Czech Embassy Press Release
President Václav Havel to visit UK
Václav Havel, President of the Czech Republic, and Mrs Dagmar Havlová will pay an official visit to the United Kingdom from 19 to 22 October 1998. This is Mr Havel's second official visit to the UK since the fall of communism in Prague, yet his first in his capacity of the Czech President.
For the Czech Republic, the UK is a most important ally and partner. Above all, the Czechs appreciate British support in their effort to join NATO and the EU. The tradition of Czech-British partnership was reinforced during World War II. At that time, President Beneš's Czechoslovak Government in Exile had its seat in Wingrave, Buckinghamshire. The Czech Army and Air Force in Exile served under the British command and took part in the Battle of Britain. The Czechs do not forget the effort of Mr Nicolas Winton, a British "Oskar Schindler", who saved several hunderd Czech Jewish children from the Holocaust after Munich and the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia.
After the communist coup of 1948 and during the Cold War, and again after the crushing of the Prague Spring by the Soviet-led invasion in 1968, many Czechs and Slovaks found refuge and a new home in the UK. Prague-based dissidents and Charter 77 memebrs also received both moral and material support from a number of British individuals and institutions, including the Universities of Oxford and Glasgow.
After the Velvet Revolution of 1989, the Czechs were pleased to receive Prince Charles and Princess Diana in Prague in 1991 and later, in 1996, the Queen. The British royal family in Prague were a symbol for many of a new era dawning for the nations emerging from behind the Iron Curtain.
Since 1989, all democratic Czech governments have enjoyed close cooperation at all levels with their British counterparts. The new Social Democratic Government in Prague, which was formed after the June 1998 election under the leadership of Prime Minister Miloš Zeman, has also had close contacts and exchanges with the British Labour Party. The Zeman Government has been studying Mr Blair's concept of the Third Way with interest.
Having recovered from his illness, Mr. Havel is now determined to carry out a full programme during his visit. He will meet Mr. Blair and the Queen in London. He will visit Wingrave, the seat of the Czechoslovak Government in Exile, decorate Mr. Winton for his wartime deeds and go on to Oxford to receive an honorary doctorate. His programme includes a visit to Scotland to receive an honorary degree from the University of Glasgow and to meet Prince Charles, as well as a trip to Belfast for meetings with Northern Ireland's representatives.
Accompanying Mr Havel will be the Foreign Minister Jan Kavan, the Governor of the Czech National Bank (and an ex-PM) Mr Josef Tošovský, and the Government Commissioner for Human Rights Mr. Petr Uhl. Mr Kavan will meet the Foreign Secretary Mr Robin Cook on Monday, October 19th. On the same day, 19th October at 5.30 pm., he will also deliver a lecture at Chatham House.
For further information, please do not hesitate to contact the Czech Embassy, tel: 0171 243 7917, 243 1115.