The Centre for Research into Post-Communist Economies

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Lessons from History

CRCE Briefing Paper

The fall of the Berlin Wall

by Geza Jeszensky and Krassen Stanchev

About the Authors

Following the elections of 1994 Geza Jeszenszky joined the Opposition in Parliament. In 1995 he was elected President of the Hungarian Atlantic Council, a post he gave up when nominated Ambassador to the United States of America. He served in Washington from 1998 to 2002, representing the government led by V. Orbán. In September 2002 he resumed teaching history and international relations at the Budapest University of Economics and Public Administration. As a Visiting Professor he also teaches the history of Central Europe at the College of Europe, Warsaw-Natolin, and at the Babes-Bolyai University at Cluj-Napoca/Kolozsvár in Romania

Dr Krassen Stanchev is the Executive Director of the Institute for Market Economics (since 1993), and a former Member of Parliament. He is one of the most quoted Bulgarian observers and received the best individual country analyst award for 1996 from Euromoney. He was, in 1995, an initiator of the Balkan Network and the European Emerging Economies Network, and has much experience in the region (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, and Serbia and Montenegro), Central Europe and the FSU.

We are grateful to Geza Jeszensky and Krassen Stanchev. These two articles by our colleagues deserve a wide readership.

First published as a CRCE Occasional Paper 15 May 2010

© Geza Jeszensky and Krassen Stanchev November 2009

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Fall of the Berlin Wall

Géza Jeszenszky
Foreign Minister of Hungary, 1990-94, Ambassador to the U.S.A., 1998-2002

In the last weeks there were numerous commemorations and conferences celebrating the fall of the Berlin Wall, the symbol of the division of Europe, and a very real piece of the Iron Curtain. The most publicized events took place in Berlin, understandably. The United States, too, remembered 1989, but with a serious omission: without mentioning the pivotal role of Hungary. E.g.: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to unveil democracy agenda at Atlantic Council awards ceremony Freedom's Challenge dinner in Berlin will commemorate fall of the Wall, honour Walesa and Havel

Washington, D.C. - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will deliver a major foreign policy address on the administration's new agenda for freedom and democracy promotion at the Freedom's Challenge dinner and awards ceremony in Berlin on November 8.

In celebration of the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Atlantic Council will present Freedom Awards to former Presidents Lech Walesa and Vaclav Havel, honouring their struggles for democracy in Poland and the former Czechoslovakia. Freedom Awards will also be accepted by Secretary Clinton on behalf of the American people, Supreme Allied Commander Europe Admiral James Stavridis on behalf of NATO troops, Vice Chancellor Guido Westerwelle on behalf of the German people and Mayor Klaus Wowereit on behalf of the citizens of Berlin.

The Council honoured former U.S. President George H.W. Bush and former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl with its Distinguished International Leadership Award in April for their historic roles twenty years ago.

Frederick Kempe, President and CEO of the Atlantic Council, said, "Presidents Walesa and Havel sparked a wave of democratic revolutions across Eastern Europe. Today, the United States and its allies must continue to stand up for democracy and freedom through constructive leadership and cooperation; the Atlantic Council Freedom Awards proudly honour those who helped make the fall of the Berlin Wall a reality."

That announcement prompted me to send the following message to the ACUS:

I am very pleased to learn about the ceremony in Berlin and about the awards, especially those given to former Presidents Havel and Walesa. On the other hand I am saddened that no Hungarian was found worthy of such an award, and Hungary is not even mentioned in your communiqué. That is an unforgivable distortion of history.

As a reminder I send you a part of my address I'll give on November 9 at the NATO School at Oberammergau. In that I give a summary of Hungary's seminal role in the demolition of the Berlin Wall and the fall of all the European communist dominoes.

Whereas in Hungary several people (both from the side of the government and the opposition) could be singled out as deserving special recognition for the release of the East Germans, one person should not be forgotten: the late József Antall, Head of the Hungarian Democratic Forum and Prime Minister from 1990 until his untimely death in December, 1993. He initiated the highly important Visegrad Cooperation, and through that the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, thus ending the Cold War with the victory of the free world. I hope that at least somebody will mention Hungary and its brave leader, Antall, during the ceremonies.

In order to put the record straight, I ask all of you to remember to role of Hungary and to remind people to that. Below is the full text of my address, prepared for an audience overwhelmingly German.

Read the full text here