Feb. 25-March 2, 2019. The schedule also includes four nights of free musical performances, late night shows, parties, and other events. Vail Legacy Days, a four-day celebration of the town’s history, will be held from Feb. 15-18, beginning with the Mountain Parade. Vail Village offers a variety of dining spots from casual to upscale, art galleries, and hundreds of shops and boutiques. Lodging at all levels is also available, including ski in/ski out hotels, B&Bs, resorts, and condo rentals. Vail’s first hotel, The Lodge at Vail, located just steps away from the new Gondola One, has been renovated while maintaining its historic alpine chalet style. The Vail Marriott Mountain Resort is another option for a luxurious place to spend the night after a day on the slopes.

Read more.

CzechImage Exhibition Opening

CzechImage exhibition opening took place at Czech Centres Gallery in Rytířská 31, on 10th of December, 2018. The topic of CzechImage was first introduced in January when students of Ladislav Sutnar Faculty of Art and Design have been asked to reflect on their homeland. The exhibition features students’ works from ten countries – Spain, Germany, Austria, Sweden, Poland, Hungary, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Romania and Japan. Part of the exhibition is dedicated to reminiscence of the Ladislav Sutner Faculty of Art and Design.

Are businessmen from Central Europe afraid to cooperate with their Chinese business colleagues?

Dr. Eva Gáboríková, M.A., PhD.

As a cross-cultural consultant and trainer Eva supports international companies in Europe, Asia and USA to establish an effective intercultural communication and cooperation at all management levels, on production sites and in multicultural teams.
Eva encourages leaders to introduce their global visions and strategies, team leaders to implement cross-cultural projects and build new corporate culture.
Based on her experience, she shares case studies and recommendations to inspire managers in their cross-cultural development. Only those who understand how culture shapes our business perceptions and behaviours can be successful on global markets!

“They say “yes” but don’t keep the agreement.” or “When we meet, we do not discuss business.”These and many other sentences I can hear very often when my clients talk about their Chinese business colleagues. They realize that Chinese companies and their representatives are important business partners. Only some, however, invest their time into cross-cultural training.

Let’s have a look at the key areas which have a decisive impact on cross-cultural cooperation with Chinese business colleagues and partners.

To build or not to build relationships? The countries of Central Europe belong among the cultures which need relationships to cooperate with their colleagues, friends and business partners. They start with small talk to build a bridge and open a gate to business negotiations and cooperation. However, they do not expect a long discussion or require several meetings. After a few sentences they get down to business and relationships are being developed as business is conducted or a task is going to be accomplished.

When we compare Central European countries with China, we could see that dimension of relationships building has a distinctly different meaning.

An essential important factor in making a good impression with Chinese nationals is to build relationships and cultivate networks carefully (in Chinese: “guanxi”). Building a friendship has to come before business is done – trust and mutual respect are essential – and this complex and intricate networking system governs all business deals. Some may complain that this takes too much time, but we must understand that it contributes directly to business success. We can equate it to collecting poker chips… the more we collect by accepting hospitality, attending banquets and drinking sessions, offering and receiving small gifts, exchanging favours… the more we have in our hand to “play” with when the need arises.

Honour is probably the most important part of the Chinese psyche, roughly translated in Chinese as “mianzi”. Saving, giving and receiving face is critical to the Chinese culture, the importance of which tends to be lost on typical Western cultures (though you will find something similar in Arabic cultures). It’s the social perception of a person’s prestige and honour – and the critical importance of nurturing that for business success. Causing someone to lose face will result in a loss of trust in the relationship. Having face means maintaining high status in the eyes of one’s peers and is a mark of personal dignity. Face must be gained and maintained in all aspects of both social and business life and it can be given, lost, taken away or earned. Causing someone to lose face by insulting them, belittling them, or even simply directly pointing out an error is considered to be a very serious gaffe.

The cultures of Central Europe are also described as indirect and non-confrontational when they deliver feedback or feel that there is some conflict in a team. They do not openly approach a problem but their behaviour, seeming indifference and avoidance signal that something is wrong. They do not have any special word to describe it but they expect direct cultures “not to be rude” and to avoid open criticism. However, when they are on the stage with their Chinese colleagues, they are lost. Their own filters do not work and are not sure how to conduct a professional discussion, agree on the terms of delivery or provide feedback. It seems to them that their Chinese colleagues don’t listen or react to their words.

In China, one must respect social, professional, and political hierarchy at all times. This is a Confucius concept dating back thousands of years, so it’s certainly not up to other cultures to try and change it, whether we agree with it or not. In Chinese companies, decisions are made from the top and you may find information-sharing is frustratingly limited based on rank and status. Respect for hierarchy takes precedence over the business interests, because once you lose the trust your professional relationship may never recover.

Where could be traced the origin of hierarchy in Central European cultures? People are sometimes surprised to learn that their current private and business behaviour also goes back several hundreds of years. The Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary were a part of Austrian Hungarian monarchy where noble titles and status determined behaviour and rights of people. Therefore, they respect the status of their boss, use university degrees on their business cards and do not overcome the frontiers of their competencies. However, when they face Chinese hierarchy, they comment it as “too much”.

