May 23rd, 2024 AAAA
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Havel, Václav: Speech in the Polish Parliament (Sejm)

(...) First of all, we must take advantage of the fact that after many long years and decades, the prospect of a genuine friendship between our nations now lies before us. Ancient conflicts, rivalries, and animosities have been covered over by the common experience of totalitarianism. The so-called "druzhba" - that formal and stage-managed demonstration of friendship within the framework of the Warsaw Pact and Comecon - is vanishing along with the totalitarian systems. Along with them, the covert, quiet and malicious incitement of nationalistic and selfish tendencies - carried out in the spirit of "divide and conquer" - is vanishing as well.

The years of similar destinies and struggles for similar ideals ought therefore to be assessed in the light of genuine friendship and mutual respect; that is, precisely in the spirit that dominated the years during which secret independent literature was smuggled in rucksacks across our common mountain ranges (...) This authentic friendship - based on a proper understanding of the destiny imposed upon both our countries, on the common lessons it taught us, and above all on the common ideals that now unite us - should ultimately inform a proper coordination of our policies in a process we both refer to as "the return to Europe." We should also coordinate our efforts as best we can with Hungary - where I and my co-workers are going tomorrow - and with other nations in our part of Europe. We should not compete with each other to gain admission into the various European organizations. On the contrary, we should assist each other in the same spirit of solidarity with which, in darker days, you protested our persecution as we did against yours.

It is too early to predict what institutional forms our coordination in Eastern and Central Europe will take. Western Europe is considerably ahead of us in the integration processes, and if each of us were to return to Europe separately, it could take a great deal longer and would be far more complex a process than if we proceeded in a coordinated fashion. This concerns not only economy; it concerns everything, including disarmament talks.
Very soon, I would like to invite various representatives of the state and the public from Poland and Hungary, perhaps with observers from other Central European countries, to a meeting in the Bratislava Castle, where we could spend a day quietly talking about these matters. Perhaps this would again make us somewhat wiser.

One way or the other, one thing is certain: For the first time in history, we have a real opportunity to fill the great political vacuum that appeared in Central Europe after the collapse of the Hapsburg Empire with something genuinely meaningful. We have an opportunity to transform Central Europe from what has been a mainly historical and spiritual phenomenon into a political phenomenon. We have an opportunity to take this wreath of European states - so recently colonized by the Soviet Union and now attempting to build a relationship with the nations of the Soviet Union based on equality - and fashion it into a special body. Then we can approach the richer nations of Western Europe, not as poor failures or helpless, recently amnestied prisoners, but as countries that can make a genuine contribution. What we have to offer are spiritual and moral impulses, courageous peace initiatives, underexploited creative potential, and the special ethos created by our freshly won freedom. We can offer the inspiration to consider swift and daring solutions.

(Warszawa, 25 January 1990)

Václav Havel
Czech writer and politician. Former President of Czechoslovakia (1989-1992). First President of the Czech Republic (1993-2003).

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