World

Ex-Austrian minister who helped tear down Iron Curtain dies

Former Austrian Foreign Minister Alois Mock died aged 82 on Thursday, nearly three decades after he and his Hungarian counterpart made worldwide headlines by cutting through barbed wire that represented the communist Iron Curtain separating the two countries.

Lauded by Austrian leaders as a key architect of Austria's 1995 EU entry, he is more remembered worldwide for the border ceremony in June 27, 1989. The moment he and then-Hungarian Foreign Minister Gyula Horn wielded wire cutters to demonstrate good neighborly relations between the West and the Soviet bloc were captured in iconic photos that made front pages across the world.

At the time, there were few signs that the Iron Curtain would soon come down. But that symbolic opening between East and West was followed only months later with the first major event foreshadowing the end of communist rule in Eastern Europe.

After tens of thousands of East Germans turned their back on their hard-line communist homeland and flooded Hungary in a desperate bid to transit to West Germany, Hungary — the Soviet bloc's most liberal member — opened its border with Austria and allowed them free passage.

Mock, a key figure of the centrist People's Party, served as foreign minister between 1987 and 1995.

He is survived by Edith Mock, his wife of 53 years. Funeral arrangements have not been announced.

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This story has been corrected to show that the fence-cutting was nearly three decades ago and not more than three decades ago