Havel's democracy speech wins warm EP ovation

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Havel's democracy speech wins warm EP ovation

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Czech former president and dissident Vaclav Havel has delivered an ode to solidarity and universal human dignity in the European Parliament. He was invited to speak at a special session commemorating the political changes which swept Europe 20 years ago.

He examined the effects on his country of the decades under communism. He talked of the teething pains of democracy, appealed for indulgence and expounded on sovereignty and identity: “Just because I am a European does not mean I cease to be a Czech. On the contrary, as a Czech I am also a European. I say, somewhat poetically I admit, that Europe is the homeland of all our homelands.” Before Havel’s more than half-hour speech, touching on numerous themes, a short film was projected. It illustrated the wave of revolutions with which the year of the fall of the Berlin Wall climaxed. Barely three weeks after the Wall came down, in the playwright-rebel’s own Czechoslovakia, the communist regime ceded power bloodlessly, and Havel, once the political jailbird, was democratically elected to be the head of state.