V4 prime ministers commemorate Velvet Revolution

V4 prime ministers commemorate Velvet Revolution MARTIN DIVISEK/PAP/EPA

The prime ministers of the Visegrad Group (V4) members, the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia and Hungary, on Sunday commemorated the 30th anniversary of former Czechoslovakia's Velvet Revolution in the Czech capital of Prague.

Sparked off on November 17, 1989 in the then Chechoslovak capital Prague after a brutal police attack on marchers commemorating the 50th anniversary of the 1939 closure of Czech universities by the country's Nazi-German occupants, the Velvet Revolution, involving mass protests and street riots, led to the fall of the Czechoslovak Communist Party, the election of prominent anti-communist dissident and playwright Vaclav Havel as the country's president in December of the same year, and Czechoslovakia's peaceful split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993.

Addressing the meeting, PM Mateusz Morawiecki said that the 1989 fall of communism in Eastern Europe allowed the former Soviet bloc states to "choose the path of freedom and democracy," which triggered a wave of optimism throughout the continent.

Morawiecki pointed out that it was Poland which sparked the change in the region by founding the Solidarity Union at the outset of the 1980s, and was the first Soviet bloc country to vote its communist authorities out of power in a 1989 partly free parliamentary election.

"Poland was the first crack in this wall, and this was followed by further cracks - in Hungary, East Germany and in Czechoslovakia. Both our countries, Poland and Czechoslovakia, were isolated by communism for more than four decades, but in the crucial moments of 1989 both our peoples walked arm in arm," Morawiecki said, adding that already then there was a will for cooperation between the region's countries, which eventually led to the formation of the V4 group.

Morawiecki said he was sure that the histories of the former Soviet bloc countries could serve as an inspiration for others, he also stated that 2019 marked the Czech Republic's and Poland's 20th NATO and 15th EU membership anniversaries.

"I am convinced that the histories of the Czech Republic, Poland and other countries in our region are success stories which can inspire other nations," Morawiecki said.

Czech PM Andrej Babis noted that the fall of communism in Eastern Europe began in Poland, which was the first to hold a free election. He added that the events in Poland and later in Hungary enabled the Czechs to topple their communist regime in only ten days.

"Thanks to you, what took a decade in Poland and several months in Hungary, needed only ten days (in Czechoslovakia - PAP)," Babis said.

Slovak government head Peter Pellegrini observed that the Velvet Revolution anniversary had global importance, as the revolution was a rare example of a peaceful overthrow. He also mentioned the role in Chechoslovakia's anti-communist movement played by Havel and Alexander Dubcek, the Chechoslovak PM during the 1969 Soviet-quenched Prague Spring revolt.

Hungarian PM Viktor Orban noted that Havel was also a model for young Hungarian anti-communists, and stressed that Hungarians and Czechs shared many common points in their post-World War II histories. Orban also observed that, just as the Central-East European countries saw their future in Europe 30 years ago, so today it was they that were Europe's future.

"Thirty years ago, we believed Europe was our future. Today, we see that it is we who are the future of Europe," the Hungarian PM said.