Prince Karel Schwarzenberg has died – it was announced on Sunday. He died in Vienna, he was 85 years old. He was the head of the office of President Vaclav Havel, head of the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs, MP and senator, and co-founder of the Polish-Czech Forum. “He will remain in our memory as a friend of Poland and a supporter of close cooperation between the nations of Central Europe,” emphasized the head of the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Zbigniew Rau, on social media.
Karl Schwarzenberg, who used a wheelchair, was transported a few days ago from Prague to a hospital in Vienna, where he told journalists: – I don’t think there are more specialists here than in the Czech Republic. I think it will be the same, but here I will be able to see my children and grandchildren.
He died surrounded by his family.
He was born in 1937 into an aristocratic family. His father was Czech and his mother was Austrian, née Duchess of Furstenberg. Her family owned the palace, which currently houses the Polish embassy in Prague. During World War II, the family’s property was seized by the Gestapo. After the communists took power in 1948, the dispossessed family emigrated.
After the invasion of Warsaw Pact troops in 1968, Schwarzenberg began to support emigrants from Czechoslovakia. In one of his castles he founded the Czechoslovak Documentation Center – an archive of banned literature. In 1984, he became chairman of the International Helsinki Committee for Human Rights and supported, among others, Polish dissidents.
He was a friend of Polish-Czechoslovak Solidarity. Schwarzenberg understood how important the unity of Central European societies was in building their independence and sovereignty. – Only together were we an entity and we had the strength to present our views and aspirations – Paweł Skrzywanek from Polish-Czechoslovak Solidarity told PAP.
After the fall of communism in 1989, Schwarzenberg returned to Czechoslovakia. He became the head of the office of the country’s first president, Vaclav Havel. He supported civil society. He saved the independent media at his own expense. He co-founded the Tradition Responsibility Prosperity 09 (TOP09) party, which is currently part of the government dinner.
In 2013, he decided to run in the first general presidential elections in the Czech Republic. Only in the second round did he lose to Milosz Zeman. In 2007-2009 and again in 2010-2013 he was Minister of Foreign Affairs. Together with the then head of Polish diplomacy, Radosław Sikorski, he founded the Polish-Czech Forum.
In 1918, the newly established Czechoslovak state banned the use of noble and aristocratic titles. Despite this, friends, colleagues and journalists addressed Schwarzenberg and spoke and wrote about him in the public sphere – “prince”. He himself entered “forester and hotelier” in the profession field in his ID card.
Friend of Poland and advocate of Czech-Polish cooperation
The prince will be remembered, among other things, as a friend of Poland and an advocate of Czech-Polish cooperation.
Former head of the Polish Institute in Prague, currently ambassador of the Republic of Poland in Bratislava, Maciej Ruczaj said: – A great friend of Central European cooperation has passed away, he defended it even in times of the greatest disputes. He emphasized that we are different in Central Europe (and therefore we avoid simplified, moralizing judgments of others) and at the same time we are united by a common fate.
In one of his 2021 interviews, Schwarzenberg pointed out that the First Czechoslovak Republic (1918-1938) made a big mistake by having bad relations with Poland.
The head of the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Zbigniew Rau, expressed his condolences. “Karel Schwarzenberg, former Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, has died. He will remain in our memory as a friend of Poland and a supporter of close cooperation between the nations of Central Europe. He was the initiator of the Polish-Czech Forum, which has been working for Polish-Czech friendship for 15 years. To his family and I offer my sincere condolences to the friends and citizens of the Czech Republic. May he rest in peace,” he wrote on the X platform (formerly Twitter).
Main photo source: Michal Kamaryt/PAP