Otto von Habsburg champions Croatia as a typical European country
Saturday, August 14, 2004
Austro-Hungarian dynasty heir sees a broader Europe
By Katinka Mezei, Agence France-Presse
VIENNA—Otto von Habsburg, heir to the illustrious imperial Austro-Hungarian dynasty, is at 92 a tireless champion of an EU enlargement he hopes will soon reach out to southeast Europe too.
Oldest son of the last Austro-Hungarian emperor, whose dynasty once ruled much of southern and eastern Europe, the veteran conservative envisages a bloc stretching from Ukraine via Albania to Iceland.
On a recent visit to Vienna, he hailed the May 1 entry of 10 mostly eastern European countries into the European Union as the culmination of a “gigantic process . . . that was blocked first by fascism and then communism.”
Habsburg was in the Austrian capital ahead of the commemoration of the 1914 assassination in Sarajevo of his ancestor, Archduke Franz-Ferdinand—an event that triggered World War I and, ultimately, the demise of the Austro-Hungarian empire.
“The enlargement was even more satisfying for me in that several of the new members are more European than the old ones,” he said.
He rejoiced “particularly about the reuniting of Hungary and Austria under one roof.”
Tall and elegantly dressed, bespectacled and sporting a moustache, Habsburg now lives in Germany. He gave up his claim to the throne in 1961 and makes no claims for the restitution of family property.
Although he was forced into exile at the age of six when his father Karl I abdicated at the end of World War I, he has been a tireless advocate for the countries the Habsburg family once ruled.
An outspoken opponent of Austria’s incorporation into Nazi Germany in 1938, he was forced to flee to the United States when the Nazi regime accused him of treason.
After exile in Switzerland, Portugal, Spain, Belgium, France and the United States, he settled in Germany after World War II, where he was elected to the European Parliament in 1979 for the conservative Christian Socialist Union.
He served in the parliament until 1999 where for a while he was head of the conservative bloc.
But while he favors EU enlargement, it is on the basis of a shared set of Christian values.
“We shouldn’t waste time because there are still very important countries which should become part of a united Europe, notably Croatia which is a typical European country,” he said.
Croatia was granted candidate status in June and is due to open accession talks next year.