When, in 2003, some 78 percent of Czechs voted in in favor of joining the European Union, the mood in the country was optimistic. The country's economy had shown impressive growth rates; foreign investment had been booming. Joining the EU on May 1, 2004, was seen as a symbolic step underlining successful reforms that had been adopted during the process of accession. On the 10th anniversary of accession, the mood is far less optimistic. According to the latest surveys, about two-thirds of Czechs do not trust the EU, citing too much bureaucracy and overregulation as the main problems of the EU.
I lived in Prague for a year of graduate school in 2008 and 2009, and I marveled at the tantalizing gay boys I found in the city. After years of watching Bel Ami porn, I expected wild Slavic demigods, but I found the local gay community to be more reserved than their international reputation would suggest.
When Havel became president of Czechoslovakia at the end of 1989 -- and later, the president of the Czech Republic -- he became a powerful symbol of a new era of politics. Surely the country would "live in truth" as long as it had a president of unimpeachable character. On the practical, day-to-day matters of politics and economics, however, Havel was not as influential.