The dismantling of the Iron Curtain was started [in early 1989] as part of Hungary's development toward an independent foreign policy. But we came in for very tough criticism from Moscow and its allies. So it was decided to have a sort of fence-cutting ceremony, together with Austrian Foreign Minister Alois Mock, to demonstrate to the world that we were not going to stop, that we were going to dismantle the Iron Curtain and that we were creating an irreversible situation. Actually, they couldn't do anything against it. Later, when we began letting out East German refugees, we followed the same principle. Only two other people knew about that besides me Prime Minister Miklos Nemeth and Minister of the Interior Istvan Horvath and there was coordination with the West Germans and the Austrians.
Moscow would have had two means of preventing it. One was military intervention, and in fact, the Romanian and the Czechoslovak leadership demanded it. The second was the threat of economic retaliation. But neither of these things happened. Under Brezhnev things would have been very different. Having a Gorbachev in Moscow was very important for all of this.
I did not expect subsequent events to happen so quickly. Even at the time of the demolition of the Berlin Wall, analysts were saying it could lead to a kind of confederation or a close partnership, but not unification. Of course, the leaders of the Federal Republic of Germany recognized the historic chance for unification. Without people like Helmut Kohl and Hans-Dietrich Genscher, maybe unification would not have taken place so quickly, or perhaps not at all. They played a historic role just like Gorbachev.
I am proud of the role I played in 1989, when I was Minister of Foreign Affairs. But it is also important to assume responsibility for the past, and I never conceal the fact that I was a communist. By a long process, I turned from a communist into a European left-wing politician. There are many like me who gradually became convinced that the [communist] system was antidemocratic, against achievement and performance. Today we don't deal with who has what sort of past, or religion or ideology. Neither do we feel nostalgic for the paternalistic regime of Janos Kadar. We are wiping away the last remnants of Kadarism and putting an end to the patronizing role of the state.
A onetime Secretary of State and Foreign Affairs Minister of Hungary, Gyula Horn is now the Prime Minister
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