A leading European Parliamentarian speaks out on the dangers and challenges confronting Europe today.
OTTO VON HABSBURG, many believe, has a clearer grasp of international affairs than almost any political figure alive. Of course, Dr. Habsburg is no average politician. He is the head of the 700-year-old House of Habsburg, one of the most prestigious royal families in European history. Although no longer a claimant to the Austrian throne, Dr. Habsburg is nevertheless active daily in the political field. Since 1979, he has been a delegate to the European Parliament, representing an area of Bavaria in West Germany. He travels widely, speaks often and writes (he has 24 books to his credit) as much as time permits. In an interview with staff members of the Plain Truth magazine, and in speeches at Ambassador College, Pasadena, California and before the Los Angeles World Affairs Council, the energetic 71-year-old Dr. Habsburg hammered home one theme time and again: the need, he claims, for the nations of Europe to unite in order for the Continent to be prepared for unprecedented dangers in the near future. The goal of a united Europe colors nearly everything he writes and says — almost preaches — in his dynamic, fast-tempo speeches (at which he uses no notes). As one biographer wrote: "He lives only for the cause that sustains him."
Danger from the East
The most serious danger confronting free Europe, in Dr. Habsburg's view, is that of a Soviet Union that is powerful militarily, but faces grave and potentially destabilizing crises in its economy and internal ethnic makeup. The Soviet Union can no longer feed itself, despite the fact that 50 percent of its citizens still work on farms. In pre-communist days, czarist Russia was the world's number one food exporter. Now, the Soviet Union is the number one food importer. The economic plight of the Soviet Union and its East European satellite neighbors is so great, stresses Dr. Habsburg, that Comecon (the Soviet-led economic combine) now owes the democratic industrialized nations US $82,000,000,000 — a sum, he says, "which can never be repaid in human history." The Soviets, he adds, also face an unprecedented internal threat from the rapid population growth of non-Slavic races inside the Soviet Union, especially the Moslem Turkic people. Ethnic Russians already comprise less than half of the total population. In the year 2000, it is estimated that there will be 120 million Moslems inside the Soviet Union — people perhaps ripe to the influence of radical Moslem ideas from Iran and elsewhere. The danger to Western Europe from the deteriorating conditions to the east, believes Dr. Habsburg, is that some future Soviet leader may decide to press Russia's military advantage in a drive to capture Western resources before problems become intolerable at home.
"Absolute Realism" Emphasized
Peace in Europe and the world can therefore be preserved, Dr. Habsburg maintains, "only by absolute realism" regarding the Soviet challenge. In this light, the philosophy behind the so-called peace movement, he says, is based on "utter unrealism." The Greens in West Germany and their counterparts elsewhere "have not learned anything from history. They seem not to realize that through weakness you always bring war about." The Second World War was a prime example of such weakness, especially on the part of the British and the French, in the face of Nazi Germany's preparation for war.
Realism further dictates, says Dr. Habsburg, that Europeans do more for themselves in the way of defense. That is a policy long advocated by Bavarian leader Franz Josef Strauss (a name that pops up frequently in conversations with Dr. Habsburg). Europe's greatest error in its postwar relationship with the United States, he believes, has been to let the United States carry the lion's share of the Western alliance's defense burden. "Let's not forget," he adds, "Western Europe is superior to the United States in population, the second economic power in the world. It is just not logical that the Americans should be standing on guard for Europe at the place where the Europeans could count themselves." A greater European defense posture, in the mind of Dr. Habsburg at least, doesn't mean a parting of the ways between Europe and the United States. "We are reliable partners for the United States," he told the audience in the Ambassador Auditorium.
One factor distinguishes Dr. Habsburg from most of the others pushing for a united Europe: his outspoken desire to "roll back" the Soviet empire so that the captive nations of Eastern Europe can also play a role in the Continent's future. Ever since the February 1945 Yalta Conference agreement establishing the postwar spheres of influence in Europe, one third of the Continent has resided under Soviet domination. "Let's not forget," he told an audience in London just before coming to California, "that one of the tasks of Europe is to have the courage of saying very clearly that for us decolonization should not stop in Africa and Asia; that Europe too has a right to be decolonized." In the European Parliament, Dr. Habsburg acts as a sort of unofficial representative of those countries trapped behind the Iron Curtain. He is looking beyond the most recent significant decision taken toward European unification — the introduction of a common European passport January 1, 1985 — to prospects for the establishment of a common European citizenship. In this manner, those countries not yet a part of the European Community, even in the East, would be more attracted to it.
Religion a Major Key
Dr. Habsburg is known for advocating a strong religious role in any future united Europe. One of his books is a biography of Charles V, the Habsburg ruler who was crowned Holy Roman Emperor by the Pope in 1530. Charles V fought hard to maintain the spiritual unity of Europe, then threatened by the revolt of Martin Luther. Under the old Holy Roman Empire, wrote Dr. Habsburg in this book, the Continent was held together by the "twin disciplines" of "Christian morality and supranational commonwealth" — in other words, Church and State, as represented by the persons of the Pope and the Emperor. This structure broke down and culminated in what he calls "the triumphant period of godlessness" in the 19th century. Now, however, "we are in a turning development towards a very great religious age," he believes. This religious upsurge, beginning in the sciences, will, in turn, have a great impact upon society and politics. "The last answer to the future of your country, as also to the future of my continent of Europe," said Dr. Habsburg in the Ambassador Auditorium, "will be whether we are able to return truly and fully again to the roots of our greatness. Because let us not forget, if we take Christianity out of the European, or [out] of the American development, there is nothing left. The soul is gone." By referring to the "roots of our greatness," Dr. Habsburg seems to be echoing pleas by Pope John Paul II, most notably his appeal in Spain in 1982, for Europeans in both eastern and western halves of the continent to "revive your roots." The Pope's outlook, naturally, is essentially religious. Dr. Habsburg's is that of the political scientist that he is (he obtained a doctorate in the subject from the University of Louvain in Belgium). To him, religion is obviously the essential glue to hold a politically united Europe together. As far as Dr. Habsburg is concerned, the process of European unification is already irreversible. "We are well beyond the point of no return," he says, predicting confidently that "we are 'condemned' to success."