As a rule, Chinese nationals prefer not to communicate directly, but rather tend to politely infer and allow others to make the same inferences, which eventually brings everyone to a common understanding. Aside from being quite modest the Chinese tend to avoid conflict and confrontation, since harmony in their culture is precious and essential. Praise is always more constructive than criticism, so we must be tactful with words we chose, especially when delivering what we perceive to be “constructive criticism”. “This report is crap” can often be perceived as “you are crap” – clearly not the way to go to make friends and influence people. You will find that a typical Chinese national may hedge the answers to questions if they know the listener won’t like the answer. Frankness is generally not appreciated by the Chinese and direct questioning is seen as rude. Politeness is more important than frankness, so they typically won’t say “no” directly – even when they, in fact, clearly mean“no”. Negative answers are to be avoided, as they can cause loss of face – the importance of which we’ve explored above.

Germans and Dutch businessmen as representatives of direct cultures often struggle with an indirect communication style of their colleagues from Central Europe. The Czechs, Slovaks and Hungarians are quite direct when they discuss business procedures and projects. However, when there is time for feedback or an open clarification of disagreement, they switch their communication style to an indirect one and prefer to use statements “ I’m not sure.” or “Maybe.”

When roles change and they should negotiate or cooperate with their Chinese partners, they are suddenly “those” who are rude and impolite. Their feedback is direct, they deliver an open criticism and are impatient discussing alternatives.

While Western thought tends to be dominated by linear logic (for example, A+B=C), Chinese thinking allows for much more flexibility. The Chinese may start with A, jump to F, spend some time with B, have cocktails with K, and then eventually bring it on home to C. Chinese thinking is influenced by early philosophers, who saw a paradoxical balance of opposites in all things. While Westerners tend to look for clear, black and white alternatives (Option 1 instead of option 2), the Chinese may examine ways to combine both options in the interest of maintaining harmony and nurturing trust and good will. This is evidenced in so many examples in both professional and personal life. Signing a contract with a Chinese partner doesn’t necessarily mean negotiations are over; with changing circumstances, your partner may wish to alter the signed agreement, and this is seen as a perfectly acceptable and wise state of evolving affairs.

Flexibility is valued in Central Europe. However, it should be connected with the agenda, deadlines and contracts. Being in touch with Austrians and Germans for several centuries, Czechs, Slovaks and Hungarians belong among linear and monochronic cultures. Once they agree on some deadline or contract conditions, they expect everybody to follow it strictly. They spend a lot of time on precise wordings and usually check the exact meaning of words used in agreements and contracts.

Every game has rules which we should know to be able to play it. The same is true for cultures. To understand and cooperate with our colleagues we should know their values and norms of behaviour. Once we know them, we can start to play. We should, however, be open-minded and rethink our strategy after each step. The purpose of a cultural game is not to win but to have fun, be happy, creative and move forward common projects and tasks.

Helen Bannigan owns a global communications company that specializes in providing marketing and PR services for sustainable businesses around the world. She guides executives on establishing credibility and visibility in multi-cultural environments, including the US, Europe and Asia, giving workshops and talks in English, Italian and French. You can reach her at or

Eva Gaborikova is an intercultural consultant and certified ICF leadership coach supporting leaders and multicultural teams all over the world. She supports international companies in Central Europe and their HR managers to build talent development trainings. You can reach her at: or www.

By Dr. Eva Gaborikova, M.A., PhD. and Helen Bannigan

Looking Ahead to 2019


The main transformative trends in 2018 that will affect next year will concern at least the following three different global and interconnected sectors: Economic & Financial Area; Security; Dismantling of the Old World Order.

Economic & Financial Area

Regarding the economic and financial area, it will be necessary to monitor the growing importance of advanced technologies and their applications in the production cycles of the most industrial nations. In the next year, we will face a sort of rationalization of these production processes that will profoundly change the evolution of the current social equilibrium within nations and also the relations between states and large financial organizations. According to some analytical studies, a third of US workforce (about 50 million people) could be transformed by 2020. Furthermore, we will witness the explosion of new markets based on the technological needs of the elderly and the disabled people. We will also face the increase of cryptocurrencies. The knowledge and management of new technologies – ICT, AI, blockchain. 3D printing mainly – will constitute the challenge of the next decade between the major world powers and the main investment groups.


The impact of the advanced technologies on geostrategic decisions will increase. The new technologies will contribute to impressing, in 2019, a decisive turning point in what we can define henceforth as a new global revolution in military affairs. The military-industrial-financial complexes of the major world powers will undergo a complete transformation starting from 2019.

Dismantling of the Old World Order

Another important trend that will affect the global level concerns the dismantling of the old world order based on the criteria of multilateralism. In 2019, we will witness the weakening of large global organizations such as the UN and the reorganization of multilateral consultations regarding international trade, climate issues and regulations on the use of new technologies. This will happen for two main reasons. The first is due to the growing presence and importance of global players of nations like China, Russia, and India, who obviously try to implement their 360 degree spheres of influence, even outside the old institutions born in the so-called bipolar era, when the destinies of the world were substantially decided in Moscow and Washington. The second reason is due to the putting into practice of the “Trump Doctrine,” which, over the past two years, has placed a particularly bilateral strategy on U.S. foreign policy, upsetting the old equilibria.


European Union

A very important transformative trend will concern the European Union. 2018 has been a very critical year for the EU, both on the economic level, but above all on the political and social ones. 2019 will be a year in which the fate of the “European Common House” will be decided. As a consequence of the neopopulist waves and the so-called sovereignist ones that marked the social and political life of the Europeans during 2017-2018, most likely, the elections for the renewal of the European Parliament will reward the anti-European parties. 2019 will therefore be a very unstable year for the economy and politics of the European Union.

Regarding Europe’s role at global level, we have to consider that the contentious relations between the U.S. and China as well as with Russia will impact the European Union in 2019.

