After 13 years as president, is Vaclav Havel looking forward to retiring?

Vaclav Havel and his wife Dagmar, photo: CTK

Vaclav Havel has been saying a lot of goodbyes lately, as he prepares to step down on February 2nd after 13 momentous years as president. It is expected that he and his wife Dagmar will spend a lot of time at their holiday home in Portugal, where Mr Havel has said he plans to write again, read a lot and enjoy a climate relatively favourable to his chronic breathing problems. But won't it be hard for President Havel to give up the reins of power after such a long period in office? I asked Jiri Pehe, who has been an advisor to Mr Havel for some years, whether the president was looking forward to putting his feet up.

Vaclav Havel and his wife Dagmar,  photo: CTK
"Havel is certainly looking forward to retiring very much. He has been in the office of president for thirteen years, first as Czechoslovak president, then as Czech president. He is tired. He has achieved everything that a president can possibly achieve. He has lead this country to NATO and to the brink of membership of the European Union, he has reaped numerous international awards. There is simply nothing for him, nothing left. He is a very creative person, and I think that he wants to write, he wants to leave behind something, a product where he can utilise his experiences of the last 13 years. I don't know if it will be a play or memoirs or something else, but certainly it will be interesting."

I read recently that the government were talking about maybe asking him to continue serving the country in some way. Do you think he will?

"It is unavoidable that Havel will continue in his political role simply because he is what I would call the Mandela of Europe."

Do you think there's anything that he didn't achieve that he might have liked to have achieved?

"I don't want to say what he might have liked to achieve, but I personally think that it's a pity, a bit a least, that he has not won the Nobel Peace Prize. I think that certainly he would have deserved that award, simply because he was probably not only the leading opposition figure in Czechoslovakia but intellectually certainly in Eastern Europe, comparable to Lech Walesa, who received the Nobel Peace Prize for his achievements. So that may be the only, I would say, small gap in the almost infinite number of Havel's achievements."