The European Green Belt, our shared natural heritage along the line of the former Iron Curtain, is to be conserved and restored as an ecological network connecting high-value natural and cultural landscapes while respecting the economic, social and cultural needs of local communities.



The Iron Curtain and its Overcoming

Originally the word for the fireproof curtain in a theatre, in 1946 Winston Churchill coined the phrase “Iron Curtain” for this new barrier between the two political and military systems in his famous "Sinews of Peace" speech in Missouri.

The Iron Curtain became an almost impermeable physical barrier: metal fences, walls, bunkers, barbed wire, guard towers, spring guns, land mines and watch dogs created a death zone between countries that separated families for decades and caused death or injuries to hundreds of people trying to cross the border. With a weakened economy in the border regions, many residents moved out of the area.

The Pan-European Picnic

In 1989, the border between Hungary and neutral Austria became the first part of the Iron Curtain to be dismantled: On 19 August 1989, a meeting (Pan-European Picnic) was organized near Sopron, mainly by the Hungarian Democratic Forum, to celebrate the foundation of the Hungarian state. The opening of the border for Hungarians was a good opportunity for almost 600 tourists from the GDR to escape to Austria, and resulted in the first crack in the Iron Curtain. Later that summer, the foreign ministers of Austria and Hungary, Alois Mock and Gyula Horn, ceremonially cut the border defences separating their countries. The Pan-European Picnic was an important event during the revolution of 1989 and led to the fall of the Iron Curtain.