Around the world, acquaintances and close friends of Václav Havel alike, have continued to express grief for the former statesman and former dissident who led Czechoslovakia to democracy in November 1989. American singer and songwriter Lou Reed – of Velvet Underground fame – a close friend of Mr Havel’s after the Velvet Revolution, issued a short statement on his website remembering him. He called his death a “terrible loss for the world” and a terrible loss “for him personally”. The American performer took part in a special concert, marking the 20th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution, back in 2009.
European institutions the European Council, Parliament and Commission, as well as NATO headquarters, flew their flags at half-mast on Monday in honour of former president Václav Havel, while the European Council held a minute of silence in the former statesman’s memory. A day earlier, upon hearing of Mr Havel’s passing, EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy credited Mr Havel with “creating history in his country”, while the head of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso called him “a true champion of democracy and freedom”. Mr Havel was seen as one of the most important figures in the push for the Czech Republic joining NATO in 1999 and the European Union in 2004.
Czechs have paid tribute to their late former president not only on St. Wenceslas Square in the Czech capital, but also outside of Hrádeček – the country home Mr Havel loved, where he passed away in his sleep on Sunday. Tributes to Mr Havel outside the cottage include flowers, candles, and even two bottles of Trutnov beer left by someone recalling the years 1974-75, when Mr Havel, persecuted by the former Communist regime, worked as an assistant labourer. The experience inspired Mr Havel in the writing of his famous theatre play The Audience. Candles or flowers left outside have also included messages including “Thank you” and “We won’t forget”.
Czech Prime Minster Petr Nečas met with his Ukrainian counterpart Mykola
Monday, putting worsening relations following an affair from earlier in
year to rest. The two leaders signed three intergovernmental agreements
expressed an interest in future cooperation, including the fields of
energy, chemistry and ecological technology. Mr Azarov said that Ukraine
was interested in Czech technology with regards to modernisation. In their
meeting, Mr Nečas also raised the issue of possible visa-free relations.
In the earlier affair, involving the Czech Republic and Ukraine, two members of the Czech military section at the Czech Embassy in Kiev were accused of spying in the industrial sector. The Czech Republic countered that the scandal was reaction for the Czech Republic’s having granted asylum to Bohdan Danylyshyn who served in the government of Yulia Tymoshenko.
Former Czech president Václav Havel died at 10:15 AM on Sunday at the age of 75 after a protracted lung illness, an assistant to Mr Havel told the news agency ČTK. The former dissident, playwright and politician passed away in his sleep at his country house Hrádeček, in northern Bohemia, tended to by his wife Dagmar. Mr Havel’s health deteriorated in recent months; the former head of state suffered from lung and heart problems, and he had to limit his public appearances. The last time Václav Havel appeared in public was last week when he received the Dalai Lama during his Prague visit.
Czechs are gathering in many cities and town to mourn the loss of Václav Havel. In Prague, people are lighting candles and laying flowers at Prague Castle, in front of the November 17 memorial in Prague’s Národní třída and at the statue of St Wenceslas on Wenceslas Square. People are also gathering in Brno, and many are displaying photos of Václav Havel in their windows. A major rally in honout of the iconic Czech freedom fighter started at 6 PM in Prague’s Wenceslas Square which is when church bells across the country sounded in Václav Havel’s commemoration.
Reacting to the demise of his predecessor in office, Czech President Václav Klaus on Sunday said Václav Havel had come to symbolize the modern-day Czech state, and his personality, name and work played a crucial role in the Czech Republic’s accession to the community of free and democratic states. Mr Klaus said he respected Václav Havel ever since they first met in the 1960s. In November 1989, Václav Havel invited Václav Klaus to join the emerging Czechoslovak democratic government; although the two politicians often clashed on a number of issues throughout the 1990s and the first decade of the new millennium, President Klaus said these polemics were very fruitful.
A number of Czech politicians on Sunday expressed sorrow over the death of former president Václav Havel. Czech Prime Minister Petr Nečas said Mr Havel’s passing away was a great loss for the Czech Republic, and said he deserved the highest state honours. Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg said Václav Havel was the most famous Czech who enjoyed more popularity abroad than he did at home. According to former Social Democrat PM Miloš Zeman, the former dissident and politician was a symbol of the Czech Republic who had the courage to stand up against the communist regime at a time when many others lacked it. The head of the coalition Public Affairs party Radek John called Václav Havel one of the greatest Czechs, while Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek said Mr Havel did a lot during the country’s accession to the EU and NATO.
Many international personalities hailed Václav Havel as a great European, humanist and statesman. US President Barack Obama said he was deeply moved by Mr Havel’s death, adding he was inspired by the Czech statesman, just like millions of others around the world. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Mr Havel was a great European who will be remembered for his efforts to promote human rights and democracy. British Prime Minister David Cameron said none of his generation will forget the Velvet Revolution, and that Europe owed a debt of gratitude to the late Václav Havel. French President Nicolas Sarkozy also expressed great sorrow over Václav Havel’s passing away. The Austrian chancellor, Werner Feymann said Mr Havel was one of Europe’s most important figures after WWII, while former US Secretary of State Madaleine Albright said Václav Havel made his nation proud, as for many people around the world, the words Havel and Czech have the same meaning; according to the chairman of the European Commission, Jose Barroso, the former president was a true champion of freedom and democracy.
The funeral of the late Václav Havel will probably take place in Prague on Friday, December 23, the news agency ČTK reported. President Václav Klaus is set to meet with Mr Havel’s widow, Dagmar, on Monday to discuss the details. Top Czech officials will also gather at Prague Castle on Sunday to discuss further arrangements; condolence books will be open for people to sign at Prague castle on Monday. The Czech government will meet for an extraordinary session on Monday to declare a national day of mourning, Prime Minister Petr Nečas said.