Losing sight of each other

The former Vice Chancellor of Austria Erhard Busek blames both Austria and Hungary for losing interest in each other and sees no signs of consolidation.

Erhard Busek has been involved in the international affairs in Central and Southeast Europe since the beginning of the 1990s. He is widely regarded as a champion of stability and cooperation in this region. But currently he sees mainly hurdles which make any real cooperation among the countries impossible. "I am a fan of crisis and the crisis management. But I am not an anarchist as I perfectly know the real  meaning of the old Greek word krisis: it means to judge and to decide", he professed in an exclusive interview to Diplomacy&Trade in Vienna in late September.

He heavily criticized the leading politicians of the European Union, including the Chancellor of Austria and the Prime Minister of Hungary for being totally unable to find a common solution to the migrant crisis. "Unfortunately countries affected by this huge wave of migrants and refugees are pushing aside this problem, putting the responsibility to their neighbor. Nobody wants to manage this problem but I think the asylum seekers come to Europe, not to a specific country and therefore Europe has to find out a common solution", he argued.

The former Vice Chancellor was deeply shocked by the latest moves of Russia in Ukraine and the ongoing civil war in Syria and Iraq. He urged to use cultural diplomacy to understand the roots and reasons behind certain political events.

"It is not misunderstanding, it is a lack of understanding in general between Europe and the Middle East and as a pity among EU members as well", he pointed out. In this respect he was extremely critical to Visegrad Countries (Hungary, Slovakia, Poland and Czech Republic) saying that these four countries actually exclude Austria and Slovenia from this Central-European club, though both countries have similar intresets.

As Busek was the moderator of the special workshop called 'Hungarian foreign policy since 1990', organized by the Institute for the Danube Region and Central Europe (IDM) and held in the premises of the Diplomatic Academy, Diplomacy&Trade asked him to assess the past 25 years. Not surprisingly, he was convinced that Hungary lost the right direction after Prime Minister József Antal's death. " We all expected that Hungary might be a leading country in moving towards European standards. I do not blame only Hungary for that, it is our mutual mistake, we were slowly losing sight of each other though we are economically engaged very much. Now some measures of the Hungarian government are far from favorable for our companies and are against European standards.", he added.

One of the many positions of Erhard Busek is Chairman of the Institute for the Danube Region and Central Europe (IDM). As such, he manages different international programs not so much for the revival of the river itself but for the real cooperation among countries along the river in different fields, such as economy, education, civil contacts, research&development.

Under his management a group of historians and teachers are working hard to sophisticate the way history is taught in Central and Southeast Europe. "We did a research on the history books used in these countries. It is a nightmare, a complete nonsense to speak about Greater Romania, Greater Serbia, Greater Macedonia or Greater Greece at the same time. We did not want to write a new book, but we confronted the different views on certain subjects, collected them in special volumes and made it available for everyone. That helps to create a better mutual understanding".

Erhard Busek

1996–Present: Coordinator - Southeast European Cooperative Initiative (SECI)

1995–Present: Chairman - Institute for the Danube Region and Central Europe

1991-1995: Vice Chancellor - Republic of Austria

1989-1995: Minister for Science and Research, and Minister for Education

1978-1987: Deputy Mayor and City Councilor - City of Vienna

1976-1989: Chairman - Vienna’s People’s Party

Before 1989: Engagement with Democratic and Dissident movements in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and East Germany.

Nándor Mester

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