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"We are now one generation after the fall of the Berlin Wall and perhaps we need one more to really build democracy as a culture"

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"We are now one generation after the fall of the Berlin Wall and perhaps we need one more to really build democracy as a culture"


Seamus Kearney – euronews: “The Fall of the Berlin Wall twenty years ago heralded a massive change in Germany but also had a ripple-on effect in other countries, including the then-Czechoslovakia. Let’s now get a feel for how this anniversary is being viewed in Prague. I’m joined by Jiri Pehe, an analyst and a former advisor to the ex-Czech president Vaclav Havel. Mr. Pehe, thanks very much for joining us. What are your personal memories of the day the wall came down – where were you, what thoughts were going through your mind?”

Jiri Pehe – Former Czech presidential advisor: “Well I was actually in Germany at that time. I worked for Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty. And this was a very emotional moment for me, not only because I was at that time with my German friends, who were all very, of course, emotional about the fall of the Berlin Wall. We were all crying and embracing. But for me it was also a sign that after several years of emigration I would be able to return home at some point because I knew that when the Berlin Wall fell, I would be able to travel back to Czechoslavakia, because it was just a matter of time when actually the revolution would come to Czechoslovakia as well.” euronews: “Now, less then a month after the fall of the Berlin Wall we know that your country had its Velvet Revolution, demonstrations took place in the streets in the square behind you, from where you’re speaking to us now, Wenceslas Square. But if the Berlin Wall hadn’t fallen, do you think the communist regime in your country would have fallen as quickly?” Jiri Pehe: “Well I think it could have taken a longer time. We all knew that the communist system was basically coming to an end, but we really didn’t know when it would fall. It was quite conceivable that the regime could have lasted for several more years, or maybe a decade. Certainly what happened when the Berlin Wall fell was quite important because it was the beginning of the end. And we all knew that on that day symbolically something happened that would change the entire communist world. So, yes it was a very important event and although there had been changes in Hungary and Poland before, this was really the most symbolic event that ushered in the end of communism in eastern Europe.” euronews: “And finally, twenty years on, 1989 brought with it many hopes, many aspirations, what are your thoughts on the progress made since then, both socially and politically?” Jiri Pehe: “Well, the progress has been tremendous. I think that the entire region has travelled a very very long journey. We basically transformed the entire society, politically, economically, we’ve created the rule of law. But on the other hand this institutional modernisation has been so fast that the other side of democracy, its cultural side, has not developed so quickly, which means that we have what I would call democracies without democrats. Of course this is a bit of an exageration but I think that we have really modern, democratic institutions, we have institutions of the market economy, but we still don’t have enough people who think as democrats and who have internalised values of democracy and that is perhaps a generational project . I think it takes about two generations. So we are now one generation after the fall of the Berlin Wall and perhaps we need one more to really also build democracy as the culture.” euronews: “Jiri Pehe thank you very much for talking to us here on euronews.” Jiri Pehe: “Thank you bye bye.”

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