Statement by the President of the Czech Republic reflecting the death of former Czech President Vaclav Havel

12/18/2011 , Prague

Dear Fellow Citizens,

This morning, the first President of our restored democratic republic, Václav Havel, has passed away after a long and severe illness. We knew about his serious health problems but the news about his death is something we did not dare admitting. We know how grave the health difficulties he was facing were and how brave he was in confronting them.

Václav Havel has become a symbol of our modern Czech state. He has had merit in our modern statehood by his fearless fight against the communist totalitarianism and as a leading personality of our Velvet Revolution and as the first President of our free country. His personality, his name and his work substantially contributed to the Czech Republic's fast joining the community of free and democratic countries.

I have personally held respect for Václav Havel since the 1960's, when I had the chance to get to know him. It was he who invited me to the Civic Forum when it was being established in November 1989. Our meetings and our occasional polemics, when we were both holding the highest state functions in the 1990's, were equally fruitful for me.

I have already expressed my deep sympathies personally to Mrs Dagmar Havlová and I will continue to be in touch with her.

For this afternoon I have invited the highest state representatives –the Presidents of both Chambers of the Parliament and the Prime Minister – to Prague Castle to prepare the further necessary steps together.

As from tomorrow morning, 10am, the books of condolences will be displayed at Prague Castle for the public.

Václav Klaus, Prague Castle, December 18, 2011