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17 March 2017

Max van der Stoel Memorial

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On March 1, the Netherlands Embassy in Prague unveiled a memorial commemorating the support shown to Czech dissidents by the late Dutch politician Max van der Stoel. Forty years ago, on March 1, 1977, his meeting with Charter 77 spokesman Jan Patočka represented a significant milestone on the long path towards democracy in Czechoslovakia.

Frans Timmermans, the Dutch vice-president of the European Commission, and the Czech foreign minister, Lubomír Zaorálek, were among the guests of the unveiling the monument commemorating Max van der Stoel at a park named after him in Prague 6.

Van der Stoel was Dutch foreign minister in 1977 and became the first Western politician to publicly back the Charter 77 movement. He held a secret meeting at Prague’s Intercontinental Hotel with the philosopher Jan Patočka, one of Charter’s first spokespeople. Van der Stoel was due to hold talks with Czechoslovak Communist leader Gustav Husák, who cancelled the meeting after learning what had happened. The Charter signatories were at that time the subject of harassment by the Communist authorities and the Dutch support gave them important moral support.

The memorial was commissioned by the Netherlands embassy in Prague and created by Czech artist Dominik Lang.

Marta Vojtová
Sr. Policy Officer Trade & Economic Affairs
Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands

Photo: Pavel Matela

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