- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 20, 2005

European optimist

Otto von Habsburg is living history. When he recounts the remarkable events of his 93 years, he drops names like Roosevelt, Churchill or Einstein, not to impress but to explain how his life took him from the heir to a lost kingdom to one of the earliest advocates of European unity.

“I’m an old friend to almost everyone,” he told editors and reporters during a recent visit to The Washington Times. “When you get to my age, you’ve met everybody’s father and everybody’s grandfather.”

He remains a deeply religious and incurably optimistic actor on the world stage.

“I am accused of being an absolute optimist, but when I talk about my life I can only be optimistic,” he said. “You can only thank God that you have seen what you have seen.”

He was born in 1912 as an archduke of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He became crown prince at age 2 and emperor in exile at age 9. Had the monarchy survived World War I, he would have been crowned emperor of Austria and king of Hungary.

Mr. von Habsburg spent World War II in Washington, where he became a close friend of President Roosevelt. He gave Roosevelt a secret Nazi document that he acquired before fleeing Europe. The document outlined much of Hitler’s war plans.

“These were extraordinary papers,” Mr. von Habsburg said. “They must have come from someone who had Hitler’s extreme confidence.”

He also advised Churchill and was an associate of Einstein’s.

After the war, Mr. von Habsburg worked for a united Europe and was elected to the European Parliament in 1979, serving 20 years before retiring from politics.

He regrets that the proposed European Constitution fails to mention God in its preamble.

“I believe we must mention Him. If we don’t, we will be giving up part of our soul,” he said.

Mr. von Habsburg noted that Europe is crowded with religious symbols, from ancient cathedrals to remote monasteries. It was the caldron of religious turmoil and cradle of religious reform.

“You can’t go anywhere in Europe without meeting God somewhere,” he said.

Reviewing the future of Europe, he predicted more division in the Balkans, especially in the republic of Serbia and Montenegro.

“Montenegrins do not want to stay with Serbia. I expect they will vote for independence,” he said.

Mr. von Habsburg urged the European Union not to admit Turkey, arguing that the secular Muslim nation has a more important role in serving as a democratic example to the Islamic world.

He also expressed hopes for a settlement in the Arab-Israeli conflict.

“This tragic idea that they are condemned to be enemies is nonsense,” he said.

Mr. von Habsburg this week is ending a visit to the United States that began April 9. He is accompanied by his wife, Archduchess Regina, and his son George, the Hungarian ambassador to the European Union, and daughter-in-law Archduchess Gabriela.

During stops in Washington, New York and Cleveland, Mr. von Habsburg met with European policy specialists, government officials and members of the two organizations that sponsored his trip, Hungarian American Coalition and Hungarian Human Rights Foundation.

Change in Taiwan

Diplomats anticipate that the U.S. representative to the Republic of China (Taiwan) will be stepping down soon and will be replaced by the current U.S. ambassador to Kyrgyzstan.

Douglas Paal, the current head of the American Institute in Taiwan, is expected to leave by July 1 and Ambassador Stephen Young is expected to replace him, one diplomat said yesterday.

Mr. Paal has held the office of the unofficial ambassador to Taiwan since 2002. Mr. Young served as deputy director of the institute from 1998 to 2001.

The United States broke diplomatic ties with Taiwan in 1979 and recognized communist China.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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