INTERVIEWER: Now so when it came to your opening the border, what, what did you fear that there maybe a reaction, for instance a boycott, from those Warsaw pact states who had already said that they were looking carefully at the reforms.
MIKLOS NEMETH: Yeah we have, we assessed the situation, internationally, militarily, politically, legally and so on. Based on my experience with Gorbachev in March and later on in July at a Warsaw pact summit meeting in Bucharest, I, I was assured that without the Soviet support, these smaller "dogs" cannot do anything. they can cry out you know they can make nasty comments on me and on the for instance in Bucharest I was the only person Ceaucescau called Mr., you know sort of , so I was not called as a Comrade, you know. I was called as Mr., which meant a lot. Mr. is not belonging to the same family. but without Gorbachev or the Soviet support there were rewards to isolate Hungary, or to stop the reform process and especially to stop the opening of the border, was absolutely failed, and none, it was, it was absolutely a sort of imaginative idea only and without, without Gorbachev's support they failed.
INTERVIEWER: Mmmm, because just to press on this a little, I mean, the, the, so you didn't fear a boycott at all, firstly and secondly the Germans did not offer you any money in case there was an adverse economic...
MIKLOS NEMETH: I, I did not fear of a boycott, I did not fear of a military intervene, intervention. I did fear that even the Soviets can influence certain key decision-makers, and stopping the gas for a couple of days in the pipeline or the oil. sending telegrams that because of our difficulties we are not able any more to provide x or y million tons of products. Hmm? This sort of, this sort of slats came in day by day. And when first time I, I faced an energy crisis, I immediately flew to Germany and even in principle, we agreed that if this continues, they are ready to step in and helping us out. So this sort of communication went on and on, but these threats did not last for more than a couple or few days only.
INTERVIEWER: So when you say the first threat of energy crisis, that was after the 25th after the ,
MIKLOS NEMETH: That was yeah oh that was after the 10th of September.
INTERVIEWER: So another thing that happened at Schlastconisch (?) was that you also agreed that in that eventuality the West Germans would help you out. Is that right? Could you say that.
MIKLOS NEMETH: Yes that was agreed at the highest level, that if Hungary facing difficulties and energy crisis or the stop of supply of certain key products. That case I let the Germans at the highest level know and they promise a quite substantial helping hand to Hungary and it did not, it was not needed because the energy crisis, lasted only just for a couple of days.
INTERVIEWER: But the West Germans had provided you with large sums beforehand hadn't they. I think Hors Teltschick said, that I mean it was a normal part of the sort of liberal..
MIKLOS NEMETH: Oh yes you know the, the killing of the socialist bloc or the communist system, started with that moment when the Western banks, financial institutions on a very selected basis of course gave some credits and debts loans to certain countries. Indeed among others to Hungary. Because with that moment, the Western countries put on a hook these countries. They did not care and they did not criticize the leadership of those countries who used this money to finance deficits, to finance consumption. Because they, the loans were guaranteed by the state, by the national banks. So for me, the start of the end of the Cold war started with the date when wisely certain western governments influenced their financial institutions, banks letting some countries accumulating some debts. So
INTERVIEWER: When was that do you think I mean are you talking about the..
MIKLOS NEMETH: Late 60s, late 60s, this whole process started in the late 60s.
INTERVIEWER: But then presumably was renewed again in 88 because the situation was changing then is that right? So was there a renewal, can you tell me how far was there a renewal of those offers at that stage, selectively, particularly in relation to those countries that were reforming?
MIKLOS NEMETH: The nature of this process is very unique. There is a point, there is a stage, when you asking for more loans in order to repay your old ones. And Hungary practically has reached this point in the early 80s and mid 80s.
INTERVIEWER: Right, I have just realized it is getting on a bit so we have to push on. Right now in July at the Warsaw pact summit, I wonder if you could briefly describe, the meeting where you were about to be attacked by Ceaucescau and Honecker and you and I'd just like the bit where, and you stood across, sat across the table, they were about to attack you and Gorbachev signaled that you need not worry.
MIKLOS NEMETH: Yeah that was after the reburial. The Warsaw Pact Summit in July in Bucharest was after the reburial of the '56 victims, after the visit of President Bush and James Baker to Hungary and in the midst of summer holiday, with a lot of East German tourists staying in Hungary and refusing to go home, you see. Because the East Germans called them you see publicly and informally they sent leaflets and spies and agents to the country and they, they tried to convince the East Germans to go home. Now at the same time, we started officially in Hungary by the summit meeting we started round table negotiations with the, with the new opposition parties. So put together this very important elements. What is the message for a Ceaucesceau, for a for a Honecker or for a Milo Shaukepf (?) of for a Gribkov, the message is that we should do something, because you know, if the Hungarians doing this, we will be facing pressures against us in our respected countries. So based on these facts they publicly in front of the Hungarian delegation they asked for a special meeting to discuss the certain, certain threats to the socialistic system in Hungary and in Poland.
INTERVIEWER: We've run out, oh keep going I beg your pardon.
MIKLOS NEMETH: Ceaucescau made that point quite clearly Honecker and the Germans repeated it, and when I heard the first proposal from Ceaucescau on this I looked at looked at the other side of the table where the Soviet delegation was seated and our eyes crossed each others eyes. He was signaling to me that "Okay don't argue against." So in other words he send me by his eyes an important message that you don't have to say a word, it will not happen, and it did not.
INTERVIEWER: Now can I ask you about President Bush's visit to Hungary. What did you feel, from what was said about America's attitude to the reforms, and how important was this to you, what did he say to you abut the reforms?
