WORLD

A Habsburg heir talks up democracy

CAMERON AINSWORTH-VINCZE June 16 2008
WORLD

A Habsburg heir talks up democracy

CAMERON AINSWORTH-VINCZE June 16 2008

A Habsburg heir talks up democracy

WORLD

CAMERON AINSWORTH-VINCZE

As the

second-in-line to the throne of the oncemighty Habsburg Empire, which stretched from the Adriatic Sea to the western lands of the Soviet Union, Archduke Georg von Habsburg came to Canada last week to discuss two topics close to his heart: how to create a strong, flourishing Hungary within Europe, and how to bring the light of democracy to the darkest of places.

In an exclusive interview with Maclean’s moments before flying home to Budapest, the 43-year-old president of the Hungarian Red Cross noted that Hungary’s 2004 inclusion into the EU, along with last December’s signing of the Schengen agreement, now provide a springboard for the former Communist satellite state to further its economic and cultural goals while tiptoeing back onto the international stage. To secure Hungary’s place in the 21st century, the archduke emphasized that attention must be placed on the country’s most precious resource—the next generation. “It is so important that young Hungarians have the opportunity to go outside of the country and collect experiences at other universities and in different jobs that will give them unique skills that they can bring back to Hungary.”

But while Hungary has embarked on a new style of governance and is opening its

borders, von Habsburg cautions that growth and democracy must be fostered through a mutual respect between citizens living in the same region—something multicultural Canada has mastered, but a nation like Russia terribly lacks. “You just have to look at what the international observers said about the last election,” says von Habsburg. “With

the free press disappearing in Russia, politicians focusing on the army, and a lack of independent judges, they are now far away from the democratic country promised several years ago.” For Canadians, he added, the situation in Russia may seem like a distant nuisance. But for its neighbours, and those who once lived under its suffocating rule, the danger is close, too close. M