Let’s give Austria-Hungary a chance – Europe needs some Habsburg values

Nothing lasts for ever: Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austro-Hungary greets his subjects (Photo by Culture Club/Getty Images)


Discussion on Russian state television emerged this week which saw Russian propagandists arguing for the re-establishment of “the great Austro-Hungarian territory” once the Ukraine war is over.

The Putin bros said they want a neutral swathe carved down the middle of Europe, with Russia acting as its military protector: “We as a military-scientific society will look at the future Europe after our victory. Let us make a neutral territory out of this central Europe, let us make an Austro-Hungarian territory.”

Straight down, Austria, Hungary, Slovakia and the Balkans onboard. Slap it with a double-headed eagle and call it Holy Roman.

You could be sceptical, you could be worried, you could just have a laugh.

Me, I am thinking there is something in it.

Minus having Russia as military protector, of course.

What I see is a great swathe of countries that are European but are no part of the cultural or political mix which the EU propagandists insist is “European.”

Their European means anti-Christian, hyper-regulated, open external borders, undefended, with obsolete technology, heading for the poverty that will be caused by net-zero green policies, and with everything from love of country to procreation of children suppressed.

A good dose of the old Austro-Hungarian culture, once a ferociously military Christian dual-monarchy, might be just the thing for some of those “European” values.

(Charles I, the last Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary, had eight children, Mitteleuropa style. I met Otto, his eldest child and pretender to the former thrones, many years later in Luxembourg. Otto’s sons were wearing lederhosen and lined up at a cafeteria buying cans of Coke. My heart broke a little.)

What Brussels says is European is just a mix of the political philosophies of the two historically most powerful of the EU countries, France and Germany.

It is not European, it never has been European, it is just what France and Germany want the other 25 countries in the EU to submit to: “Be European, do it the German-French way.”

And if you are not European, you are a dangerous nationalist.

Example: that would make the outgoing government of Poland dangerously nationalist. It has a realistic fear of Russian invasion – now there is a traditional European value, invasion from the East – so it has ignored EU levels of defence spending and jumped to 3.9 per cent of GDP, the highest in NATO outside America.

This is perfectly European, to stack up rocket artillery systems and jets because the Russians are back, but it is not at all Franco-Germanic.

Germany is so indecisive in the face of threats from Russia that its defence spending is still at a watery 1.7 per cent of GDP.

France is at 1.95 per cent.

That’s Brussels-European for you.

Which may be why the Russians think they can push Austria and Hungary together, load them with Russian soldiers, and call it neutral. Who will stop them – old 1.7 percent Berlin?

It is not only those of us in the EU who see how weak Europe has become.

Outside, in the United States – the United States, on whom Europe depends for defence, though those Europeans who do need to check America’s budget, it has no money to defend the Continent – here is how wise heads look at Europe.

I give you Victor Davis Hanson, a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, at the brainbox Stanford University. This is what he wrote recently about Europe:

“Since World War II, Europe has played an increasingly reduced role in world affairs, despite its membership in the NATO alliance and the growth of the European Union…as World War II and the Cold War faded into memory, Europe did not snap back and assume its centuries-old role as a world leader and beacon of Western civilisation.”

“Instead, a weary Europe outsourced its security to the United States. It redefined itself as a postmodern, pacifist, utopian project – most recently predicated on redistributionist entitlements, open borders and radical green policies that have all inevitably ensured European decline.”

“Europeans grew louder and whinier the less relevant they became.”

And if you do not trust the judgement of the conservative Hanson, try this from the Left-wing Guardian on Dec 5, by Larry Elliott, its economics editor.

“Fifteen years ago, the US and EU economies were of a similar size; today America’s is a third bigger. Fluctuations in exchange rates account for some of the difference, but the US is at the cutting edge of the fourth industrial revolution and the EU is not.”

“All seven of the world’s leading tech companies – Apple, Microsoft, Alphabet, Amazon, Nvidia, Meta and Tesla – are American: there is no European tech giant to match the behemoths of Silicon Valley. In 2000, the EU had a 25% share in the semiconductor market: today it is 8%. The US and China are streets ahead of Europe in the development of artificial intelligence.”

At which news, the Brussels Europeans will grow louder and more whiney. What the EU needs, they will say, is more regulation, more central regulations. We must all embrace European values and then we will be a big global player.

Except they won’t. Germano-French values will get the countries of Europe nowhere except down.

Leave me to ignore France and Germany. Leave me to dream of the powers of the double-headed eagle.

Let me dream to the sound of Johann Strauss’s 1848 Radetzky March.

You do not know the Radetzky March? It is the Marseillaise for conservatives.

Every New Year’s Day the Vienna Philharmonic plays it as the final encore of the traditional concert. At which point the highly disciplined Viennese lose it. They stomp their feet to the march, they thunderously clap to the music.

Somewhere in all that, the Austrians, and the Hungarians, remember who they are.