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Merkel thanks Hungary for its role in fall of Berlin Wall

German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, has paid tribute to Hungary for the role it played in Germany’s reunification 30 years ago, thanking Hungary for its decision in 1989 to open its border to the people of East Germany.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) shakes hands with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban during a joint press conference in Berlin. (AFP file photo)

The move gave residents of the former communist state a gateway to the West and precipitated the fall of the Iron Curtain.

“This was a very important step in the sense of us being able to get to the fall of the wall and then to German unity,’’ she said in her weekly podcast, released on Saturday.

On Aug. 19, 1989, the so-called Pan-European Picnic, organised by civil society groups, took place at the Austrian-Hungarian border, allowing hundreds of critics of the communist German Democratic Republic regime a means of escape over the course of a couple of hours.

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The trickle of refugees later became a flood when Hungary, then a member of the Soviet Bloc, succumbed to the tens of thousands of East Germans camping out near its border by cutting down the fence.

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The Berlin Wall fell within three months of the picnic-turned-peace movement, and East and West Germany were officially reunified in 1990.

Merkel is to visit the border city of Sopron in western Hungary on Monday to mark the anniversary of the Pan-European Picnic, together with Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orban.

It will be Merkel’s first visit to the country since 2014.

The two leaders have clashed over the topic of migration, while Orban’s anti-EU stance and closeness with Russia has also been a source of friction. (NAN)

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