Final Word from Friday, January 3, 2003

Václav Havel made the headlines yesterday by declaring in his New Year's address that, in retrospect, the split of Czechoslovakia was a good thing but that there should have been a referendum. The lack of one, he said, is perhaps why the separation left a bad aftertaste. People who were involved in the negotiations say, though, that the situation was delicate and that a false move could have even led to civil war. The problem, according to ODS's foreign minister at the time, Josef Zieleniec, was in interpreting the results of a referendum. Czechs outnumber Slovaks two-to-one and would have predominantly opposed the split. Slovaks would have largely been in favor of it. A straight referendum would have been won by opponents of the split, Zieleniec said, but the Slovaks could have understood efforts to implement the results as Czech colonialism.


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