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National Archives

Public Papers - 1989

Statement by Press Secretary Fitzwater on the Election of Vaclav Havel as President of Czechoslovakia

1989-12-29

The President has sent a warm message of congratulations to Vaclav Havel upon his election as President of Czechoslovakia. The President noted the strong links between American and Czechoslovak democracy, going back to the creation of the Czechoslovak state in 1918, and pledged his commitment to the renewal and strengthening of political, economic, and cultural ties between Czechoslovakia and the United States.

President Havel's election marks a fitting end to a year of astonishing change in Eastern Europe. A distinguished playwright and founding member of the human rights group Chapter 77, Vaclav Havel was barred from publishing his works and often imprisoned for his activities in defense of democratic freedoms. His election, as the President noted in his message, is living proof of what Mr. Havel has called the 7E7E``power of the powerless'' to bring about peaceful democratic change.

This event also symbolizes a new beginning for all of Eastern Europe. Last spring, Poland and Hungary led the way toward peaceful democratic change. In the fall, popular pressures in the German Democratic Republic, Czechoslovakia, and Bulgaria led to rapid movement toward democratic reform. And in December, protests in Romania led to the overthrow of dictatorial rule and the advent of a new leadership committed to a democratic agenda, including the holding of free elections.

These changes, unimaginable only a few months ago, offer fresh hope for the peoples of Eastern Europe and for ending the artificial division of Europe, toward a Europe whole and free. As the heady changes of 1989 give way to the challenges of 1990, the United States reaffirms its strong support for the processes of economic recovery and democratic change in Eastern Europe.

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