Hungary's Former PM Gyula Horn: From Communist Soldier To Free-Market Pioneer

  • 3 Jul 2013 9:00 AM
Hungary's Former PM Gyula Horn: From Communist Soldier To Free-Market Pioneer
Former prime minister Gyula Horn, famed for his role in tearing a hole in the Iron Curtain, died in Budapest’s Honved hospital on Wednesday at the age of 81. He was premier from 1994-98.

The government announced that Horn died following a lengthy unspecified illness, adding that the cabinet expresses its sympathy and condolences to his family.

He is survived by his wife Anna, his daughter Anna and son Gyula Jr.

Horn was born to a working-class family in Budapest on July 5, 1932. His father was taken away by the Gestapo in 1944 and never seen again.

After attending university at Rostov-on-Don in the Soviet Union, Horn served in the law enforcement services from October 1956 to June 1957.

He worked at the state party’s foreign relations department for 16 years from 1969. From May 1989 to May 1990 he was foreign minister in the Nemeth government, as Hungary opened diplomatic relations with South Korea, Israel, the Vatican and South Africa.

Horn rose to worldwide fame when he and his then Austrian counterpart Alois Mock symbolically cut the barbed wire on the border on June 27, 1989 and announced that citizens of East Germany would be allowed to cross through Hungary to the West. The border remained open until October 7.

Horn also prepared and signed an agreement with the Soviet Union in March 1990 on the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Hungary. At that time he raised the prospect of Hungary's accession to NATO and the EU.

As Communism collapsed, Horn was one of the founding members of the Hungarian Socialist Party in October 1989, serving as its president from May 1990 to September 1998.

He led the return to power of former Communists in a huge election victory in 1994. Despite winning an outright parliamentary majority, he agreed to form a coalition with the liberal Free Democrat party.

Horn's cabinet carried out extensive privatisations, and passed the Bokros package, which helped Hungary avoid financial bankruptcy and put the economy on a growth orbit. He resigned as party leader after the Socialists lost the 1998 elections.

Horn was hospitalised in 2007 and did not run for Parliament at the 2010 elections.

Source: Hungary Around the Clock

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