Václav Havel was an outstanding Czech playwright, humanitarian and dissident against the repressive communist regime. In the velvet revolution of 1989 he was a leading figure. As someone often imprisoned and interrogated in Prague Castle (the Hrad) the students, gathered in their thousands in Wenceslas Square, demanded “Havel to the Hrad!” and so he was installed as first President of the “free” Czechoslovak Republic of 1990 and then later of the Czech Republic. I had the privilege of shaking his hand twice on Czech National Day in the Hrad and this will be a special moment for me in my life.
Havel had a pan-European vision of a liberal, inclusive society – a vision which the Czech government, the British government and many others lack today. He was an outstanding leader and statesman – a giant in a Europe of pygmies politically!
I quote words from his New Year Address to the Czechoslovak peoples in 1990:
“I dream of a republic independent, free, democratic, of a republic economically prosperous and yet socially just; in short of a humane republic that serves the individual and that therefore holds the hope that the individual will serve in return.”
Addressing he Council of Europe in May 1990 he said:
“In 1464 the Czech King George of Podebrady sent a momentous message to the French King Louis XI proposing that he preside over a league of peace and invite Christian rulers to a convention which, on the basis of binding international law, would prevent war amongst members of the union and ensure their common defence.”
Václavl Havel – you were an outstanding European politician, philosopher, statesman and humanitarian. We salute you! We will miss you.