For different and divergent aspects, the U.S., Russia, and China have an interest in weakening the European Union.

For the U.S., with Europe in the grip of a political, economic, and financial identity crisis, this situation would allow Washington to “manage” the U.S. economic recovery, especially now that the traditional British ally, thanks to Brexit, is released from the obligations that tied it to Brussels. Moreover, at a geostrategic level, the continuing European crisis allows the U.S. to gain time in making costly decisions and responsibilities in financial terms in the theatres of North Africa and the Middle East.

For Russia, the issue is more delicate and problematic. A weak European Union, according to the Kremlin, would be more malleable in relation to the Ukrainian issue and the sanctions regime that has influenced the Russian economy since 2014. But this could be true, for the short term. In fact, a European Union weakened in the medium and long term would be at the mercy of the strategic interests of the U.S., since the EU is the eastern periphery of the U.S. geopolitical system, built at the end of the Second World War. Ultimately, in the absence of a political EU, the true European “glue” would consist only of NATO’s military-diplomatic device: something that Moscow certainly should not wish.

A fragmented Europe, unable to have a coherent and unitary policy of infrastructural development, does not realistically have the useful force to negotiate – on the basis of equal geopolitical dignity – with China on the great project of the New Silk Road. For this reason, at the moment, a weak Europe is convenient for China. For Beijing it is easier and cheaper to negotiate with individual EU countries and, in some cases, even with regional administrations. Moreover, the absence of a truly European foreign policy allows China to operate in Africa without real competitors, apart from the U.S. and Russia.


The main geopolitical challenges in Asia will concern relations between the U.S., Japan, and China. Tokyo, although in line with U.S. policies, could be a point of mediation between the different positions of Washington and Beijing.

On the geostrategic level, Washington will have to follow up on the initiatives launched in 2018 with Pyongyang for a complete normalization of relations. It will be a bumpy route, because the conflicting interests of the U.S. and the People’s Republic of China remain in the background of the North Korean issue.

Another very controversial issue about the relations between the U.S. and China will concern Tibet. In particular, in the first months of 2019 Beijing and Washington will have to find a mediation in reference to the effects of the “Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act” (signed by President Trump at the end of 2018) that promotes the access to Tibet of U.S. diplomats, journalists and citizens and denies U.S. visas to Chinese officials considered responsible for blocking access to Tibet.

Another issue that will have considerable geopolitical impacts at regional and global levels is related to the Chinese project of the New Silk Road. Beijing – in order to achieve its objectives – will consolidate its relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Russian Federation.

U.S.-China trade tensions impact

During 2018, the Trump administration has conducted a real trade war against China. In the next year this war will be in a certain way perfected. We have already had warnings of such kind: the arrest of Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer and daughter of founder of high-tech giant Huawei, constitutes an example of the escalation of the U.S.-China tensions. The tensions between the U.S. and China are not just commercial, but strategic. The U.S. and China compete for technological supremacy. This strategic confrontation will affect the entire global system, impacting the worldwide financial system and determining choices of field between the various countries of the globe.

North Africa, Near and Middle East

In North Africa (particularly in Libya), Moscow’s stabilizing function is destined to grow in importance.

In 2019, we will witness a rearrangement of forces within the quadrants of the Near and Middle East. Despite the Kashoggi affair, the United States will strengthen its ties with Saudi Arabia and will target the new Israeli government to counter Iran’s presence.

The geopolitical and strategic dynamics concerning the area, however, will be affect by the increasing influence of the Russian Federation, Iran and Turkey in the course of the next year.

Central and South America

Although the US has regained some positions in South America, the Chinese presence and, partially also the Russian one, in the area will produce effects on the hegemonic attempt of the Trump Administration. The issue of migration is destined to play an increasing crucial role in Trump’s Central American policy.

An early version of the text appeared with The Diplomat magazine (interview with Kuo Mercy)

Tiberio Graziani
Vision & Global Trends
International Institute for Global Analyses

8 Dream Trips to Take in 2019 — and Exactly How Much You Need to Save for Them

Glamp by the Grand Canyon

Exploring one of our most sought-after landmarks is a great bucket-list trip that doesn’t require an international flight. Travelers from all over the world flock to the Grand Canyon, so if you can make it happen with one direct, domestic flight, why not save up for that? For Grand Canyon glamping, Under Canvas has chic elevated tents that are just 25 minutes from the South Rim. (And that’s a lot closer than most Airbnbs or hotels will get you to the park.) Their luxury tents sleep four and start at $199 a night, which means you could go with three other travelers and spend $50 a night. You can find flights from New York City to Las Vegas starting at $150 round-trip. Add on a car rental for about $300, entry to the park for $30, and a $300 food budget, and you’d need to save at least $980 for four nights.

Hang With Elephants in Bali

For an unforgettable travel experience, head to Ubud, Bali, where Mason Elephant Adventures is caring for 31 critically endangered Sumatran elephants. This isn’t just an elephant ride, it’s a “dedicated elephant rescue facility” where you’ll learn about the elephants and help bathe them. If you are able to ride them, you’ll sit on light teakwood seats that specifically don’t upset the elephants’ backs — the ride is actually meant to help them get the exercise their bodies need. General admission is around $70. Accommodations are extremely well-priced in Bali — I spent a few nights at a $38 a night Bamboo Treehouse Airbnb. As for flight deals, you can frequently find $600 round-trip flights to Bali if you set the right price alerts. For your flight, a week of lodging, food and drink, and a day with the elephants, you’d want to save at least $1,500.

