Streda, 23. január, 2019 | Meniny má Miloš

Havel Warns of New Divisions in Czech Society in a New Year Speech

PRAGUE (Reuters) - President Vaclav Havel said on Friday that nearly 10 years after the fall of the Iron Curtain new walls were dividing Czech society and threatening democracy. The former dissident playwright said in a New Year speech on Czech Televisio

n that barriers were emerging between ethnic groups and divisions were appearing in politics. "We long ago pulled down the great wall which divided us from democratic Europe but equally we tolerate the slow and inconspicuous growth of new walls, no better than those which fell," Havel said. He called on Czechs to renew the spirit which brought down totalitarianism in 1989 and strengthen their will to combat evil. Czech leaders have expressed concern in recent months at the incidence of racism, particularly against the gypsy minority. Havel, who has stressed the importance of rebuilding a functioning civil society, last month visited the northern town of Usti nad Labem where local authorities have proposed building a wall between gypsy families and their neighbours. "It is as if many people have forgotten that a measure of the quality of democracy is the relationship to the minority… It is as if many have again ignored that an attack on the freedom of individuals threatens the freedom of all," he said. Havel, 62 and currently recovering from a respiratory illness in the Canary Islands, saw the same trends in politics where a stress on individualism was giving rise to nationalism. He said this crisis of self-confidence was leading to an indifference to the law and a growth of political intrigue. Havel said 1999 would see the Czech Republic join NATO, giving it not only security guarantees but a share of responsibility for peace, and probably a final decision on Czech membership of the European Union. "We do not have the right to condemn future generations to isolation and decline," said Havel, who has championed the cause of Czech integration with Western structures. Havel also paid tribute to the people of neighbouring Slovakia — the Czechs‘ partners in the former Czechoslovakia which split in 1993. An election in September brought to power a government firmly committed to integration with the West. "It seems that only now our separation is gaining its true meaning. Only now can we participate without barriers and as real partners in the creation of a Europe in which mutual respect and the principles of equality and cooperation prevail."

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