A Velvet Divorce - Czech Slovakia 20 years on
The amicable negotiated split between the former Soviet Bloc country Czechoslovakia in the Czech Republic and Slovakia has gone largely unnoticed by the world’s mass media whose focus on conflict and war has created a somewhat unbalanced perspective.
The peaceful coexistence between these nations for the past twenty years has been termed the Velvet Divorce when describing the dissolution of Czechoslovakia which came into effect on 1 January 1993.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989 the countries began on a path of political and economic transformation and are today regarded as exemplary in peaceful conflict resolution. They are fully integrated members of the European Union, NATO and OECD and enjoy very close and friendly relations.
This milestone coincides with 20 years of diplomatic relations with South Africa. In honour of this momentous occasion the Czech and Slovak Embassies in South Africa together with the University of Pretoria hosted a panel discussion to better understand the peaceful separation between the two countries. South Africa will also celebrate 20 years of its democracy next year (2014). Its own negotiated settlement allowed the panellists a cross-regional perspective drawing from their country’s experiences.
The panel included Yolanda Spies – University of Pretoria, Programme Director, Ambassador Blanka Fajkusova, Ambassador of the Czech Republic, Ambassador Alexander Ilascik of Slovakia, Dr Jakub Landovsky from the institute of Political studies Charles University, Prague, Dr John Mare, Independent Consultant and Special Adviser and Elizabeth Sidiropoulos, Chief Executive of The South African Institute of International Affairs.
Dr. Landovsky made comparisons between South Africa and The Czech and Slovak Republics. The obvious and most memorable are between Vaclav Havel for his resistance against the Soviet regime and Nelson Mandela for his resistance against the Apartheid regime. He also referred to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of South Africa and the security sector reforms which were critical if the negotiated settlement was to succeed.
Dr. Mare as a South African diplomat played a major role in establishing official relationships between the countries and gave a historic account of the dissolution and the establishment of Czechoslovakia after the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire to the present day.