Explore the Rio de Janeiro Art Scene

To get a feel for the Brazilian arts, you’ll need to take in the galleries, the street art, and the Ipanema Hippie Fair in Rio. Start at contemporary art gallery Artur Fidalgo before taking to the streets in search of native artist Joana Cesar’s work. Finally, visit Ipanema Hippie Fair, a massive craft fair that’s gone up every Sunday since the 1960s, where you’ll find local artisans selling jewelry, paintings, rugs, and leather goods. Seek out UNICEF Market artisans like Tacy, who sells leather handbags, and Ney Cardoso, who sells original canvas paintings. For your Rio art tour, you’ll want to budget about $1,000 for your round-trip flight, an additional $1,000 for a few days of lodging and Brazilian eats, and $100 for gallery entrance fees (most charge a reasonable price for admission). If possible, you may also want to put some savings aside for a piece of art you fall for while in Rio.

Try a Yoga Retreat in Latin America

Latin America has an up-and-coming yoga scene that is relaxing and tropical, but easier to get to than a retreat in India. If you’re interested in a spiritual solo escape that won’t break the bank, find a yoga studio that has lodging on the premises. Om Shanti Belize has cottages for as little as $90 a night, and the property has two pools, a spa/retreat center, and daily yoga classes. Tulum is becoming a yoga retreat hotspot; Maya Tulum Resorthosts at least one retreat a month, where participants can work on their practice by the ocean for a week. Prices vary, but their March retreat with Suddha Weixler is $2,060 and includes lodging, all meals, twice daily yoga, and morning meditation for seven days. For the plane tickets, plan to save about $400 round-trip from the East Coast to the Riviera Maya or Belize.

See the Monarch Butterfly Migration in Mexico

You have to make it all the way to the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve to see the butterfly masses cloud the Mexico skies, but it’s well worth it. Best seen in January or February during the early afternoon, you’ll have to travel about two hours outside Mexico City for the spectacle. Nathab, a partner of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), conducts six-day tours to the Sierra Madre Mountains, which gives you three opportunities to see the butterflies and lets you experience authentic Mexican village culture firsthand. Nathab’s six-day expeditions, which include nice lodging and delicious, home-cooked meals, are about $3,395. You’ll want to save an additional $300 for flights to Mexico City as well.

See the rest of the article by Maya Kachroo-Levine here.

Opening of Hana Alisa Omer Exhibition

The opening of an exhibition by Hana Alisa Omer called “A Paradigm Jump” took place December 10th 2018 at Hala C Gallery. The exhibition shows charming images of Prague.

Christmas SKAL Gala Dinner

Photos from Christmas SKAL Gala Dinner held 14.12.2018 at the Grand Hotel Bohemia Prague.

Twinning Europe and Asia in Cyberspace

(the EU Legislation and its transformative power)

While our troposphere is dangerously polluted, one other space – that of intangible world, created by the interconnected technology – follows the same pattern: a cyberspace. Additionally, our cyberspace becomes increasingly brutalised by its rapid monetisation and weaponisation. It mainly occurs through privacy erosion. How to protect effectively individuals and their fundamental human rights, and how to exercise a right for dignity and privacy?

The EU now offers a model legislation to its Member States, and by its transformative power (spillover) to the similar supranational projects elsewhere (particularly ASEAN, but also the AU, OAS, SCO, SAARC, LAS, etc.), and the rest of world.

Technology of today serves not only a Weberian predictability imperative – to further rationalise society. It makes society less safe and its individuals less free.

Prevention of the personal information misuse is the main reason the EU introduced the new set of provisions, as of May 2018. Hence, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is an ambitious attempt to further regulate digital technology, especially in respect to the private data protection. It is of course in conformity with provisions of both the Universal and the European Charter of Human Rights.

The intention of legislator behind the GDPR is twofold: to regulate domestically as well as to inspire and galvanise internationally.


For the rest of the world, the GDPR should be predictive and eventually obligational.
It is obvious that the stipulations of the GDPR would serve well interests of Republic of Indonesia (RI). That is actually in line with a very spirit of the 1945 Constitution, which obliges the state to protect, educate and prosper the Indonesian people. This supreme state act clearly proclaims that the respecting individual personal data is resting upon the two principles of the Pancasila. Namely these of; Fair and Civilized Humanity. Mutual grant and observance of everyone’s elementary rights is an essence of freedom and overall advancement of society.

The government, with the mandate of its authority to protect the public (public trust doctrine), must manage the personal data fairly and accountably. The GDPR also encourages the formation of an independent personal data protection supervisory institution so that it can correct the policies and rules of the bureaucracy and state administration to act accordingly in managing the personal data of the population. Moreover, every democratic government should be more proactive in protecting society when comes to the management of the personal data of its residents.

When comes to the Right to be Forgotten (Right for Privacy and Right for Dignity), Indonesia must see it as a principle of real protection that is in the best interests of data owners. Further on, such a right should be strengthened by the principle of ‘without undue delay’, as to avoid the administrative obligation to request a court decision to uphold the right. On a long run, it will surely benefit businesses far more than the personal data originators themselves.


Regarding security, Indonesia must immediately have a clear policy on Cryptography to protect personal data. Cryptography is a double-use process; it can be utilised for civilian purposes, but it can also be used for the vital national interests, such as defense and security. Therefore, privacy and cybersecurity protection is a complementary concept of protection. Holistic approach strengthens the both rights of individuals as well as protection of national interests, rather than it ever conflicts one over the other.

