A Speech for Karel Schwarzenberg

Given by Jiří Gruša, in Vienna, on 25 November 2009.

Since 1994, the Institute for the Danube Region and Central Europe, in Vienna, has annually awarded the Central Europe Prize to people who have worked particularly hard for the idea of central Europe. The winner of the 2009 prize is Karel Schwarzenberg, who has served the cause of Central Europe as President of the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (1984–89), as Head of the Office of the President of the Czech and Slovak Federal Republic (1990–92), and as Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic (2007–09).

The prize-giving ceremony took place in Vienna on 25 November 2009. The speech at the ceremony, the main theme of which is the identity of Central Europe, was written and delivered in German by the writer Jiří Gruša. His was not an easy task, because Karel Schwarzenberg had stipulated that the speech, usually an encomium, should not be about him. The event escaped the attention of the Czech mass media with the exception of Czech Radio, where a long interview with Karel Schwarzenberg was broadcast by its German-language service on 30 November 2009.

At the request of the Documentation Centre, Gruša made his brilliant, extraordinarily relevant speech available for its first publication. It appears here both in the German original and in Czech translation by Petr Dvořáček, edited by Jiří Gruša.

Both Karel Schwarzenberg and Jiří Gruša were present at the creation of the exile Documentation Centre for the Promotion of Independent Czechoslovak Literature, in Scheinfeld, Germany, and Karel Schwarzenberg is a member of the Board of Directors of its post-1989 incarnation in Prague, the Czechoslovak Documentation Centre, a non-profit organization.