Hungary is celebrating the 20th anniversary today of its “Pan-European Picnic”: the day it opened its border with Austria, providing a pathway for hundreds of East Germans to exit Europe’s communist east. “The Soviet bloc was like an air balloon with over-pressure so it needed only a prick of the needle, and we were holding this needle,” one organizer tells the BBC.
The tidal wave resulted just months later in the opening of the Berlin Wall. The Picnic “gave hope to millions of citizens for a Europe whole and free,” said the European Commission’s president. “It speaks volumes of the power of the human spirit and of courageous people, who did not merely ‘talk the talk’ but truly ‘walked the walk’—the walk to freedom, democracy, and European solidarity.”