Finally, the ASEAN Declaration of Human Rights in its article 21 stipulates that the protection of personal data is elementary part of Privacy. As one of the founding members, a country that even hosts the Organisation’s HQ, Indonesia must observe the notions of this Human Rights Charter. That is the additional reason why RI has to lead by example.

The EU’s GDPR clearly encourages a paradigm shift within the public services and government administration services on national, subnational and supranational level for all the ASEAN member states.

Indonesia and ASEAN can take a lot of learning from the dynamics of the EU’s regulation of GDPR and e-IDAS as to its own benefit – to foster its own security and to elevate a trust in regional e-commerce within the ASEAN economic zone. Since the ASEAN (if combined) is the 4th largest world economy, this is a call of future that already starts now. After all the EU and ASEAN – each from its side of Eurasia – are twin grand projects of necessity, passion and vision.

Naturally, for anyone outside, Indonesia and ASEAN are already seen as the world’s e-commerce hub, of pivotal importance far beyond the Asia-Pacific theatre.

Vienna/Jakarta 28 DEC 2018


About the authors:

Prof. Melda Kamil Ariadno (SH, LLM, PhD) is a Professor of International Law at the Faculty of Law Universitas Indonesia, Jakarta. She is currently the Dean of the Faculty of Law Universitas Indonesia and the Head of Center for Sustainable Ocean Policy. She obtained her bachelor’s degree from Universitas Indonesia in 1992. Then, she received both her LL.M. and Ph.D. from the University of Washington in 1995 and 2011, respectively.

She has served as legal expert for several governmental bodies among others the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries.

Prof. Anis H Bajrektarevic is chairperson and professor in international law and global political studies, Vienna, Austria. He has authored six books (for American and European publishers) and numerous articles on, mainly, geopolitics energy and technology. For the past decades, he has over 1,200 hours of teaching on the subject International Law. Two of his books are related to cyber space, cyber law and cyber wrongdoings.

Professor is editor of the NY-based GHIR (Geopolitics, History and Intl. Relations) journal, and editorial board member of several similar specialized magazines on three continents.
His 7th book is to be realised in New York in December.

Pilots and Flight Attendants Reveal 15 Secrets You Never Knew About Flying

Whether you get on a plane once a year or once a week, there are probably still a few things you don’t know about flying.

From weird safety features to what happens if someone dies on a plane, there are plenty of hidden aspects to life amongst the clouds.

Here are a few secrets you never know about taking to the skies, according to flight attendants, pilots, and industry experts.

1. That emergency oxygen mask only lasts about 15 minutes.

In what probably sounds like a terrifying revelation, the drop-down emergency oxygen masks on the plane are usually only equipped to pump out oxygen for about 12 to 15 minutes, according to HuffPost.

But don’t freak out. It normally takes a pilot far less time to drop the plane to a safe altitude than it does for those masks to run dry of oxygen.

The important thing is to get your mask on over your nose and mouth as soon as you can, as you risk passing out just 30 seconds after cabin pressure drops to unsafe levels.

2. The chimes you hear during a flight are actually a secret code.

Though they’re not usually conveying anything too exciting. According to a blog post by Quantas Airlines, flight crew usually use a system of chimes and bells to communicate across the cabin. These chime-messages could be about anything from the number of remaining snacks to turbulence detected on the flight path. On rarer occasions, the chimes could be a signal from the cockpit conveying an emergency or change of route.

3. It’s technically impossible to die on a flight.

Although flight crew are trained in basic first aid and some are even qualified to perform resuscitation, most flights do not have any staff members on board who are qualified to declare a time of death.

This means that there is technically no such thing as a mid-flight death in the legal sense, as individuals will only be declared dead upon landing, according to the BBC.

4. But if someone does die, they’ll likely be left in their seat.

If someone does die on a flight, most planes don’t have a special area where the body will be kept until landing.

In the vast majority of cases, the deceased passenger will be strapped back into their designated seat if there isn’t an empty row in which to lay the body down, according to the BBC. The passenger will usually be covered with a blanket.

5. Airplane lavatories can unlock from the outside.

Airplane bathrooms only give you the illusion of privacy. You can actually unlock the doors from the outside via an external lock mechanism, which is usually hidden beneath the “no smoking” sign on the door, according to LifeHacker.

Though it might seem odd, the lavatories unlock from the outside for safety reasons.

6. You basically should never touch the water on a plane.

Even if you’re not a germaphobe, you might want to think twice about ordering tea or coffee on a plane.

According to testing conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2004 and 2012, the drinking water on more than one out of every 10 planes tested positive for “high” levels of coliform, which are potentially harmful bacteria found in human feces.

Though coliform by itself is not a serious hazard, it usually signals the presence of other dangerous microorganisms like E. coli.

While the EPA now requires planes to have their water supply tested once a year, most flight attendants will tell you to avoid the onboard water supply at all costs.

7. Dimming the lights is meant to prepare your eyes for a potential evacuation.

No, the crew isn’t trying to lull you to sleep when they dim the lights for takeoff. Turning down the interior lights is actually done so that passengers’ eyes are already adjusted to the darkness, just in case something goes wrong during takeoff or landing, according to Conde Nast Traveler.

8. Flight attendants don’t get paid until the plane doors close.

Flight attendants who earn an hourly wage don’t actually start getting paid until the aircraft doors close. Similarly, they stop getting paid after the doors open, according to The Points Guy.

That’s right — all that time flight attendants spend getting the plane ready, boarding passengers, doing safety inspections, and getting everyone off the plane is unpaid.

Many European airlines use a salary system for compensating their flight attendants, and most crew members on both sides of the pond receive a tax-free allowance to help them cover expenses like food during their layovers.

