— Václav Havel
New Year's Address on Czech Radio & Television (1 January 2003)
Kontext: Seemingly endless negotiations finally led to the division of Czechoslovakia. It had one great advantage: it proceeded calmly, without violence, major conflicts, or significant unsolved issues. This unusually positive split brought us worldwide respect. But it also had one disadvantage: a matter of such importance as the division of a country into two new ones was not decided by the citizens in a referendum, as would be appropriate in a democratic society. Rather, it was mostly treated as a technical matter, almost as if it were an accounting operation. Perhaps for this reason, the end of Czechoslovakia was accompanied by an unpleasant aftertaste and awkward feelings. No significant part of the citizenry protested the division then, but no significant part celebrated it either. It was as if there was nothing to say, as if the public had more or less breathed a sigh of relief at the endless, traumatizing bargaining finally being behind us.
All that is now long-gone — is history — and after all this time, I can not help but feel that no matter how queerly it happened then, it is a good thing that it happened. Evidently, most peoples must taste full statehood for at least a while in order to learn to cooperate with others. Czechs and Slovaks may be closer today than ever before. There is no animosity, and they are united in their goals: to fully participate in the European and global integration processes and, in their own interest, to gradually forsake some of their countries' sovereignty in favor of increasing influence in the life of communities vastly larger and more powerful than countries are. We live in an interconnected world, and we — Czechs and Slovaks — walk hand in hand in it. And that, of course, is what is most important.