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German Chancellor Angela Merkel thanked Hungary for the role it had played in the reunification of Germany, at an ecumenical service held in western Hungary’s Sopron, marking the 30th anniversary of the Pan-European Picnic. “We Germans are grateful for Hungary’s contribution to abolishing division in Europe and to German reunification. We thank Hungary for that,” Merkel said.
She noted that thirty years ago, the Pan-European Picnic was organised as a demonstration for European peace and included plans to symbolically open the Hungarian-Austrian border for a few hours. East Germans, “vacationing at Hungarian camping sites,” caught wind of the event and hundreds left all their belongings behind to try and reach freedom, she said.
Regarding the “enormous” challenges facing Europe, Merkel said Europeans should not lose sight of their shared values. “We have to be aware that any nation’s prosperity is conditional on Europe’s. Europe is only as strong as it is united. Europe is strong only inasmuch as it can make compromises in contested issues,” she said. The European peace project “is not self-sustaining,” Merkel said. The masses seeking asylum and needing protection in Europe from crisis regions of the world show how important it is to fight against the root causes of persecution and flight, she said.
Hungary, Germany and the other EU states are today partners in shaping the future of a united Europe, she said. “We have to proceed on the road to freedom, democracy and unity, and might be strengthened by remembering the Pan-European Picnic,” Merkel said.