Karel Schwarzenberg, politician of European stature, has died

, Česky

Karel Schwarzenberg, the former foreign minister, chairman of TOP 09 and also a presidential candidate, died today, 12 November, in Vienna. He was 85 years old. At the end of October this year, Schwarzenberg received the highest state decoration, the Order of the White Lion, for his services to the state in the field of politics. Schwarzenberg has also received awards in the past for building international relations within the Visegrad Four – in 2014, Poland awarded him the Order of Merit’s Grand Cross, the highest honour given to foreigners. He was also awarded the Commander’s Cross with Star of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Hungary in 2009.

Karel Schwarzenberg was born in 1937 in Prague and was a descendant of the Eagle branch of the noble Schwarzenberg family. After the communist coup in 1948, his entire family left for Austria.

Schwarzenberg then studied law in Vienna and Graz and forestry in Munich, but did not complete his studies due to the untimely death of his father. In the 1980s he was chairman of the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights.

He returned to his homeland in 1990 and served as Chancellor of President Václav Havel until 1992. His passion was supporting the restoration of neglected monuments.

After the establishment of the independent Czech Republic, Karel Schwarzenberg did not return to the Castle, but devoted himself to business and the management of his property. He was also involved in public life, for example, in the drafting of the Czech-German Declaration. In 1997 he joined the Civic Democratic Alliance party.

Karel Schwarzenberg first became involved in high politics in 2004, when he became a senator. He later became a Member of Parliament and twice Minister of Foreign Affairs, specifically in the governments of Mirek Topolánek and Petr Nečas (both ODS).

Chairman of TOP 09

In 2009, Schwarzenberg became chairman of the newly formed TOP 09 party. “It is absolutely clear to all of us that this is a risk for everyone, because Miroslav Kalousek and I have earned political capital over the years, which we are betting on a gamble that we don't know how it will turn out,” he said at its founding. The project succeeded and became an alternative for more conservative right-wing voters.

Karel Schwarzenberg was one of the most popular politicians, which was confirmed in the first ever direct election of a president. He advanced to the second round, but was not able to beat the winner, Miloš Zeman.

Karel Schwarzenberg
Karel Schwarzenberg (photo source: Václav Havel Library)