David T C Davies is the Member of Parliament for Monmouth and Chairman of the Welsh Affairs select committee. Follow David on Twitter.
If it weren’t for the fall of the Berlin Wall, I would not have met my wife. This claim is a funny place to start discussing core conservatism, but true nonetheless. 1989 was also a crucial moment in forming my, and many others, political beliefs.
The wall may have fallen in Berlin but the first tear in the Iron Curtain took place 100 miles south on the border between Hungary and Austria. Last month I walked the site with an ex-border guard, a friend of my Hungarian in-laws, who presented me with a piece of the very barbed wire that was cut away, allowing East Germans their first taste of freedom.
It’s a symbol of why my generation were first inspired to join the Conservative Party, as defenders of freedom in party that set itself firmly against Communist totalitarianism.
The Hungarians, who had begun to open up their economy and embrace pluralism, stepped up their involvement in the politics of the wall at the start of ’89. Centre right politicians like Otto Von Habsburg, then an Austrian MEP, a young Hungarian dissident, Viktor Orbán, and others organised the protest which became known as the Pan-European Picnic in Sopron, Hungary. It was this event which tore a gaping whole through the Iron Curtain and helped being down Communism across Eastern Europe later that year.
In the fields facing the Austrian border, gathered thousands of East Germans. They had travelled on the pretext of going on holiday in another Communist state, but had decided to abandon their homes to make a bid for freedom in the West.
Knowing what would await them if they returned to East Germany they congregated along the border and refused to leave.