9. You can actually ask for a whole can of soda.

Some airlines serve soda and juice by pouring a portion of a normal can into a smaller plastic cup. But most of the time, you can actually just request the entire can, according to HuffPost. Nine times of out 10, they’ll happily oblige you for no extra cost.

10. A plane captain has some serious authority.

Federal regulations give the PIC, or “pilot in command,” pretty much unlimited authority while the plane doors are closed, according to Think Aviation.

A PIC can put a passenger in restraints, take a will, write fines, and refuse entry to a passenger who looks sick. A PIC is the ultimate authority on an airplane — what they say goes.

11. Your boarding pass has a lot of hidden information.

Much of the text on your boarding pass probably doesn’t make a lot of sense to you at first glance, but it actually includes a wealth of interesting — and potentially sensitive information.

The first two letters before the flight number refer to the airline. The numerical portion of your flight number is actually a clue as to what direction you’ll be flying in — odd-numbered flights fly south while even numbers fly west, according to Gizmodo.

Meanwhile, the six-character segment of text on your boarding pass is your booking reference or passenger name record. This little code actually can be used online to look up everything from your destination to your age and credit card information.

12. The tray tables are the dirtiest things on an airplane.

The tray table at your plane seat is probably one of the dirtiest things on your flight. They’re only cleaned “about once a day, usually when the aircraft RONs (remains overnight,” active flight attendant Sara Keagle told HuffPost.

Flight attendants recommend bringing sanitizing wipes with you to wipe down your space, as passengers do everything from drool to change dirty diapers on those tables.

Sometimes too much knowledge can be terrifying.

13. Flight crew don’t really party on layovers.

Federal regulations prohibit flight crew from drinking with eight hours of a flight, and airline rules are usually even stricter. Most flight crew members simply grab some food and hit the sheets after clocking off, as the penalties for being caught drunk or even hungover on the job are severe.

“You can arrive for a flight and someone is there to give you a Breathalyzer or drug test,” Shawn Kathleen says. “Nobody f—- around with that,” former flight attendant Shawn Kathleen told the New York Post.

14. Your flight attendant could probably deliver your baby.

Flight attendants aren’t just waiters in the sky — they have some serious credentials. Training to be a flight attendant involves a host of technical and safety know-how.

As flight attendant Carrie A. Trey told The Points Guy, “practical tests can include learning how to put out fires via simulators, diagnosing various conditions, splinting broken limbs, stopping nosebleeds, administering CPR, and yes, even baby delivery.”

15. Some flight attendant programs are harder to get into than Ivy League schools.

Most people don’t realize how difficult it is to become a flight attendant.

Delta Airlines’ flight attendant training program is notoriously difficult to qualify for. In 2016, only 1% of the 150,000 applicants to Delta’s program were accepted. In comparison, Harvard University’s 2016 acceptance rate was 5.2%

See more.

14th Prague Security Conference – Czechia and Europe 100+

On November 16, 2018 the House for Professed hosted 14th Prague Security Conference. Traditionally organized by the Center for Security Policy (Institute of Political Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Charles University), in cooperation with the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, the conference attracted more than two hundred participants.

The 50 Best Places to Travel in 2019

Ask the Travel + Leisure staff where we want to travel in 2019, and most of us will answer, honestly, where don’t we?

When it comes to compiling our annual year-end list of the places we’re most excited about in the coming months, narrowing down the field is easier said than done. We pore over press releases, tourism statistics, and our overflowing spreadsheets of hotel openings, restaurant debuts, and new flight routes. We consider the anecdotal evidence: Where are our friends and families going? What destinations are we seeing on Instagram? Which places seem to be part of today’s travel zeitgeist? And, as always, we turn to our network of travel experts — trusted writers, hospitality professionals, the travel advisors that make up T+L’s A-List — to see where people are actually going, and which places are the ones to watch in the coming year.

This year’s list spans the globe, from exciting southern hemisphere cities like Santiago, Chile, and Brisbane, Australia, to harder-to-reach regions like Langkawi, Malaysia and the Danish Riviera. There are the new capitals of culture — Nairobi, Kenya, home to a emergent design scene, or Panama City, with a deluge of forward-thinking restaurants and bars — and the tourism destinations that are back in fighting form after natural disasters or human conflict, including Puerto Rico, the Turquoise Coast of Turkey, Egypt, and Montecito, California. And, of course, there are the destinations that we haven’t heard much about, but certainly will soon — places like India’s remote Andaman Islands, or the art and history-filled emirate of Sharjah, in the U.A.E., or the under-the-radar wine scene in Etyek, Hungary.

After all, isn’t dreaming about places totally new to us — and seeing old favorites in a new light — why we travel in the first place?

Here are Travel + Leisure’s 50 best places to travel in 2019. If you already know where you’re going in the year ahead, share your travel destination picks with us on social media with #TLBestPlaces.

