Tributes for 'great European' Vaclav Havel

Vaclav Havel shortly after taking the oath as Czechoslovakia's president - 29 December 1989
Image caption Vaclav Havel in 1989 after taking the oath of office as Czechoslovakia's president

Tributes have been pouring in for Vaclav Havel, the playwright and dissident who led Czech political life after the fall of communism and the break-up of Czechoslovakia.

Czech President Vaclav Klaus

Vaclav Havel became a symbol of the modern Czech state. He must take credit for his daring fight with the communist totalitarian regime, as the leader of the Velvet Revolution, and as the first president of our free country. His personality, name and work substantially helped the Czech Republic become part of the community of free and democratic countries.

Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas

I am personally touched, as President Havel was a symbol of what happened here in 1989. He did a lot for a peaceful transfer to democracy, for settling upon a democratic structure, for the integration of our country into the European Union and Nato.

He was a symbol, he was the face of our Republic, he belongs to the greatest political characters of the last century and the beginning of this century. His passing is a big loss. He might have and should still have had a lot to say - about politics, about social life. I can say as a politician who disagreed with him on a lot of things, which is natural, that my respect and admiration always predominated.

US President Barack Obama

His peaceful resistance shook the foundations of an empire, exposed the emptiness of a repressive ideology, and proved that moral leadership is more powerful than any weapon. He also embodied the aspirations of half a continent that had been cut off by the Iron Curtain, and helped unleash tides of history that led to a united and democratic Europe.

Former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright

Image caption Madeleine Albright with Vaclav Havel in 2003

Amid the turbulence of modern Europe, his voice was the most consistent and compelling — endlessly searching for the best in himself and in each of us.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel

His fight for freedom and democracy was as unforgettable as his great humanity... We Germans also have much to thank him for. Together with you, we mourn the loss of a great European.

British Prime Minister David Cameron

Havel devoted his life to the cause of human freedom. For years, communism tried to crush him, and to extinguish his voice. But Havel, the playwright and the dissident, could not be silenced.

No-one of my generation will ever forget those powerful scenes from Wenceslas Square two decades ago. Havel led the Czech people out of tyranny. And he helped bring freedom and democracy to our entire continent.

Europe owes Vaclav Havel a profound debt. Today his voice has fallen silent. But his example and the cause to which he devoted his life will live on.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague

Cold War hero, playwright and President. He opened the door to democracy in Eastern Europe and will always be remembered.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy

With the death of Vaclav Havel, the Czech republic has lost one of its great patriots, France has lost a friend, and Europe has lost one of its wisest men.

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt

Vaclav Havel was one of the greatest Europeans of our age. His voice for freedom paved way for a Europe whole and free.

Deputy Czech Foreign Minister Jiri Schneider

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Media captionFirst Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jiri Schneider: "President Havel... was a uniting figure"

I think that without him it would have been much harder to get the Czech Republic and other countries in the region into Nato and the European Union, back to the family of free nations. President Havel was - at the right moment, at a critical moment - a uniting figure who was able to actually make these remarkable changes happen without violence, and smoothly.

He was a person who united, although later on I think when he entered politics which is divisive by nature, of course he was criticised and he was felt more uniting from abroad than at home.

Lech Walesa, Solidarity founder and former President of Poland

A great fighter for the freedom of nations and for democracy has died. His outstanding voice of wisdom will be missed in Europe. I am praying for the peace of his soul.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Havel was a brave and powerful voice against totalitarianism and an inspiration for dissidents everywhere struggling for freedom.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso

He was a true European and has been a champion of democracy and liberty throughout his life. He was also a source of great inspiration to all those who fight for freedom and democracy around the world. The man has died but the legacy of his poems, plays and above all his ideas and personal example will remain alive for many generations to come.

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