Ahead of her trip to Hungary, German Chancellor Angela Merkel thanked the eastern European nation for opening its border to East Germans three decades ago. The move was a precursor to the fall of the Berlin Wall.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Saturday paid tribute to Hungary for its role in the fall of the Berlin Wall and Germany's reunification ahead of the anniversary of the so-called Pan-European Picnic.
In her weekly video podcast, Merkel, who grew up 90 kilometers (56 miles) north of East Berlin, thanked Hungary for its decision three decades ago to open its border to the people of East Germany.
"This was a very important building block towards the fall of the wall and to German unity," Merkel said. "We will always be grateful for this contribution."
On August 19, 1989, a Pan-European Picnic organized by civil rights groups took place at Hungary's border with Austria. It allowed for around 600 critics of the communist German Democratic Republic to escape. The mass exodus was a precursor to the fall of the Berlin wall on November 9, 1989.
The German chancellor is set to visit Sopron, a town located on Hungary's border with Austria, on Monday to mark the 30-year anniversary of the picnic, where she will appear with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, It is Merkel's first visit to Hungary since 2014.
The anniversary comes as German-Hungarian relations have cooled. Orban, who has been in power since 2010, has been an open critic of Merkel's refugee policy. Germany also has concerns over Orban's effort to establish an "illiberal" democracy and his pro-Russian stance.
The two leaders are scheduled to meet after Monday's commemoration.
dv/jlw (AFP, dpa)