The Adirondacks, New York

One of America’s first vacation destinations, New York’s Adirondack Mountain region has been luring travelers since the late 19th century with clear lakes, pure air, and 46 high peaks to climb. You can still visit in classic style. Built in 1927, the Hotel Saranac reopened last year after a respectful renovation that brings a touch of urban grandeur to the charming town of Saranac Lake. Hidden in the woods outside of town, The Point is a sumptuous lakeside resort that occupies what was once a “great camp” belonging to members of the Rockefeller family. A change of ownership has brought a welcome refresh to the elevated woodsy décor. — Peter Terzian

Alberta, Canada

Jasper and Banff’s rugged, powdery trails should be enough reason to add Alberta to your winter travel wish list. But this year, happenings off the ski runs have made the Canadian province more exciting than ever. If you’re flying into Calgary, make a detour before hitting the slopes to see the month-old Snøhetta- and DIALOG-designed Calgary Central Library. Covered with 460 white hexagonal panels, it’s set to become an architectural icon. Culture hounds should visit Edmonton’s new Royal Alberta Museum, a $375-million, 419,000-square-foot institution featuring collections on indigenous cultures, a gallery dedicated to insects, and more. Away from the cities, Kananaskis Nordic Spa, the first of its kind in the province, just unveiled a collection of hydrotherapy pools — as well salt exfoliation cabins and eucalyptus steam rooms — right in the foothills of the Canadian Rockies. And if you’re in Banff National Park, keep an eye out for bison. Due to overhunting, the animals haven’t been spotted in the area for over a century, but in June 2018, a herd of 31 was released on Banff’s eastern slopes. — Chadner Navarro

Alsace, France

This region in the foothills of the Vosges Mountains produces some of the finest wines on the globe. The stunning Villa René Lalique, whose restaurant has two Michelin stars, is the ideal place to start a sojourn. Visit top wineries like Domaine Weinbach and Maison Trimbach for world-class Gewürztraminers and Rieslings. At Au Trotthus, in Riquewihr, chef Philippe Aubron melds ingredients from France and Japan, where he spent 17 years — chanterelle soup with enoki and truffles, for example. Luxury travelers can even see Alsace by boat: a new barge, the Belmond Lilas, offers private cruises. — Ray Isle

See the rest here.

How to be a Healthier Person in 2019

With festivities rolling in and cold winds arising, we start to make those New Year’s resolutions once again. There is nothing wrong with this tradition, but there are a few problems worth noting. First off, resolutions rarely get translated into reality. Secondly, goals like getting in shape and staying healthy are a challenge during the boisterous time of feasting.

Nevertheless, postponing change is precisely what you want to avoid. After all, healthy living is not some unpleasant and tough endeavor. You can start with baby steps, proceed at your own pace, and make choices that empower you.

Forge mental sturdiness

A combo of lifestyle and attitude changes is what deals a killing blow to the unhealthy person you want to leave behind. And it all starts with the right mindset.

Namely, learn to practice self-awareness on a daily basis. Examine your thoughts and break negative recurring loops. Tell this to yourself: I am in control and I wield the power to reinvent myself.

Just bear in mind that wishful thinking doesn’t make it so. It is just one step on a long journey. Therefore, the next one is to set tangible, realistic and measurable goals. For instance, you can aim to improve your physical health, shed some calories, sculpt your body or enhance your mental health. Maybe you want to achieve all these things, which is totally fine.

Adopt healthy nutrition

You’ve heard it a million times before, but it’s worth repeating: your eating habits play a vital role.

Merely counting calories is not your top priority. Instead, create a balanced diet packed with nutritious food. You cannot go wrong with fresh wholesome food, vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Avoid overly processed, sugar-ridden, and canned food like the plague. Also, increase the intake of omega-3 fatty acids, which are proven to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Additionally, abide by the rules. Stop eating out that often. Never skip a breakfast and make sure it is loaded with protein. Cook at home any chance you get and carry your meals to work.

Engage in physical activity

Another staple of health comes in the form of exercise. It boosts your overall health, busts stress and makes you feel better in your own skin.

Here, one of the most common mistakes people make is imitating others and following fads. If you are doing exhausting workout every day and end up feeling miserable, you are not doing it right. Crowded and sweat-soaked gyms are not for everyone, you know.

You need to find something that you dig, an activity that is fulfilling and rewarding. The options are virtually limitless, from riding a bike to your office to dancing in your room. A growing body of scientific evidence suggests that even 10 minutes per day bring significant, long-term health benefits. As long as it makes you stay active and happy, it does the trick.

Proper healthcare

Furthermore, embrace a proactive approach to your health.

Regular doctor visits are not something people look forward to, but they are paramount to keeping various health issues and conditions at bay. And don’t wait for symptoms to kick in. Pick a doctor you are comfortable with and schedule medical checkups (especially blood pressure). By taking action today, you steer away from serious problems down the road.

While at it, take time to pamper and invest in yourself. You shouldn’t neglect a single part of your body, including your skin. Buy quality skincare products such as a hydration serum that will make your skin look radiant and smooth. This is a nice way to reward yourself after reaching a certain milestone.

Cherish sleep and rest

Finally, it is time to restore order to your sleeping habits.

Sleep is the silent warden of good health and it also affects your energy levels, functionality and mood. On the other hand, sleep deprivation is linked to a wealth of issues such as fatigue, depression and forgetfulness.

For most people, around eight hours (or somewhere between seven and nine) per night is the sweet spot. You can also throw in some 30 minutes of afternoon napping to be more rested.

Try to go to bed at roughly the same time every night. Banish technology from your sleeping chamber because it only makes you feel more awake. Invest in a quality pillow and a sleeping mattress to improve the quality of your sleep. Finally, darken your room and learn some relaxation techniques to drift away to dreamland effortlessly.


Before the glitter and rowdiness of the New Year take hold, take a moment to rethink your ways. Beyond everything else, you need to prioritize your health, no excuses. To improve it, unlock the power of small daily choices and habits that add up in the long run.

Focus on eating better, getting enough shuteye and being more active. These three aspects of a healthy lifestyle are closely intertwined and dependant on each other. Nurture their synergy to recharge your batteries. Have a fresh start in 2019!


