Jiri Dienstbier: Answering NYT: The Berlin Wall, 20 Years Later





[Jiri Dienstbier, a 52- year-old dissident in November 1989, became foreign minister of Czechoslovakia a month after the wall fell.]

What went through your mind when you first heard that the wall had fallen? How did it affect your life and/or your thinking? Looking back now, what one thing would you have done differently?

We were prepared. In 1985, Charter 77 published the Prague Appeal, in which we argued that Europe is divided in Germany and that to overcome the division we have to debate seriously about its unification. In 1966 I advocated this idea in my book “Dreaming of Europe.” The fall of the wall was the dramatic confirmation that the system introduced to our countries as a copy of czarism covered by Western ideas, surviving a long time in completely rotten form, was finally dead. Now it was our turn to finish the regime at home. Within one month of the Velvet Revolution, we had formed the new government.

My thinking has not changed as I had been dreaming, writing and working for freedom and for overcoming the divided world for years. But my life changed completely when I left the lazy job of a boilerman to become foreign minister of Czechoslovakia. The division of Europe was over. We had to start working hard on its unification. It became immediately clear that construction would be more difficult than removing the ruins of the fallen world. From the Pandora’s box emerged long-frozen issues, and new ones came with the rush of globalization of all aspects of life. In 1990 we were living in a state of euphoria. Soon we were back to reality. But we are no longer in the trap of a bipolar world where no real change of our fate was possible. Now it’s up to us — first and foremost, our ability to become active participants in the process of European integration. Europe as a real world power can be the only guarantee of our sovereignty and of the promotion of our interests. Twenty years after 1989, we still have a lot to do, both at home and in Europe...




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