Prime Minister Viktor Orbán on Monday said that even at times when the continent was divided, “we knew there was always only one Europe,” at an ecumenical service commemorating the 30th anniversary of the Pan-European Picnic, a pivotal event in the fall of communism in 1989.
“We believed in it [the reunification of Europe], and it was reunited. It was reunited because of our faith,” Orbán said at the service held in western Hungary’s Sopron and attended by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó and other dignitaries. Orbán said that “if we continue believing in it”, the unity of East and West will be preserved and Europe remains a prosperous home to Europeans.
Orbán called Merkel’s visit a great honour. He said Hungarians have great respect for the chancellor who has led the largest and strongest country in Europe for 14 years. She has also laboured to ensure cooperation among European nations and the reunification of Europe, he said. Since Europe comprises of free and independent nations, European unity “is never completed”: it has to be recreated time and time again, he said. In Hungary, “we tip our hats before hardworking and successful ladies”, he said, wishing Merkel further success, the respect of her nation and of Europe.
Held on August 19, 1989, on the Austrian-Hungarian border near Sopron, the Pan-European Picnic was a demonstration of peaceful coexistence between Austria and Hungary. The border crossing was opened for three hours, allowing nearly 1,000 East Germans to flee to the West. The picnic was one of the events that contributed to the opening of the borders and the reunification of Germany.