By Peter Minkoff

Peter is a lifestyle and travel writer at Men-Ual magazine, living between Ústí nad Labem and Antwerp. Follow Peter on Twitter for more tips.

Release of the second Moroccan satellite MOHAMMED VI-B

A year after the release of its first MOHAMMED VI-A satellite, Morocco launched a second satellite from the Guyana Space Center on 20/20 November 2018. This will make Morocco one of the few countries in Africa to have a set of satellites for Earth observation at a very high resolution.

The MOHAMMED VI-B satellite and the MOHAMMED VI-A satellite will be supervised by Moroccan engineers and technicians who have completed long-term training both in Morocco and abroad.

Satellite data and views will be used in particular in the following areas:

Cadastre and cartography: topographical cartography of the whole territory of the state and its regular updating, cadastral work, especially boundaries and land surveys, …

Agriculture: Addition of agricultural land by thematic mapping, soil fertility assessment, crop status diagnosis to improve and optimize farmers’ performance, the cartography of irrigated areas, monitoring of agricultural results, …

Water resources: identification of surface waters and wetland mapping, monitoring erosion of beaches and quantification of water volume in lakes and dams, …

Construction and public works, transport: control of structures and linear constructions, tracking the progress of constructions, location and optimization of transport routes, …

Forestry: mapping of forest tree species and updating of forest counts, mapping of burned forest areas, …

Mines and geology: geological mapping of mine deposits and assessment of their extent, analysis of geological structures, exploration of minerals, …

Communication networks: a creation of updated cartographic databases for visualization of road and railway networks, …

Linking to major projects: mapping major projects and monitoring progress in their implementation (solar power plants, wind farms, dams and other infrastructure projects), …

Urban planning and development: monitoring urban and peri-urban development, control of unhealthy housing, ground plans and urban planning, land use mapping and desertification monitoring, …

Oceanography and coastal zones: support for the use, governance and integrated management of oceanographic and coastal areas, assistance in the creation of territorial long-term plans and plans for the use of coastal areas, …

Natural Disasters: Assistance in the case of natural disasters, mapping of affected areas, floods, fires, earthquakes, invasion of grasshoppers, …

Border and coastal surveillance: coastal zone adjustment, land use change analysis, the environmental impact of ports, illegal migratory flows.

Míla Fürstová – Wings for Coldplay

Special screening of the documentary film directed by Peter Hirjak “Míla Fürstová – Wings for Coldplay” at the Dlabačov Cinema.

Third International Week of the Italian Cuisine in the World

The third edition of the Week of Italian Cuisine in the World, which was held from 19 to 25 November 2018, aimed to promote internationally high-quality Italian cuisine and the agri-food sector, the distinctive traits of “Brand Italy” in line with the big themes which were launched by EXPO 2015 Milano and which characterise Italy’s agri-food sector: quality, sustainability, food safety, right to food, education, identity, territory and biodiversity.

In the Czech Republic, an eno-gastronomical gala dinner, held by the Embassy of Italy, was dedicated to the promotion of the products and of the territory of the region Lazio. In the course of the event, which took place in the suggestive baroque chapel of the Italian Culture Institute in Prague, there were presented some of Lazio ́s excellences with a menu which enhanced the region ́s typical products fashioned by starred chef Lele Usai and four stars of the Italian cuisine in Prague: Matteo de Carli, Leonardo Di Clemente, Riccardo Lucque and Emanuele Ridi.

Contrast and Compromise

Chinese – Czech Art Project; Imperial Hall of the Lobkowicz Palace in Prague Castle 27th of November, 2018

The exhibition is a part of the Chinese – Czech Art Project, showing for the first time together works by two painters: A Hai from Shanghai and Pavel Roučka from Prague. Both of them, experienced and well known artists in their own countries, have their own way of artistic expression which is quite different from one another. Although the exhibition could look full of contrast and contradiction, it is a brave and fascinating beginning of the artistic dialogue, connecting two distant cultures.

The opening event took place, November 27, 2018 at the Imperial Hall of the Lobkowicz Palace in Prague Castle. The organizers were Shanghai Bamboo Art Center and L’Étincelle Art Space from Shanghai and Cum Arte from Prague.

Farewell reception of the Ambassador of Bulgaria

Photos from the farewell reception of H.E. Latchezar Petkov, Ambassador of Bulgaria and his wife Boriana.

Peruvian Gastronomy Festival A Melting Pot of Cultures and Flavors

Held under the auspices of H.E. Liliana De Olarte de Torres-Muga, Ambassador of Peru to the Czech Republic


The Franz Kafka Society was proud to announce this year ́s laureate of the prestigious Franz Kafka Prize, the Czech poet Ivan Wernisch awarded on Monday, 22nd October 2018 in the Old Town Hall in Prague.

Ivan Wernisch became the eighteenth laureate of this international literary prize awarded by the Franz Kafka Society in cooperation with the Capital City of Prague.

The mission of the Franz Kafka Prize is the evaluation of artistically exceptional literary creation of contemporary authors whose work addresses the readers regardless of their origin, nationality and culture, as well as the work of Franz Kafka himself, one of the greatest authors of modern world literature.

Gala Event at CTU

The Czech Technical University in Prague organized the prestigious collaboration of a Czech-Israeli Innovation and Entrepreneurship Workshop

The Jiebing Chen concert, Chinese virtuoso on the Erhu, an ancient Asian musical instrument

12/11/2018 at the MIRO Gallery Prague