The fate of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy is a lesson for the EU

“Politicians shouldn’t decide the debate about the Compromise, they should learn from it”, the Speaker of the Hungarian Parliament, Laszlo Kover said at a conference organised for the 150th anniversary of the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867, in the parliament on Tuesday.

Speaking of the EU, the ruling Fidesz party’s politician stressed that models built on the distribution of sovereignty can only survive on a long term, if they harmonise the interests optimally, otherwise national interests tear such formations apart.

Laszlo Kover pointed out that if we are judging the era of the Dualism (the dual monarchy that existed from 1867 to 1918) based on its denouement, the World War I, then it was from a Hungarian point of view futile. 600.000 Hungarians died in WWI, he reminded, almost one million soldiers came home from the fronts, but a few months later Bolsheviks managed to seize power with “1000 terrorists” (Kover was referring to the Hungarian Soviet Republic of 1919).

“After the Compromise, Hungarians lost their ability of self-defense. Hungarians, who had been so envied during the Dualism, were the weakest when the system fell apart”,

– he said. Drawing a parallel between the multicultural elite of Vienna at the end of the 19th century and today’s Brussels, the house speaker pointed out the danger of underrating national identities. The modernising experiment of the Compromise brought important results in economic development or the elimination of illiteracy, but it’s a big question, whose identity had this modernisation weakened and whose had it strengthened, he said. According to the politician the EU should be urged to help national identities, because without them there is no real performance.

Kover said we can’t blame the Hungarian and the Austrian elites in the era of the Compromise for not foreseeing how the geopolitical situation in Europe changed 50 years later, but it’s true that they thought the geopolitical paradigm of their time would be eternal, they didn’t even calculate with the possibility of a change. Today’s Hungarian, Central European and European politicians shouldn’t repeat this mistake, and historians can help a lot in that.

(The whole speech of Laszlo Kover was published in Magyar Idok on September 30.)

Hungary Journal
Photo: MTI

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