100 years of the Austrian Republic – Lessons and Outlook from a European Perspective

100 years of the Austrian Republic – Lessons and Outlook from a European Perspective
2019-03-18 Béla

On the 12 March, The Institute for Foreign Affairs and Trade (IFAT) organized an event titled “100 years of the Austrian Republic – Lessons and Outlook from a European Perspective”. The main topic of the event was the Austrian experience of nation-building along with its lengthy process of formation of national collective identity after the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918.

On the 12 March, The Institute for Foreign Affairs and Trade (IFAT) organized an event titled “100 years of the Austrian Republic – Lessons and Outlook from a European Perspective”. The main topic of the event was the Austrian experience of nation-building along with its lengthy process of formation of national collective identity after the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918. To add a European perspective, the relevance of Austria’s European integration process was discussed, too. The panellists pointed out the biggest failures of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and tried to draw lessons from those for handling some of the weaknesses of the European Union. They emphasized the importance of common values and norms in promoting cooperation and a feeling of community between Austria and Europe, as well as the importance of focusing on the issues most relevant for the future of the continent.

According to Erhard Busek, Chairman of Institute for the Danube Region and Central Europe, the dissolution of the Monarchy left Austria with critical questions to be solved both at a state and a societal level. Therefore, it took the country a long time to reconfigure the meaning of its state identity. The main predicament was developing the core elements of nation-building including the ambivalence of identity and national sense of belonging. Busek further highlighted that the formation of the Austrian national identity became a significant process especially after 1955, when the Austrian State Treaty was signed. Accordingly, he concluded that 1955 was the year when Austria actually became independent.

Following a similar line of thought, Gergely Romsics, Senior Research Fellow of Research Center for the Humanities Institute of History, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, argued that while the first republic of Austria could be seen as a failure, the second republic represents a fundamental success story. He emphasized the Austrian success in rebuilding the democratic state and society, especially after the lack of post-war reconciliation and processing of the past in the society for a long time.

Ferdinand Trauttmansdorff, Chairman of Diplomacy I at Andrássy University in Budapest, explained that the challenge to form an Austrian national identity amongst the obstacles of confrontation and reconciliation between the left and right eventually were successful. He strongly emphasized how common national goals and values and the promotion of those are key factors in strengthening societies. Trauttmansdorff further argued that acknowledging these elements is important for facilitating the role of the civil society in the European integration process as well.

The event was moderated by Tamás Levente Molnár, research fellow of the IFAT.