The Socialist International mourns the loss of Gyula Horn, a former Vice-President of the SI, former leader of the Hungarian Socialist Party, and Prime Minister of Hungary from 1994 to 1998, who passed away yesterday, 19 June 2013.
Horn, who was born in 1932 in Budapest, studied Economics before joining the Hungarian Working People’s Party in 1954, later reorganised in 1956 as the Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party (MSzMP), led by János Kádár. From 1954 to 1959 Horn worked at the Ministry of Finance, after which he served in the Foreign Ministry, and during the 1960s he became a diplomat in the Hungarian embassies in Bulgaria and Yugoslavia. He was appointed Secretary of State in the Foreign Ministry in 1985 and Minister for Foreign Affairs in 1989. In 1990, Horn was elected chairman of the Hungarian Socialist Party (MSzP), established in October 1989. Under his leadership, the party achieved victory in 1994. Gyula Horn was Prime Minister from 1994 to 1998, and held a seat in Parliament from 1990 to 2010.
At a defining time of transition in Central and Eastern Europe, Gyula Horn’s political vision greatly influenced Hungarian politics and the wider European political context. His role in the downfall of the Berlin Wall, and subsequent unification of Germany, is now embedded in European history. In 1989, whilst Foreign Minister under Prime Minister Miklos Nemeth, Gyula Horn was behind the opening of a route through Hungary to allow East Germans passage to the West, a fact which accelerated the fall of the Wall two months later.
Gyula Horn was elected as a Vice-President of the SI at our Congress held in New York in 1996. He joined in Socialist International activities and played an important part in many of our global debates on democracy. With his party, Horn hosted a number of SI events, including meetings of the SI Committee for Central and Eastern Europe and, as Hungarian Prime Minister, hosted the SI Council meeting in Budapest in 1994.
Despite debilitating illness in later life, Gyula Horn continued to be politically active until recent years. Today we honour his memory and pay tribute to his life, to his democratic achievements, and to his contribution to the work of the Socialist International. He will be long remembered and sadly missed.