MIKLOS NEMETH: It was it was a very important visit. For mainly for two reasons I wanted to demonstrate to the public and to the whole world that we are not in the laps of the West Germans only. Although based on the history, cultural relations it's quite natural, geographically we are very close to each other, so its quite natural that you have with a country certain strong relations be that those cultural or economical ones. But to have president Bush in a communist country in the midst of, or in the middle of the round table discussions, when the whole country preparing its for a new start. I felt that this, this was really of crucial importance, not just for the government but for the whole nation. And to get them in Hungary, those days, indirectly sent an important message to the neighboring countries people too. That, that visit to some extent opened the eyes of the Czechoslovakian citizens of the Romanians of the Bulgarians, and the even of the Russians.
INTERVIEWER: So if he supported the reforms, now what sort of offers did he make as well in terms of buttressing that support with,
MIKLOS NEMETH: The Americans, he made a speech at my university, I was he made an important announcement, financially supporting an environmental center. He made another statement that the most favored nation status would be guaranteed to the country if the country goes down the reform road. he praised the values of a real good functioning democracy and market economy. So he encouraged the leadership and the society to continue, and we did it.
INTERVIEWER: Now one of the aims traditionally of America and the West Germany had been to undermine the communist system, how far do you feel, I mean throughout the whole of the cold war, it was part of the cold war, how did you feel being in the position of knowing that this was probably also another political agenda, that they were working on at the time and that you were right in the center of that. How did that feel to you? Did you see they also had an Agenda, which was to attack and put pressure on, particularly the GDR and the communist countries.
MIKLOS NEMETH: If you were smart enough you noted the hidden agenda behind all of these actions. But we did it, in a close collaboration with these forces, that was, that was not against our interest, to get rid f the whole rigid stupid system. For me the most important element of the changes of the whole transformation is to make the generations after, after us, more compatible, more ready, for the reintegration of this, the whole region into the world economy and into the world, free world system. That's something. If you can achieve that you have done a lot. Freeing up the energies of the societies and, and letting our children to see the whole world.
INTERVIEWER: Did you feel that you could reform,
INTERVIEWER: Okay Mr. Nemeth did you ever feel that socialism could be reformed or were you always aware that once you started liberalizing reforms like yours that it would inevitably collapse.
MIKLOS NEMETH: at the beginning of my professional career, and especially at the beginning of my quasi-political career, those days I believed strongly in the, in the reformability of the socialist system. the turning point was in my mind in the central committee meeting in the in the early 80s when despite all the efforts we the Young Turks made to prepare certain very important papers, you know new policy papers, the old guard, the representative of those party members who really ruled the country turned it down. That was a crucial moment when I realized that under this one party system there is no way to make our life better, to make the reforms really working for the interest of the people and the country. So to be honest I believed in the reformability of the socialist system at the beginning of my career. Later on I strongly believed in another concept that if you want to achieve the basics, the basic political and economic goals you have to have a substantial change, not just in the economy but in the political system too.
INTERVIEWER: Which means overthrowing communism.
MIKLOS NEMETH: Yes, Yes
INTERVIEWER: Could you say that, because I'm not on camera
MIKLOS NEMETH: Which means overthrowing the whole, so, the whole communist system.
INTERVIEWER: Right, now I'd like to ask you about Gorbachev's attitude to German reunification. you, told me before that there had been during the period, when Gorbachev was in round about December after Malta, round about December in 89, Gorbachev was saying that the was, he wanted to retain the sovereignty of the GDR but you became a go-between between Gorbachev and the West Germans delivering the message from Gorbachev to the West Germans. Now can you tell me what that message was please?
MIKLOS NEMETH: Yes the West Germans, especially Chancellor Kohl, was very nervous about the reaction of the key players on the political map in those days. Of, about the idea of reunification of the two parts of Germany. Officially Gorbachev took up a very cautious stance against the idea and that bothered a bit whole West German leadership. Without an agreement between the two superpowers to push through the unification concept would have been a bit bizarre, and based on our special relationship I played the go-between role for instance vis a vis the German citizens living in Poland, so I remember for instance, much earlier than I visited them, Chancellor Kohl asked me whether I am going to officially visit Poland or not, and when I said "Yes, I will go to see Poland and my counterpart". Soon he specifically asked me that "Why don't you, why don't you raise the issue of letting in the southern part of Poland the priests delivering the services in Germany." Mmm? In, in the churches. I did it. The Polish leadership was not happy to hear it, but they made some steps for it, and that pleased Chancellor Kohl and the Germans. Now based on these bits he informally asked me to find out the real, how wise is the real stance on the German unification issue of the soviet leaders. And he was very pleased, when I when I briefed him that "look don't mix up the two. The publicly made statements and the real feeling." And what
INTERVIEWER: What had Gorbachev said to you and had he said this to you intending you should tell Chancellor Kohl?
MIKLOS NEMETH: it was an interesting matter for what I heard from Gorbachev on this. It's not card. two stones that cannot be pushed through, within a reasonable time frame with all parties interest had been taken into account, we can find a solution. You know these sort of sentences from the leader of a superpower, easily been interpreted and translated by another important leader into actions. And
INTERVIEWER: Gorbachev said that to you, could you say to me, Gorbachev said that to me, and did he know that you would tell the West, did he intend that you should tell the West Germans?
MIKLOS NEMETH: I did not tell him that I am asking his views on the German unification issue, because I was asked by the Germans to do this. But he, is a smart man, probably he thought immediately that its not just a curiosity of Mr. Nemeth's mind to raise this issue, and Gorbachev told me quite clearly using very interesting metaphor, that or parallel that this will happen very soon. The basic message of his saying was "We are not opposing it, although publicly we can't support it so strongly at this stage, they should understand that."
INTERVIEWER: Brilliant, and the date of that was, December?
MIKLOS NEMETH: Early December 1989.
INTERVIEWER: Great, well thank you very much indeed. Thank you.