President Vaclav Havel receives a farewell gift from NATO senior officials

Photo: CTK

At a ceremony on Wednesday held at Prague Castle prior to the opening of the NATO summit in Prague, Czech president Vaclav Havel was honoured by 19 heads of state for his contribution as a dissident in Communist Czechoslovakia. The statesmen also praised his commitment to peace and democracy following the Velvet Revolution in 1989.

Photo: CTK
The festive ceremony was also meant as a farewell tribute to president Vaclav Havel, whose presidential term ends in January. As Czechoslovakia's and later on the Czech Republic's president, Mr. Havel was in office for thirteen years. The Czech President was presented with an honorary copy of the North Atlantic Treaty and the Czech Republic's accession-to-NATO treaty. The main speech was delivered by French president Jacques Chirac, who said Vaclav Havel had been a light in the blackest times that Czechoslovakia experienced.

Mr. Chirac said that progress was often based on brave people's dreams. He compared Vaclav Havel to other 'dreamers', such as Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela and Andrei Sakharov, who went on fighting until their dreams came true. He wished the Czech president good health and enough energy for materializing his future plans as a writer and as a man fully devoted to the idea of democracy.

Mr. Havel expressed the hope that the NATO summit in Prague would bring positive results to all:

"Monsieur le President, Cher Jacques, Mr. Secretary General, Dear George, Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you very much for these kind words. Thank you very much for this wonderful gift. Please, believe me, I'm surprised, and please, believe me, I'm very touched and deeply moved. Dear friends, I hope and I'm sure that the Pague summit with its success and its results, will be a very importnat gift for the whole humankind. Thank you."