EU, Austria mourn death of Otto Habsburg

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Austrian and European politicians mourned "a great European" Monday following the death of Otto Habsburg, heir of Austria's last emperor and a long-time advocate of European enlargement.

"With Otto von Habsburg, a great European has left us who gave an important impetus to the European project throughout his rich life," European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said in a statement from Brussels.

"Otto von Habsburg's commitment to Europe should set a political example for all of us, especially in difficult times," he urged.

Habsburg -- he was only known as Otto von Habsburg outside Austria, since the state abolished his family's titles and confiscated their property in 1919 -- died early Monday at his home in Poecking on Lake Starnberg in Bavaria, aged 98.

The eldest son of emperor Karl I, who reigned for just two years before the Austro-Hungarian empire disintegrated in 1918, Habsburg became a major proponent of Europe after years in exile, serving as a deputy in the European parliament from 1979 to 1999, and heading the International Paneuropean Union for over 30 years.

An ardent anti-Communist, he also organised in August 1989 the now-famous "Pan-European picnic" in Sopron, Hungary, during which some 700 East Germans were able to escape to the West, just months before the fall of the Berlin Wall.

With his political activities, Habsburg "marked the European success story" and "made a central contribution to the opening of the Iron Curtain and the peaceful reunification of our continent that had been divided for too long", Barroso noted.

European parliament president Jerzy Buzek also remembered "a European giant", a friend and "a champion of European integration".

"He kept the flame of hope for the reunification of Europe alive when many others had given up."

"Otto von Habsburg... was a true heir of the best Europe stands for. We will always remember him. He will always be with us."

Austrian politicians of all stripes meanwhile praised Habsburg's endless commitment to Austria and his fight against Nazism and communism.

Chancellor Werner Faymann especially remembered the former EU deputy for his "valiant stance in favour of a peaceful and united Europe and for the fall of the Iron Curtain".

"All Europe is crying," added Othmar Karas, Austrian conservative deputy in the European parliament, describing him as a "a personality whose greatness can never be replaced".

© 2011 AFP

3 Comments To This Article

  • Jon Burgnud posted:

    on 10th December 2013, 00:00:54 - Reply

    Why would the people of the REPUBLIC of Austria mourn his death with so much fanfare? Its not like his title means anything, those titles were rendered hollow near 100 years ago.
  • Ignatius Gonsalves posted:

    on 8th July 2011, 19:25:01 - Reply

    He was noble,holy and great.
    May his soul rest in peace!
    I am an Indian Journalist and a professopr of communication.
    In 1989, during my first visit to Munich, I had the privilege of talking to him, of course over the phone.He was very appreciative India's unique culture and civilization.It was indeed a lengthy conversation.He wanted to meet me personally at his residence at Poking.Unfortunately it did not happen as both of us had previously agreed engagements.But he was so kind to send his son George to meet me with a gift.Prince George also handed over to me a small packet that was from his father, requesting me to hand it over to a priest-friend in India.It was a medal in honor of his mother Empress Zita.The recipient Rev.Dr.Joseph Thykoodan was extremely happy when I gave it to him when I returned to India.After several years, Rev.Dr.Thykoodan and I had the honor of meeting and paying our respects to the Habsburg family when Archduchess Regina, son Karl, his wife and children visited COCHIN, our home city,in Southern India.I am sure that the principles he upheld will ultimately triumph and Europe will regain her true spirit.
  • Christina posted:

    on 4th July 2011, 21:58:27 - Reply

    I'm truly sorry to see such a fine man pass. The Habsburg's were a fine family - yes, there were issues, but in which family are there not? I can only hope he passed swiftly and peacefully. He lived a good, long life and took the situations in which he was handed with grace and dignity; choosing to stand for what he believed in, being a champion for peace and righteousness. He will be truly missed and his family should be proud. Rest in Peace Archduke Otto von Habsburg, may you find the peace you so fought so diligently for.