English Pages, 12. 12. 2006
Dear Mr. President, Madam Mbeki, Your Excellencies, Honorable Ministers, Your Excellencies Ambassadors, High Commissioners and Members of the Diplomatic Corps, Distinguished Guests, ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great honour for me and for all of us to be here. I would like to thank you for the invitation to visit your beautiful country and for the very warm welcome I, my wife and my delegation are receiving here. I see this visit as truly historic because it is the very first visit of the President of the Czech Republic to this most significant country of the African continent.
I view my visit also as a symbolic gesture of recognition and support of the achievements your country has reached in its peaceful transition from the apartheid regime to democratic society. We are well aware of the turbulent history of your country, where deep divides used to be created in the coexistence of different races and nations living in Southern Africa, which led into a racist system depriving its citizens of basic human and civic rights on the basis of the colour of their skin. Our country sincerely welcomed the fall of this system and the victory of democracy in your country. We highly appreciate the statesmanship and wisdom of Presidents Frederik de Klerk and Nelson Mandela who greatly contributed to the peaceful transition of your country to democracy, and to the gradual overcoming of historical wrongs, injustices, and handicaps that used to be a historical burden for the coexistence of races and ethnic groups in your country.
It is a historical coincidence that only a few years earlier our country also started its transition from a totalitarian regime to democracy, which was – in its nature – also an unprecedented and extremely complicated process. I am very happy that I can represent the Czech Republic here today as a country which has completed this uneasy transformation successfully, as a stable and standard European democracy with a fast growing economy, as a member country of the European Union, as a country which is sincerely interested in the development of the broadest and the most open relations with all countries of the world that share the same values and are interested in co-operation. I am very glad that the Republic of South Africa is exactly such a country and I believe that this visit of mine will become a new impulse for broadening our relations in all areas.
Dear Mr. President, although our countries are geographically very distant from each other, our mutual contacts do have a long tradition. I want to mention the missions of the Moravian Brethern who worked among the indigenous population of South Africa as early as in the 18th century. I want to mention the expeditions of Czech explorer and medical doctor Emil Holub who, in 1870s and 1880s, travelled through large areas of the then little known inland of Southern Africa and who left us a valuable evidence about your country of that time in his books and numerous collections. In the 20th century South Africa became home for hundreds and later even thousands of Czechs who came here between the two world wars together with Czech companies and later as emigrants. I have had the pleasure of meeting some of them during this visit and I am pleased to see that they represent a strong link connecting our countries. Allow me to mention also many fighters against apartheid who were finding asylum in my country and many South-African students who studied at our universities. All of them give an important human basis to our relations and cooperation.
Dear Mr. President, we know very well that the Republic of South Africa is a country with vast natural resources and advanced industry. For the Czech Republic, your country is the most significant political and trade partner in the Sub-Saharan Africa. I am glad that the mutual trade has been growing dynamically in the recent years and that the mutual investments are increasingly gaining good ground. I believe that also the presence of top Czech businessmen, who are accompanying my delegation, will give a further impetus to this positive development.
Dear Mr. President, I feel certain that our two countries have a great potential for intensive cooperation. We appreciate that your policies have a stabilising role on the African continent and in the international relations. We wish your country much success in its role of a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council and we believe our two countries will be finding and taking common positions in other international forums as well.
Allow me to raise the glass to a happy future of your country, to the Czech-South-African friendship, to the good health of yourself and your relatives.
Václav Klaus, President’s residence, Pretoria, 12. 12. 2006
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