Jørn K. Baltzersen has interviewed His Imperial and Royal Highness Dr. Otto von Habsburg, Archduke of Austria and head of the House of Habsburg, which ruled varying parts of Christendom for several centuries. His Highness was Member of the European Parliament for 20 years. The Archduke saw his youngest daughter, Countess Walburga Douglas, elected to the Swedish Parliament, the Riksdag, last fall. Dr. Otto von Habsburg was this spring in the media in connection with the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome. His Highness was named number 8 among the top people of 2006 by Inside the Vatican. The Archduke is the author of some 30 books, including The Social Order of Tomorrow, and has given a number of speeches, including The Mises I Knew. Dr. Otto von Habsburg has been a member of the Mont Pelerin Society. Among the biographies is Gordon Brook-Shepherd’s Uncrowned Emperor.
Q: What are the Archduke’s memories of Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn?
A: With Kuehnelt-Leddihn I had a lot of contacts. I knew Kuehnelt-Leddihn from the beginning to his death. I saw him a few weeks before his death in Tyrol. He was already very sick. I had to do with him when he was still a young man. He was certainly a brilliant brain, a person of a tremendous knowledge, and of great courage, because he was taking some chances with his sometimes very precise points of view. He was successful because he had a great influence by the tremendous width of this knowledge, and by his personal courage.
Q: How does the Archduke see the euro in relation to the concept of government-controlled money?
A: I am rather for control of money than I was at a time. That is so. I have now seen especially the experiences of the countries of Central Europe. The formula of the European Union is not bad. It can of course be improved. That is quite clear. But I think it has a major role today especially since we are in a situation of international inflation. Let’s go back to the end of World War II. The United States opened the gates for inflation with the decision of the paper gold. I was at the time very much against that sort of approach. I think we now are starting to pay for it.
Q: What is the future of the European social model?
His Highness: Do you mean the concept that the politicians are talking about?
Baltzersen: Yes, referred to by politicians as the basis for high tax levels.
A: That, of course, I do not favor. I think that it’s running out. We are getting more and more into trouble, and therefore I cannot be in favor of something that, in the end — while it gives certain groups in our society advantages — will lead us into something most unpleasant.
Q: What is it that gives pervasive government today compared to the pre-1914 order?
A: I am speaking of Central Europe especially. Before it was more decentralized. The municipalities had more power than they have now. The single communities were more influential. The power could not reach into every house, contrary to the fact of today’s life. The system in Austria and Hungary before 1914 was preferable because of this situation of limited power.
Q: Would the Blessed Emperor Karl’s federalization have been contrary to Emperor Franz Josef’s concept of protecting his peoples from their governments?
A: No, on the contrary. They would have been complementary. My father would have felt that way. If we had maintained the right kind of parliament, the cooperation between the monarch and parliament would have been very good.
Q: What was the Archduke taught on those walks on Madeira?
A: They were the only opportunity of a very few days when my father could be with us. He liked very much walking and since we two, the elder ones, Adelhaid and myself could go with him and that is when he talked very friendly with us. Frank talks were even rare in the house because of the way we were under surveillance.
Q: Is there a conflict between the EU and monarchy, save the figurehead kind? Some would say the European Union is almost the contrary of the pre-1914 order. For instance, there were some fierce reactions to the referendum in Liechtenstein which gave the Prince more powers. It could seem that the European Union would never tolerate a monarchy such as the Liechtenstein one.
A: Concerning Monarchy and the European Union there would be only a conflict if the European Union went beyond the borders of its rights within the Union. It would be a tremendous error if the Union was thinking of imposing a solution of the form of state on its members whether it be republic or monarchy. This also applies to Liechtenstein whose constitution would certainly be considered within the limits of democratic principles. It is my opinion that in any case the European Union in order to be able to operate effectively should strictly limit its interventions on the rights it has. It should not be a centralized organization.
Q: What are the Archduke’s memories of Ludwig von Mises advising on Habsburg restoration?
A: He was a great man. He was a man who was for freedom, and I think he was a man who had this sort of inner independence that permitted him to say things that he was thinking, which other people don’t.
Q: In Your Highness’s opinion what is the reason for the decline of monarchist sentiment in Central Europe after World War II?
A: I wouldn’t say it did decline. Of course, there is the outward sign that would say there is a decline. This is because, generally speaking, international influence is opposed to monarchy, which is an error and their own thing. Also, the matter has not been discussed sufficiently. Take my own problem. My own problem is this that during and after the war the issue was the reestablishment of freedom and sovereignty of the different countries. If we started out to discuss matters that were not of our competence, that would indeed create a major difficulty for a future solution. And that’s why I also put a brake on this.
