Message from President Vaclav Havel to the Participants of the Community of Democracies Conference in Warsaw
Prague, 25 June 2000
Excellencies, Dear Participants of the Warsaw Conference:
I regret that I cannot be with you in Warsaw today to take part in the opening of your important discussion on the role of democracy in the contemporary world. The very fact that so many ministers and other high-level representatives from democratic countries from all continents have gathered on this occassion speaks for itself. I see it as a promising signal, as a sign of hope for humankind soon entering the third millennium, literally finding itself today - after the collapse of communism in 1989 ended "the age of extremes" - in the "gap between past and future".
I am convinced it is essential that the dialogue examining the basic questions of existence and modus operandi of the "community of democracies" is taking place on such a high level. And I trust this meeting and the Warsaw Declaration that you will adopt is only the beginning of a process which will continue and advance in the years, or even decades, to come.
Without any doubt, democracy represents the boldest political idea of our civilization. It originated in the relatively modest space of the city-states of ancient Greece. It was rediscovered in the beginning of modernity when nation-states were just emerging. And now, at the very end of the twentieth century, democracy is seen not only as a form of government but is also understood as a way of coexistence among democratic nations. What do all democrats have in common, despite their different cultural or religious traditions, different historical experiences? What is the basic precondition of their ability to cooperate? How can democratic countries resolve their differences under the conditions of our increasingly globalized and interconnected world ? What is the language of democracy that we all have in common, that we can use in a good faith to understand each other? How we can assist others in their struggle for democratic ideals in confronting authoritarian, oppressive regimes?
I sincerely hope that the Warsaw Conference will help us understand each other better and will generate some interesting answers to these and many other important questions. The experience of totalitarianism that we endured in our part of the world taught us the importance of an open and unconstrained dialogue about the common challenges of our common world, the power of international solidarity, and the sheer power of understanding in international politics.