Pan-European Picnic 1989: the end of the Iron-Curtain. Part 1
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Pan-European Picnic 1989: the end of the Iron-Curtain. Part 1

It happened 20 years ago…
Interview with Miklós Németh (Hungarian
PM during the fall of the Berlin Wall).
Part 1. Pan-European Picnic, Sopron (Hungarian town near the Austrian border) I haven’t agreed with the idea of barbed wire fence even theoretically. It was interesting to hear Gorbachev’s answer and reaction to this proposal. He gazed in the distance and said 2 things: The first was that “this is every country’s own responsibility (ie. the border security system), ours is OK,
it’s working, but if you have a different solution go ahead and do it your way.” I don’t even understand what is the essence of this problem. Said Gorbachev, but months later when tens of thousands of
East German tourists overstayed their visas in Hungary during the Bucharest meeting of the Warsaw Pact he
asked with a wink and a smile: “How are those DDR tourists doing you’ve got in your country?!” At that point he finally understood what he dismissed
with a simple hand waving back in March Namely that this wasn’t a decision without consequences. The DDR citizens, the tourists from the old East Germany, watched with great interest What the Hungarian government was doing with the Romanian refugees arriving and settling here. and thought, rightly so, that “if the Hungarian Government is not deporting Romanian refugees it’s
worth seeing how they will deal with us if we stay here too”. At the end of June, beginning of July it was apparent in Hungary
that many tens of thousands of people were waiting for something. Many entered the West German Embassy, the Consulate and petitioned for West German passports. that could not be arranged according to contemporary international
norms: they couldn’t cross the Hungarian border. So that decision was like a hot potato: we couldn’t wait for a
long time hoping that it will cool down and solve itself. Therefore from the middle of that summer I follow these events continuously asking the Foreign
Ministry, Interior Ministry, and Justice Ministry to evaluate the different variations and possibilities. and the situation by end of summer, turn of July and August, becomes critical Camping areas around lake Balaton are full and next to roads
DDR tourists are camping illegally, the streets of Budapest filled… I personally experience this while visiting a friend of mine, sometime around August 7-10 Having to step over and around the people waiting on the sidewalk in the area of the
West German Consulate, children and women waiting to get in to a new free world. What they did around the people was done with my knowledge and instructions. It was especially important that the Hungarian Intelligence Service, not on the side of the Interior
Ministry but Military Intelligence, which was a more disciplined and much more goal oriented organization, and I used military intelligence especially in judging the situation
in Moscow and in evaluating events in other countries. The Pan-European picnic was a peace demonstration on the austro-hungarian border near Sopron. What is happening today would have been unimaginable only two years ago. This thanks to the
Hungarian People who demonstrated the last few decades too their love of country and freedom. We haven’t reached our goal yet. We cannot rest until Hungary becomes member
of that European Community of nations which started to form here and now. During the Pan-European picnic cca 600 DDR citizens fled to the west The Justice Minister’s advice which I followed, to sign the Geneva Convention
and Protocol regarding refugees, was really helpful in solving the situation. and then Romania and East Germany can say what they want because this is a UN Treaty, they
are part of the UN, we are too, Hungary signed this Treaty, it’s none of their business but a UN Treaty between member nations supersedes
any bilateral agreements between individual countries we used this when the headlines became about 60, 70 100 thousands of refugees. then I took on the issue again, I never forget it was August 22th
afternoon I called in the 6 people of mine concerning this I listen to all their proposals and ask “isn’t there a
clean solution?” and one answers “Yes” but doesn’t offer it. then I ask “is opening the border a clean solution”.
“Yes, that’s what we thought too but didn’t say”. in that case that’s going to be the decision. If we are going to allow tens of thousands
to cross the border that cannot happen from one day to the next, that has to be prepared.


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