I could have been very close to it in Hungary. They wanted me to be President, and that would have meant something. I did not want to stand for this, because I realized that it wouldn’t be to the advantage of the country at that time — with the Russians still close to our borders and so on. You have to put in priorities in your own mind, and that, of course, means that certain problems cannot be raised.
But take for instance the case of Bulgaria — King Simeon. When his moment came, he had of course against him the whole international opinion.
Q: What about this view that if a non-reigning royal engages in partisan politics, this is in conflict with being a future monarch?
A: I wouldn’t say so. Absolutely not. Members of former dynasties have also their obligations, and if you can’t win a battle on horseback, jump down and continue on foot.
Q: Could one say that it is a Habsburg call to serve their peoples, and if the times do not permit them to do so from thrones, they must do so in the institutions through which they are allowed to do so?
A: It is logical for a Habsburg to be in politics. After all the family has been in politics for 600 years, and it would be strange if they stayed out of it with all the heritage they have. I am of course also of the opinion that if a Habsburg has the feeling that he has to serve his people he would have to do so because that would be not a right but an obligation
Q: Does the Archduke have any regrets about the [renunciation] declaration of 1961?
A: No. I have no regrets, because I thought it was the right thing which I did. I wasn’t happy about it, but frankly for me, always thinking what my ancestors would do, always thinking of the tremendous responsibility one has for one’s actions before God and before the compatriots, especially compatriots who have suffered very much, you have to make your choice.
Q: How is this declaration to be interpreted?
A: As a matter coming from a given political condition, where I didn’t see any other way to achieve what was my main task.
Q: How is the declaration of November 11, 1918 on renunciation of power to be interpreted?
A: The winning powers, very much at the initiative of Great Britain, had declared that they would not negotiate the lifting of the food blockade for the population of Austria and Hungary while the Emperor, my father, was there. What can you do?
Q: The historian Alan Sked was quite harsh on the Blessed Emperor Karl in his The Decline and Fall of the Habsburg Empire, 1815-1918. Dr. Sked claims war to have been a Habsburg habit, and he attacks the last Emperor for not even thanking the soldiers when leaving his throne. What is the Archduke’s response to this?
Q: Could the old European order have survived if events had turned differently in the years 1914-1918?
A: Yes. There were my father’s proposals and the proposals of Pope Benedict XV for peace negotiations. My uncle, Prince Sixtus de Bourbon of France and — less discussed — General Smuts of South Africa on the other side must also be mentioned. If this had been successful, there would have been a solution which would have meant peace even at that time. But they didn’t want to.
Q: There are people in Austria who say "Otto ist der österreichischer Kaiser [is the Austrian Emperor]." What is Your Highness’s attitude towards these people?
A: Well, I understand what they feel. It’s their privilege to say what they think. And that’s that.
Q: When one travels in Austria, one often gets an impression quite contrary to Austria being a republic. Does the Archduke have any comments to this fact?
A: A country that has been a monarchy, such as France, has still a lot of heritage kept, as it is logical that a country that has a sense of history also keeps certain memories of the past, which are the basis upon which the future is built.
Q: There are some people who connect Nazism with old order monarchy. How can this be?
A: Well, that is absurd in a land of absurdity, because really Nazism was not all that. Nazism was a consequence of the Peace Treaty at the end of World War I, and that was not the old order. It was the end of the old order that brought it about.
Q: In the Stadtmuseum in Hall, Tyrol a couple of years ago there was a letter exhibited from Your Highness to Sebastian Rieger with the expression "die Kaiserin und ich [the Empress and I]." Would "die Kaiserin" refer to Empress Zita or Archduchess Regina?
A: Empress Zita. She was a Kaiserin. Let’s not forget.
Q: Has the Archduke often returned to Monte in Madeira [where the Blessed Emperor Karl passed on] or other sites of exile?
A: I have been several times for religious ceremonies that were connected with the beatification of my father.
Q: There is a joke running about the Archduke commenting on an empty meeting room [in the European Parliament], a sports game, and Austria-Hungary [after allegedly being told that the game was played by Austria and Hungary, the Archduke allegedly asked who the opponent was]. Did the Archduke really do this joke or is it a made up joke?
A: Si non e vero, e ben trovato.
Baltzersen: I thank Your Imperial and Royal Highness for the time, knowledge, and opinions.
A longer version of this interview is available at farmann.no (PDF).