- Title A border made for crossing
- Publication Title The Economist
- Collection The Economist
- Date Saturday, Aug. 26, 1989
- Volume 312
- Issue Number 7617
- Page Number 37
- Place of Publication London, England
- Language English
- Document Type Article
- Publication Section News
- Source Library The Economist Newspaper Limited
- Copyright Statement © The Economist Newspaper Limited.
A border made for crossing FROM A BONN CORRESPONDENT THE stream of East Germans making their way across the border between Austria and Hungary and on to West Germany has become a flood. In just a few hours on August 19th. close to 700 surged jubilantly through a border gate at Sopron. past Hungarian guards told to look the other way. About 200 a night are now finding their way across differ- ent bits of the largely unguarded border. Some 300 more have been holed up in West German diplomatic misions in East Berlin. Budapest and Prague. West Germany had expected some 90.000 East Germans to arrive this year .1.1 .1 IT -1-1 I r with the official blessing of the East German govern- ment. If the flood of illegals continues. the numbers could swell by up to 20percent-. Suffering an embarrass- ment of immigrants. West Germany's chancellor. Mr Helmut Kohl. this week urged East Germany's lead- ers to introduce the sort of reforms that are being tried in Poland and Hungary. If life in East Germany im- proved. he said. more East Germans might stay at home. Mr Kohl even hinted that. unless the East Ger- man leader. Mr Erich Honecker. does his bit to sort out the problem. West Germany might cut back the amount of money it pours into East Germany each year for everything from road improvements to cleaning up the environment. No response. That is only partly be- cause Mr Honecker is in hospital. recov- ering from an operation for gallstones. Mr Honecker. 77 this week. is the chief obstacle to reform in East Germany. IIl or not. he has no intention of going yet. That has encouraged the govern- ments stuck with the refugee problem to conspire quietly against him. The East Germans who pushed through the Sop- ron border gate were taking advantage of a long-planned Pan-European Picnic . organised under the patronage of Mr Otto von Habsburg. a Euro-MP. and Mr Imre Pozsgay. Hungary's most reform- minded communist. Part of the jollification was a symbolic border walk from Hungary into Aus- tria and back. Once across. the East Ger- mans just kept going. West German offi- cials and Hungarian relief workers who Through the gate and just keep going have been looking after East German ref- ugees in Budapest had tipped them the wink. Once across the border. Austrian gendarmes ferried them to a meeting point and fed them. Then a fleet of buses. chartered in advance by the West Germans. took them to the West Ger- man embassy in Vienna. where British and French diplomats helped issue them with the necessary papers. Now that is European co-operation.