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The Pan-European Picnic (German: Paneuropäisches Picknick; Hungarian: páneurópai piknik) was a peace demonstration held on the Austrian-Hungarian border near the town of Sopron on 19 August 1989, an important event in political developments which led to the fall of the Iron Curtain and the reunification of Germany.

Contents

1989 events

In a symbolic gesture agreed to by both countries, a border gate on the road from Sankt Margarethen im Burgenland (Austria) to SopronkŇĎhida (Hungary) was to be opened for three hours. About 6 km (3.7 mi) away from this spot on 27 June 1989, Austria's then foreign minister Alois Mock and his Hungarian counterpart Gyula Horn had together cut through the border fence, in a move highlighting Hungary's decision to dismantle its surveillance installations along the border, a process started on 2 May 1989.

More than 600 East Germans seized the opportunity presented by this brief lifting of the Iron Curtain and fled into the west. In the run-up to 19 August, the organisers of the Pan-European Picnic had distributed pamphlets advertising the event. The Hungarian border guards, however, reacted judiciously to the growing number of people fleeing, and, despite their orders to shoot anyone who attempted to cross the border, did not intervene.

In Budapest and around the Lake Balaton, thousands more East Germans were waiting for their chance to cross the border, not believing that the border would be opened, and not trusting the procedures in place. The number of people who crossed the border into the west on the day of this event was therefore limited to no more than a few hundred. Over the next few days, the Hungarian government increased the number of guards patrolling its western border, so that only a relatively small number actually reached the west successfully. On 11 September 1989, Hungary finally opened its borders for citizens of the German Democratic Republic for good.

The picnic was organised by members of four Hungarian opposition parties, the Hungarian Democratic Forum the Alliance of Free Democrats, the Fidesz and FKGP. The event's patrons were CSU MEP Otto von Habsburg (then head of the house of Habsburg and pretender to the Austro-Hungarian throne) and the Hungarian Minister of State and reformer Imre Pozsgay.

East Germany's Erich Honecker gave the following statement to the Daily Mirror on the Pan-European Picnic:

Habsburg distributed pamphlets right up to the Polish border, inviting East German holiday-makers to a picnic. When they came to the picnic, they were given presents, food and Deutschmarks, before being persuaded to go over to the west.

The following weeks saw a definite change in the perception of the previously impenetrable Iron Curtain.

Today

Pan-European Picnic monument by Miklós Melocco

Today the place of the picnic is marked by a monument of Mikl√≥s Melocco, by a bell presented from the city of Debrecen (from where the idea of the Picnic emerged), a pagoda presented by the Association of the Japanese‚ÄďHungarian Friendship and by a wooden monument unveiled by the organisors in 1991. A large artwork symbolizing a Cross and a barbed wire can be found at the Cave Theatre of FertŇĎr√°kos, a few kilometres from the site. The artwork was made by Gabriela von Habsburg, a daughter of Otto von Habsburg.

The Pan-European Picnic is considered a highly significant milestone in the efforts that led to the end of the GDR and to the German reunification. Commemorative ceremonies are held each year on 19 August at the place where the border was opened.

In 2009, Angela Merkel, who grew up in East Germany, visited festivities marking the 20th anniversary and thanked Hungarians for courage and foresight: "Two enslaved nations together broke down the walls of enslavement... and Hungarians gave wings to East Germans' desire for freedom."[1]

Hungarian President László Sólyom unveiled a white marble monument in memory of those who had risked their life to cross the Iron Curtain.[1]

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said that "We must remain an open Europe of open societies and open minds, open to others beyond our present boundaries".[1]

References

See also

References

This article incorporates information from the equivalent article on the German Wikipedia.

External links








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