ALI – The House of Habsburg returns to the Balkans

The House of Habsburg returns to the BalkansWithin recent months the holders of the offices of the presidency have changed in both Ankara and Brussels. The term of European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso came to an end in Brussels, President-elect Jean-Claude Juncker formed a new team and the European Parliament endorsed the andquotcabinetandquot last Wednesday.

I had written about how Juncker reacted to the antidemocratic trend in Turkey by saying, andquotA country that bans Twitter has no place in the European Union.andquot In this article, I would like to focus on Johannes Hahn, from Austria, who will replace Commissioner Stefan Fule, who is in charge of European Union candidate countries.

The Habsburg dynasty had sparked World War I by the killing of the crown prince by Serbian nationalists in Sarajevo, but, like the Ottoman dynasty, was lost in the darkness of history in four years. Not only the Balkans, but also southeastern Europe had been the area of conflict of between the House of Habsburg and the Ottoman Empire for centuries.

Digging deeper into Ottoman history, we can see that the Habsburg dynasty was very active and influential in the Balkans.Otto von Habsburg, the younger son of the last Habsburg emperor, was a deputy in Brussels from Bavaria, Germany when I joined the European Parliament.

A British deputy told me the following joke about this venerable man, who was versed in both European and Ottoman history. A deputy asked him, andquotWill you watch the Austria-Hungary match that will be aired this evening?andquot andldquoThey are playing against whom?andrdquo he retorted.

I donand#39t know if this witty remark was the result of Otto von Habsburgand#39s profound personal learning and background.Without losing our way in the labyrinths of history, let us have a look at why Commissioner Johannes Hahn wants us to focus on history once again.

In principle, the EU Commission is responsible for defending the common interests and agreements of the European Union, not of individual countries. Nevertheless, economies, political priorities or historical or geographical sensitivities of member countries constitute an important factor for Brussels.

For instance, Brusselsand#39 Latin America policy is roughly shaped by Madrid and Lisbon and its relations with India by London. If Croatia is today a member of the EU even though it embarked on the membership negotiations on the same day as Turkey, this was largely attributable to the Habsburg influence.

Likewise, it is no coincidence that Cypriot and Greek deputies are represented disproportionately on the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee.By placing an Austrian politician at the helm of the unionand#39s membership negotiations, Junker probably not only fulfilled Austriaand#39s wishes, but also emphasized the Balkansand#39 priority in the EUand#39s enlargement policy.

I donand#39t think Turkey is a factor anymore in this enlargement process. Indeed, a cursory look at recent developments is enough to tell us that Turkeyand#39s membership has been dropped from Brusselsand#39 agendaConsider a country where the rule of law is abrogated and the already anti-democratic Constitution is categorically violated, social networks such as Twitter are banned and protesters are suppressed with tear gas and batons and brought to court with demands for life imprisonment — as was the case with the Gezi Park protests, which are considered a andquotcoupandquot attempt — and press freedoms are breached.

How can the EU take such a countryand#39s bid to become a member seriously?Like Juncker, it is quite normal for Hahn to find Turkeyand#39s performance andquotunacceptableandquot and shut the door to new members during his five-year term Given the fact that otherwise it would reflect badly on his office, he will probably ensure that candidates are prepared for the membership that will occur five years later A hundred years ago, the House of Habsburg wanted to control Serbia by force, but they ended up starting a world war Today, they have returned to Serbia using the EU bandwagon, just as they did with Slovenia and CroatiaOn the other hand, the descendants of the Ottoman Empire are moving away from the Balkans and have lost their way in the Middle East. If Turkey seeks to attain any clout over the Balkans and the Middle East, it must return to the path to Brussels, using the House of Habsburg as its model.

Unfortunately, its ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) no longer cares about the EU membership bid.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman

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